New Opportunities and Challenges for Customer Engagement Centers
The latest approaches can improve both the efficiency and quality of customer service.
For many organizations, the customer engagement center has been a cost center — a place where the business spends money but doesn’t necessarily drive revenue. However, new data and omnichannel customer engagement, made possible by modern solutions, have opened up new opportunities for companies to generate new business value, including improvements in customer loyalty and even increases in sales.
To optimize the potential value of their customer engagement centers, organizations must take advantage of new opportunities in the space, watch out for common pitfalls and solve challenges that stand in the way of success.
Efficiencies Through AI
Artificial intelligence tools have the potential to reduce costs and improve customer service. Obviously, AI chatbots that are able to resolve customers’ questions and disputes can greatly reduce the cost of staffing a customer engagement center. But also, analytics from Internet of Things (IoT) deployments can provide new insights into how customers behave, helping to create real-time “digital trails” of each customer as they interact with brands, both in the physical and digital worlds.
While AI holds great promise, the technology has a long way to go to reach its full potential. Even some of the world’s largest technology companies have struggled to get AI chatbots to behave in a way that approximates the understanding and communication capabilities of human agents. At the moment, humans simply haven’t been able to build rules to handle all conceivable queries and scenarios. However, a number of observers predict that chatbots will achieve “independence” as AI technologies evolve, freeing human customer service representatives to focus on solving more complex problems.
Enhancing Employee Value
Customer contact centers are notorious for employee turnover, with the average center turning over a full third of its workforce each year, according to “The Definitive Guide to the Modern Contact Center” from Calabrio. And a “stick to the script” mentality can make customer engagement center employees feel like mere cogs in a machine. However, a good customer engagement center platform can give agents the data they need to better serve customers, and also give managers the necessary information and tools to provide better feedback and improve agents’ work environment. This means breaking down the silos that currently prevent agents from seeing a single view of the customer, rethinking success metrics to incorporate employee satisfaction and retention, and providing data-driven training and feedback that helps agents to address their shortcomings.
If an organization has historically treated the customer engagement center primarily as a cost, a significant shift in mindset and culture may be required for leaders to consider investing in their employees. This reluctance results in dissatisfied agents and, ultimately, dissatisfied customers. According to Calabrio, 60 percent of customer service agents agree that their company doesn’t always provide the technology they need to address the challenges they face when helping customers. Thirty-four percent of agents say they don’t have the right customer data available to them at the time of the request, and 14 percent think a lack of training contributes to the inability to resolve issues. When asked what improvements their employers could make to improve their jobs, agents most commonly say they want a more flexible work environment, followed by better technology that provides a single view of the customer.
Amplifying the Voice of the Customer
Improved data collection and analysis tools are giving companies the chance to truly hear the desires and demands of their customer base in a way that simply wasn’t possible until recently. Through speech analytics, social media mining and other tools, organizations are now able to make better sense of the torrent of “voice of the customer” (VoC) data coming into their customer engagement centers.
These tools allow organizations to analyze customer information to arrive at insights that can lead to improvements not only in customer service, but also across the entire enterprise. For example, VoC data may inform smarter sales and marketing strategies, or guide product research and development. Through this analysis, the customer engagement center can be more than just a tool for resolving customer problems and disputes. It can become one of the principal ways that companies learn what customers want and expect from them.
According to the Calabrio report, an astonishing 98 percent of VoC data remains unexplored in the average organization, and half of companies don’t share customer engagement center data with the rest of the business at all. This represents an enormous missed opportunity. The problem may not be that organizations don’t value their customer data, but rather that they don’t know how to make sense of it. After all, if even customer service agents in an organization lack access to integrated customer data, it’s unlikely that the company has analyzed and organized the information in a way that can provide value across the enterprise.
To learn more about the technologies that support a modern customer engagement center, read the CDW white paper “The Evolution of the Customer Engagement Center.”