The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated transformation within the contact centre. While mid-to-large organisations may have been accused of being slow to adopt new ways of working, coronavirus has laid bare the inadequacies in legacy systems upon which they have continued to rely.
This will inevitably lead to a flurry of activity. Businesses have been left fractured by coronavirus, departmental communication has been disrupted and business processes all but broken.
All of this means that adoption of omnichannel solutions will be far greater than it otherwise may have been. This is undoubtedly a good thing, but this upheaval cannot disguise the fact that customers ultimately do not care. It may sound blunt, but they no longer have any concept of what channel they’re using. The ability to contact brands across different mediums is no longer novel to them. What they care about is that they get an informed response in a timely manner, on the channel of their choosing.
So, when contact centre operators consider their next moves, they mustn’t lose site of the ultimate goal; it’s not about omnichannel, it’s about providing the best service for customers.
Forget channels, it’s all about process
Omnichannel as a buzzword has been around for a long while and, like many things, has been discussed so much that to many it loses any sense of meaning.
The message around omnichannel hasn’t ever really changed. What has changed is the landscape. Covid-19 has shown there is a better way of working that improves the bottom line and improves the mental health and productivity of agents – both very worthy goals.
But next year will be dominated by back office systems – the unflashy stuff that is necessary for a contact centre to thrive. Put simply, does the agent have access to the right information to solve queries at the earliest opportunity?
A natural effect of the pandemic is that operators will be forced to look at their processes, adopting a leaner way of operating. 2021 will be all about the ‘boring’ stuff that most people don’t get to see. But that is what facilitates integration and access that enables customers to get served quicker and at a lower cost base.
Take technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA). It’s super dull but enables organisations to become lean. It also enables the customers most in need of human interaction to be filtered through to agents that can handle their complex query, while those that could be handled by self-service are left free to do so.
In this sense, omnichannel is just one element of an effective business. By putting information and knowledge at their fingertips, this so called “Super Agent” will be created.
The importance of keeping promises
While it is true to say that customers don’t care about omnichannel, there are very clearly things that they do care about. The excuse of pressures brought about by Covid-19 will no longer wash and customers will expect ever more rapid responses. Customer service, therefore, really makes a difference. Making (and keeping) promises will become a point of competitive differentiation for organisations and is something that can only be achieved by joining up often disparate processes.
The contact centre is so often the shop window for a brand and can be the first in the firing line when things are going wrong. The marketing department, for instance, is getting far better at using data to make smarter decisions, but integration with the contact centre (with better informed and empowered agents) is how to turn it from a cost centre to a true enabler.
Transformation in the contact centre is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it has to be daunting. Solutions exist that enable businesses to knit together the various sources of information that contact centre agents need in order to better service customers. But adopting them without any thought as to how this impacts on business processes means it will ultimately be wasted effort. By putting an omnichannel strategy at the heart of business transformation, it becomes possible to achieve operational efficiencies without compromising service. Indeed, this mindset will ensure a future-proofed contact centre that truly delivers.
All of this talk about omnichannel, therefore, rather misses the point. Success comes in breaking down barriers, arming agents with knowledge and information. An omnichannel strategy is the bare minimum a customer expects. It is how this strategy is used throughout the business that will see its success or failure.