In this article, Enghouse delves into five crucial areas that contact centres need to focus on, shedding light on how organisations can invest wisely, adapt to changing customer needs, and elevate the overall customer service experience over the next 12 months
As we move into 2024, what key customer service trends do contact centres need to focus on? The combination of current economic uncertainty and changing customer needs, means that five key issues stand out.
These are likely to guide how and where contact centres will invest as they try to drive greater efficiencies and improve customer service over the next 12 months.
1. Get the most out of digital channels
Push and pull factors will fuel digital investment. The drive to minimise costs is going to push contact centres to add new channels to reduce reliance on more costly voice and email.
At the same time, customers will provide the pull factor by seeking out the convenience of round-the-clock automated self-service and digital options.
Digital and self-service implementations are maturing, however, with the focus no longer primarily on contact avoidance, there is greater emphasis on ensuring automation also adds real value to the customer experience.
A fruitless interaction with a poorly constructed chatbot is just as annoying to the customer as waiting 15 minutes on the phone to connect with an agent.
Successful companies will need to pay more attention to understanding the experience from the customer’s point of view. For example, is your chatbot trained to use the everyday language and phrases that customers use, not just terminology that’s internal to the company?
2. Constantly improve through actionable insights
Companies are starting to recognise that when they adopt new customer service technology it’s not just a case of deploy and walk away. It’s rare to get the full benefits of new systems straight away. It is usually a journey of constant improvement.
That means actively understanding how you use the technology and then identifying how you can improve it, just as you would do with training and coaching agents.
Often this tactic will produce marginal gains in several individual areas and once you put them all together the result could be double-digit improvements overall. By constantly evolving and improving technology, contact centres can maximise payback on their investments.
3. Look at automation holistically
Another trend I believe will become more prominent is businesses adopting a more holistic view of customer service automation.
Many customer queries require the integration of processes that involve other departments and line-of-business systems that exist outside the boundary of the contact centre. If a customer wants to know when an out-of-stock product will be available, you might need information from the ERP system for example.
Now we’ll see more automation technology based on AI driving streamlined end-to-end workflows, pulling information directly from disparate systems and then presenting it to the customer.
At the same time, of course, you need to have a smooth escalation to an agent if automation doesn’t resolve the customer’s problem, or the response prompts further questions.
There needs to be a seamless handover with the agent given full access to the context of the queries. Forcing the customer to explain their query all over again is poor CX that also hikes up the cost of service. Transferring from digital and self-service channels to human agents is essential.
4. Get the foundations right
Automation and AI technology are only as good as the back-end systems they rely on. You must ensure that these foundations are in place.
For example, a chatbot can depend on the knowledge management system for information to assist agents or to directly answer customers’ queries. What should it contain? In what format? Is terminology accessible to customers? You can’t just rush in and automate a process without organising your knowledge management first.
Similarly, there are examples where AI can deliver very plausible but fundamentally inaccurate answers. Test and retest before going live. Failing to do the necessary groundwork can hurt First Contact Resolution rates and cost of service while leaving customers frustrated.
5. Empower agents
In 2024 the trend for automation and deflection of simple queries will continue to increase the value of agents when it comes to resolving queries that are complex or require empathy. This puts the onus on empowering agents.
You need to find ways to fast-track access to relevant information or systems that can help agents resolve specific queries. Big data lets you analyse contact centre conversations to identify best practice.
What’s working well for different types of customer query? What causes the biggest agent frustrations? With AI it’s possible to shine a light on actionable insights previously locked within thousands of interactions.
Customer service success in 2024 will be driven by a focus on constant improvement. Build on what you have already and add value by finding areas to integrate and streamline automation.
The overall aim should be to improve the service to customers first and foremost, while at the same time positively impacting contact centre ROI and productivity.
Enghouse Interactive is a Housing Digital Stakeholder that works with over 120 housing associations, providing them with the customer engagement solutions they need to improve performance.
Image: PeopleImages.com – Yuri A/Shutterstock
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