Key Takeaways from Deloitte Global Contact Center Study

Global businesses are utilizing contact centers to enhance the customer experience in increasingly complex ways. Customer choice is behind the wheel, driving contact centers towards greater emphasis on consumer needs and preferences. Deloitte’s Global Contact Center Survey provides insights from over 450 contact centers, shedding light on how business is changing for the better.

 

1.Customer Experience

Now a top priority, customer experience is driving contact center growth even more so than operational expansion. Customer experience and expectations are a key driver for 88% of the contact centers studied in 2017, with improvements in customer satisfaction (46%) outweighing revenue growth (3%) in importance.

 

Today, companies are reporting that customer feedback (54%) will motivate core business decisions moving forward. How will they do it? Technologies such as text analytics and social media listening are improving in quality, streamlining the process of feedback collection. For the customer, businesses view ease and accuracy of information (66%) as most important to future contact center interactions.

 

2.Complexity and Diversity of Channels

Context of contact and mediums for customer engagement are adding to the complexity and diversity of contact center interactions. Phone contact is expected to fall from 64% to 47% over the coming years, with chat and social media expanding as channels for customer engagement. Advancements in technology such as  “chat bots” are predicted to streamline integration challenges, growing to an estimated 16% by 2019, up from 6% in 2017.

 

Survey respondents have a major thing in common: investment in new technologies for return interactions. Advanced analytics (66%) and voice of the customer (54%) top the list of emerging capabilities that companies seek to invest in over the next two years.

 

Contact centers expect web capabilities (29%) and mobile applications (23%) will generate the greatest return on investment. What’s the main challenge to realizing investment potential? Integration of existing systems (63%) for the ultimate omnichannel customer experience, along with budget (56%) and change management (55%) for overseaing company transformation.

 

3.Talent

Focus is placed on improving talent for all survey respondents, citing the use of analytics (73%) and training programs (63%) as the key initiatives towards boosting staff. Outsourcing as a strategic method has reached a state of equilibrium, and flexible work programs are popular in the retention of employees, with 52% of companies planning on undertaking the initiative over the next two years.

 

The Moral of the Story

Maximizing the potential of technological advancements and its integration with multifaceted channels is improving the customer experience for corporate contact centers. Quality of talent is a developing initiative towards growth. And with customer experience at the forefront of contact center executives’ minds, the customer truly is “always right.”

What’s the Best Way to Scale Your Contact Center?

As a small to medium-sized business, customer service is not a top concern for you right now. All of your customers are being managed by an in-house contact center, which seems to be getting the job done pretty effectively.

There’s just one issue: Your contact center has limitations. And right now, it’s not capable of scaling with your rapidly-growing organization.

Just think what will happen if you…

  • Double in size in a short amount of time;
  • Go viral and become visible to millions of new potential customers;
  • Experience a PR issue;

Any one of these events could cause a massive spike in customer traffic, taxing all of your critical customer-facing infrastructure — from your customer database to your phone lines to your agents who answer phones and email.

For this reason, it’s time to start thinking about contact center scalability before you run into an unexpected issue and realize you don’t have the right pieces in place to handle the influx in traffic.

One of the most affordable and effective ways to scale your contact center is to outsource operations to a third party provider offering flexible, hosted infrastructure and premium customer service agents. In doing so, you will be able to scale up—or down—as needed without spending excessive amounts of money. Outsourcing is a widely-adopted practice used by organizations large and small.

From a scalability perspective, here are some of the top benefits to outsourcing your contact center to a third party provider:

Business continuity: Once your business grows to a considerable size, customer interactions will be constant. You will receive incoming emails, phone calls and chat messages around the clock. So it’s vital to work with a provider that can ensure business continuity and disaster recovery, so that you can avoid unnecessary downtime. Downtime is terrible for customer service, and can be very expensive.

On demand capacity: Third party contact center solutions providers can offer flexible network capacity, ensuring that you have enough storage and bandwidth to accommodate all of your customers. The last thing you want to do is experience a capacity pinch.

Shorter wait times: When contact centers lack the necessary infrastructure and support, call queues can back up resulting in longer wait times and unhappy customers. This can frustrate customers, and cause them to look elsewhere for support. By outsourcing your contact center, you can always have the right number of agents in place to handle incoming calls and give customers the attention they demand.

Remember that in business sometimes you have to make strategic decisions before issues arise. Instead of getting blindsided by a lack of capacity, consider being proactive and outsource your contact center to a dedicated third party solutions provider.

Use Customer Service to Launch Your Business to Unimaginable Heights

When you first started your business, your goal was never to be a small to medium-sized organization. In fact, you don’t even want to be a large organization. You want to be a massive, highly-profitable and stable enterprise with a global footprint and an impeccable reputation.

Many startups today, we are seeing, are setting the bar too low for themselves. They start out hot, reach a plateau and stay there, comfortable with the small profits that they are generating.

Make no mistake about it: Complacency, for any business, is toxic. The moment you think your business has “made it” is the moment innovation, and profitability, ultimately ends.

If you want proof of this, look at Amazon. Even after Amazon became a worldwide name, Jeff Bezos kept pushing and exploring new areas of growth. What started as an online marketplace is now a massive global operation that offers everything from data management services via AWS to home and retail automation — to name a few.

As it turns out, your contact center can be your best tool for discovering exciting new opportunities to drive business growth. That’s because your agents are constantly chatting with customers and getting their feedback on your company’s products and offerings. By listening to customers and incorporating their feedback, you will prove that your company is in tune with their needs. Each new solution that you will offer will be like a stepping stone that leads to more and more business.

Many of the top brands — particularly in the technology space — are doing this today, and generally speaking the results are incredible. Most customers, after all, are used to receiving subpar service today. So when customers see companies that listen and take their feedback into consideration, it makes them feel great and like they are part of the team. It makes them want to continue doing business with that company.

With the right contact center solutions in place, your team can start using your most resource — your customers— into a business-boosting machine. For example, you need powerful technologies to collect process and share data. You need high quality agents who are connected to what’s happening in the industry and capable of carrying in-depth conversations with customers. And you need advanced, highly-reliable infrastructure that will remain up and running at all times.

When you put it all together, the results you generate from customer service can be staggering. Your business has the potential to become a major industry disruptor, and global giant. By listening to your customers’ needs, and incorporating their direct feedback, you will generate returns that you never thought were possible.

 

 

How Customer Preferences Are Changing

Over the last several years the main message in the customer service space has been that consumer preferences are changing, and businesses have no choice but to respond. But what exactly does this mean?

The digital revolution has completely changed the customer journey. Now, customers expect a shopping experience that is completely seamless and efficient across all levels. Customers today are used to high-speed digital interactions and they want to receive the same treatment in the contact center when attempting to resolve issues.

Perhaps the most notable change that we are observing among consumers is the reduced usage of traditional communications channels when attempting to resolve issues. According to a recent study, customer interactions with legacy channels like the phone and email have declined by as much as 7 percent over the last two years. Now, customers are seeking channels that are more automated. In 2015, voice was used in 51 percent of customer service interactions; in 2016, it fell to 45 percent; and last year, it dipped to just 41 percent.

It should be noted that as legacy voice and email systems continue to decline in popularity, consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable relying on service via automated channels. At least 49 percent of consumers now contact customer service using automated channels and 59 percent of consumers would rather go through additional channels than use their voice to communicate.

This is happening because companies aren’t offering optimized voice and email channels. A lack of effectiveness is the main source of consumer frustration with traditional customer service.

That is not to say you should abandon your legacy communications systems. It’s hard to imagine that we will reach a point where consumers completely abandon either voice or email in favor of self-service portals and IVR systems. After all, there will always be problems that are better solved over a two-way chat or email correspondence than through a self-service portal. And many customers prefer to speak with a live representative when solving routine tasks like suspending account access or reversing a charge.

Companies are strongly encouraged to strike a balance by offering a mix of reliable and high quality communications solutions. Customers should have the option to pick up the phone and call, or send an email to solve a problem. At the same time, they should be able to go online or into an app to solve a routine problem. Give customers a wide range of options, and let them select the channels that work best for them.

Just remember: Customer preferences are changing. And if you ignore them, your business could get left behind.

What Type of Customer Service Environment Do You Have?

One of the downsides to working as a customer service executive is that it’s very easy to form a bias about your organization because you only see it from the inside. Many people put on blinders, and fail to truly understand what customers think about their contact centers.

The truth is that all contact centers have distinct personalities depending on how they are organized and managed. And as an executive, it’s important to understand how your customer service team is viewed.

A contact center, for instance, can be:

Friendly: In this type of environment, agents are advised to do everything in their power to keep customers feeling happy. Agents are assessed based on cheerfulness, enthusiasm and empathy. Contact centers that come across as friendly to customers stand a much better chance of generating strong customer service ratings, and positive reviews. The only downside to having a contact center that is overly-friendly is that customers will at times try to take advantage of agents. So it’s important to tell agents to be pleasant and happy, but also firm. You can be nice without being taken advantage of.

Aggressive: At the other end of the spectrum is the aggressive contact center, or one that values its bottom line over customer relations. In this type of environment, agents are instructed to be less friendly, and more aggressive in their pursuits to collect money, resolve issues quickly and process requests in a timely manner. Contact centers that come across as aggressive can also be seen as hostile. This can make customers upset, and cause them to seek out competitors. The cable and utility industries are notorious for having aggressive customer service strategies.

Creative: In this type of environment, agents are instructed to use creative thinking at strategic times to keep customers satisfied. Here is an example of how this may work: Imagine a customer stays at a hotel but cannot eat any of the snacks in the mini bar due to food allergies. After calling and complaining to the corporate customer service team, the contact center could arrange to have healthy snacks sent up to the room at no additional cost. This is the type of small, but highly-effective personal touch that goes a long way in driving customer loyalty. It’s also the type of thing that a customer may post on social media, where it could go viral.

So, what can you do to make sure your contact center is setting the right tone for your business? Round up your team and create a customer service task force. Have your team members figure out what is being said about your company online, and in the media. You may even want to have agents from this task force call in and perform anonymous spot checks. Then, come together as a team and discuss your findings.

You can also outsource your department to a third party contact center solutions provider that specializes in providing consistent, amazing customer service backed with a quality guarantee.

Ready to Change Your Contact Center Strategy?

It’s often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. But in the contact center space, this can sometimes be standard practice. Many customer service administrators recognize that they need to make important changes, but they are afraid to disrupt operations and so they keep going through the motions year after year with little sign of improvement.

So the first step towards improving your contact center, therefore, is to accept the fact that your department needs to change. Once you make a clear goal to improve operations, you can then confidently do what is necessary to establish a stronger, leaner and more impactful department.

Take my advice: The fastest, safest and most affordable way to improve your contact center is to put your department into the hands of a trusted third party solutions provider.

Outsourcing to a full-service contact center solutions provider will give you access to high quality customer service agents that would otherwise be difficult to find, as well as premium and fully-managed infrastructure, data-driven strategy and a service level agreement-backed quality guarantee. By outsourcing your operations, you can reduce monthly costs and turn around your sales and marketing strategies almost overnight.

Other exciting benefits to outsourcing include:

  • Flexible interactive voice response (IVR): Many businesses today are using outdated and inefficient IVR systems that are error-prone and difficult to update. Contact center solutions providers specialize in providing managed IVR services along with flexible, custom call scripting.
  • Business continuity: Another great benefit to outsourcing your contact center is that you can establish business continuity, for seamless network failover during weather events. Third party contact centers are stored offsite, where they are safer from accidents.
  • Fewer headaches: Say goodbye to headaches like seasonal hiring, agent reviews and customer complaints. All of these issues will be managed for you.
  • Reduced strain on IT: Outsourcing your contact center will free your IT workers to focus on other pressing network-related issues.

Here is a word of caution as you go about this process: Try to change your contact center on your own, and you could risk making the wrong adjustments which would be detrimental to your organization. There are countless technologies to invest in, and strategies to embrace that can prove to be much more trouble than they are worth. This is not a task where it pays to guess. You have to use careful planning in order to get the results you are looking for.

How to Avoid Sluggish Winter Sales

At last, the busy shopping season is over. We made it through yet another holiday sales rush. But now, for some businesses, the real challenge begins: The post-holiday sales slowdown.

Sometimes, business can crawl to a standstill after the holidays as the long winter months set in and consumers try to rebound from the holidays by paying down their debts. This period typically lasts until Valentine’s Day, which is the first major shopping event of the year.

Is your business in danger of suffering from the post holiday sales slowdown? You don’t have to throw in the white flag for the first quarter. Here are some things you can try to boost profits in the coming weeks:

Capitalize on tax cuts: This year, many American businesses and consumers will be receiving bigger tax refunds. Keep this in mind for your winter marketing strategy, and consider offering deals to attract buyers to spending money with your organization.

Go mobile: Digitalization is a top trend that businesses will be experimenting with in 2018. Most businesses are doing this by creating mobile apps. Now, you don’t have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars or wait several months for an app to be made. If you have data, you can pump it into an app maker platform and make your own mobile solution. Apps make it faster and easier for customers to engage with your business.

Eliminate time waste: Round up the heads of each department, and make an effort to identify the biggest time-wasters. Encourage your team to eliminate time waste, in order to boost productivity and drive sales. Marketing and sales departments should look to automation to take over time-consuming tasks like updating contacts lists, sending marketing assets and scheduling meetings.

Overhaul your contact center: Use the slow winter season to outsource your contact center operations. By planning an outsourcing project now, you can have a new and improved system in place when sales pick back up again at a future date. Outsourcing to a third party contact center solutions provider is a guaranteed way to drive more profits and ensure customer satisfaction.

The Holidays Are Over…Now What?

Another holiday season has come and gone. Now, your company is back to work and staring down the year ahead.

What comes next? With so many things to do, it can be difficult to plot a course of action for 2018.

Here are some action-items that you should strive to tackle over the next few weeks:

Keep the momentum going: The holiday season may be over, but now is no time to slow down. Consider offering post-holiday sales, contests or giveaways to keep up with your competitors and drive further profits. Tax season is here, and consumers will be cashing in their checks and looking to spend them. During this time, it’s imperative that you have a fully-functioning and reliable contact center in place to engage with customers during the sales process.

Analyze your data: One of the most common issues that we hear today from business leaders is “Help! We have all of this data, and we don’t know what to do with it!” Many businesses, in other words, doubled down on their data collection efforts during this year’s holiday season but have no actionable plans for processing and utilizing the information. Instead of hiring a data scientist, which can be very expensive or putting your IT team to work digging through information you may want to consider outsourcing your data management needs. Many companies specialize in helping businesses to understand their information and maximize their return on investment.

Form a spring and summer strategy: Look ahead to the busy spring and summer month ahead. Do you have enough staff members? Are your technologies up to par? These are questions you should be asking right now.

Look for ways to cut your budget: As you plan for the future, look for some ways that you can slash costs in the coming months. This is especially important if you are managing a large contact center, with a great deal of overhead. If you are spending more than you are bringing in, you should seriously consider outsourcing to a third party contact center solutions provider.

Plan ahead for next year’s holiday rush: Finally, take a look back at the last few weeks. How did your team perform this holiday season? When analyzing your data, and reviewing conversations, you may find some areas that are in need of improvement. Again, this is where a contact center solutions provider can help. Instead of spending money on seasonal agents next year, outsource operations and focus on other priorities.

Review your cybersecurity: Even if you made it through the holidays unscathed by cybercrime, this is no time to slow down. Review your cybersecurity strategy with your IT team and your employees to make sure everyone is aligned with the most recent information. This could save you from a massive data breach.

What is an Omnichannel Contact Center?

“Omnichannel” engagement is now a top buzzword in customer service, and a term that every business leader should know heading into 2018.

Many people, however, are still in the dark about omnichannel engagement. What exactly is omnichannel, and why is it so important?

Omnichannel refers to a type of cross-channel system that provides a consistent shopping experience across all online, mobile, telephone and retail locations. For example, a customer may walk into a retail store, look at an item and then use his or her smartphone to conduct research before making a purchase. During the process, that customer may move in between the company’s website and application. He or she may also converse with a customer service agent via live chat or a retail employee.

The reason why so many businesses are implementing omnichannel strategies is because omnichannel has been proven to boost revenues. According to one study, companies that use omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89 percent of their customers, compared to 33 percent of companies that have weak omnichannel engagement.

What’s more, an overwhelming 87 percent of customers think that brands need to do a better job of providing seamless experiences.

A strong omnichannel customer service strategy is one that is…

Data-driven: Data should be collected at every touch point in the customer journey — meaning every time a customer interacts with a brand either online or in person. This data must be processed, analyzed and shared in a centralized database. By using data, companies can create shopping experiences that are more personalized and targeted.

Completely seamless: Many businesses today have touchpoints that are highly-fragmented meaning there is little correlation between things like mobile applications, websites and retail stores. Omnichannel contact centers solve this by using real-time data sharing and analysis, strong inter-agent communication and high quality Web and network services. The end result is a shopping experience that is completely seamless, and capable of moving along with a customer across each channel without missing a beat.

Fully-functioning: Omnichannel environments are actually quite fragile, meaning they take a great deal of oversight and maintenance. If one point goes down, like a mobile app, it could negatively impact the shopping experience and cause customers to look elsewhere for answers. As such, many businesses are now outsourcing their omnichannel services to third party contact center solutions providers that have the resources in place to effectively manage them. Third party solutions providers offer top-of-the line infrastructure, experienced and well-trained agents and advanced reporting and analytics capabilities. It’s much easier, and more effective, to outsource your omnichannel service instead of trying to maintain it on your own. This is especially true for small teams that lack the budget to hire top-tier agents or maintain their own contact centers.

 

Three Hard-Hitting Customer Service Questions

As an executive, it’s your job to make the difficult decisions that will impact the future of your organization. Team members come to you looking for answers, and so it’s your job to know what buttons you should press, and when.

Sometimes, this can be very difficult — especially when difficult customer service questions arise that can have a major impact on your company’s bottom line.

With this in mind, here are some hot button issues in customer service that you should spend some time thinking about, so you can be prepared to handle them when they arise.

  1. Is it necessary to have a dedicated contact center? Let’s face it: Contact centers are expensive. There is no getting around it. When you factor in costs associated with staffing, overhead, technology investment and more, the expenses can really pile up. And if your department is costing more than it is bringing in, this is a problem.

As such, you may be wondering whether it’s necessary to have a contact center at all. Some companies, in other words, are now abandoning their contact centers in favor of fully-automated solutions. Ultimately, this is a bad idea. Take our advice. Self service is great for some processes, but it’s not a good idea to make it harder for customers to get in touch with representatives when they are needed. Customers should always have a direct channel to service representatives. When this goes away, they can get very upset — and take their business to competitors.

  1. How important is artificial intelligence (AI)? Right now, everyone in business is talking about the rise of AI. Heading into 2018, AI is one of the hottest technologies on the market. But does your business really need it?

The truth is that AI is something you should seriously consider. And it’s not that hard to obtain. Many companies are now offering AI-based platforms that streamline business processes like sales, marketing and customer service. AI can help automate your customer service operations, reducing time waste and driving stronger returns.  Plus, all of your competitors are most likely investing in it—so this is not something you should pass on in 2018.

  1. Should the C-suite take part in customer service strategizing? Is customer service something you should even be taking part in? Or should you leave it to other experts so that you can focus on more pressing priorities?

Think about how a general manager works in sports. Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees, for instance, does not get too involved in daily on-field issues concerning his players. He leaves this up to his coaching staff. Still, he is heavily involved in planning and strategizing at a higher level.

You can take this same approach by outsourcing your department to a third party contact center solutions provider. In this type of environment, you can still remain active and take part in strategizing, without having to get too wrapped up in making sure your customers are satisfied and the department is operating correctly.