5 Key Steps Successful Service Organizations Are Taking To Thrive Despite The Challenges of 2021
2021 saw the world move to the next stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines transformed peoples’ lives, WFH transformed the way we work, the resurgence of virus variants proved COVID could still impact our lives, and contact centers found themselves stretched thin by increased call volumes and reduced staff. As consumers began demanding automated solutions, contact centers looked to modernize their technology stacks to improve efficiency and customer satisfaction today and moving forward. Success in modern customer service requires contact center leaders to focus on five key trends.
Businesses faced many challenges throughout 2021. The cost of hiring new employees rose in many industries. That new talent cost has now arrived at the agent level (by some estimates, a 10-15% increase over previous standards). Soon middle management will require more compensation as well to prevent churn. Work from home systems tend to be slightly less efficient than office-based call centers on the whole as well. These factors combined will continue to stretch budgets thin, push cost per revenue targets, and increase cost per contact. To properly prepare for the future, service organizations will have to focus on key strategies to adapt quickly as they push to implement new technology and processes.
“To properly prepare for the future, service organizations will have to focus on key strategies to adapt quickly as they push to implement new technology and processes.”
1. Deploy New Technology to Reduce Costs
As the cost of new talent increases, contact centers will need to handle more calls with fewer agents to manage cost per contact. New technology is helping reduce inbound calls to agents in two ways: prevention and deflection.
Proactive, automated outreach connecting with the right customers at the right time can deliver the help they need before they decide to call in. For instance, what used to be simple one-way SMS appointment reminders can now deliver comprehensive appointment confirmation tools, provide directions, adding to calendar, ability to reschedule, and more, reducing the need for customers to call a contact center. Other self-service solutions can be offered to callers in the IVR tree, during a call but before customers are connected with an agent. By deflecting these calls to self-service automation technology, inbound call volume is effectively reduced, as agents never need to interact with fully deflected callers.
2. Implement Middle Stack Automation to Increase Efficiency
Digital transformation and automation efforts of the past have tended to focus on two sides of the technology stack: frontend customer interactions, and backend database management. A critical component of modern business can often be forgotten in this process — the Middle Stack.
The Middle Stack refers to all the processes that help businesses function. The steps between a consumer calling for roadside assistance and a truck being deployed to their location for towing companies. The technology that processes a new scheduled appointment and assigning a technician for repair companies. Details of these middle stack procedures are rarely known to consumers who don’t see the cause but do feel the friction of inefficiency. When these processes hit bottle necks and slow down, customers only feel the pain of a slow resolution without any reasoning for why they must wait so long. This can dramatically decrease customer satisfaction and drive customer churn. Bringing new automation and efficiency to these processes will help businesses stand out with superior service over the competition.
3. Rethink Security for A New Age
The pandemic forced many organizations to enable and deploy work from home agents and other new processes. Many technology solutions stepped up to help businesses shift quickly and react effectively to the impact of COVID-19. As WFH becomes commonplace, security policies must evolve to allow technologies like virtual private networks (VPNs), private cloud systems, “dummy” workstation machines, and others to be deployed in service organizations.
Security and technology leaders will also want to consider deploying VPN multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication systems are safer than simple password-only setups for protection. Two-factor setups are incredibly important for tracking who has access to cloud systems hosting sensitive data.
4. Empower Agents to Do Their Jobs Better
Many service organization leaders tend to look at automation as an agent replacer, but one of the most helpful aspects of automation isn’t to get rid of agents — it’s a blended, agent-assisted service that delivers successful resolutions to callers as fast and easy as possible.
The most commonly deployed digital automation technologies have been business process platforms and robotic process automation, according to McKinsey. These automation tools leverage bots to reduce and even eliminate cumbersome or tedious tasks. Customer service agents, for example, shouldn’t have to fill in forms on behalf of customers or walk callers through straightforward processes. By leveraging technology like robotic process automation (RPA), businesses can reduce pressure on agents by accelerating call times. Automating this way enhances customer satisfaction, while also reducing agent burnout by taking tiresome calls off agents plates and letting them handle more engaging calls.
“By leveraging technology like robotic process automation (RPA), businesses can reduce pressure on agents by accelerating call times.”
PCI and other critical issues can become complicated for businesses and agents working from home or using hybrid workflows too. By providing agents with a simple, straightforward solution to compliance, contact center leaders allow their talented reps to focus more energy on customers instead of having to manage yet another change to their training and operations.
5. Meet Customers’ Increased Expectations to Boost Customer Satisfaction
According to Shep Hyken and Forbes, 96% of customers will stop doing business with a company because of bad customer service. Research from PwC shows about one in three customers (32%) “say they will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience.” To avoid the pitfalls of poor CX, modern businesses should remember the 3 Ps of Self-Service.
A Salesforce study found 97% of marketers surveyed reported a measurable lift to business outcomes from their personalization efforts. Personalization is about more than simply remembering customers’ names. Providing new product and offer alerts to retail customers, automatically displaying coverage information to insurance consumers, and other applications goes a long way to creating a feeling of loyalty and a favorable opinion of a business.
“Predictive CX is so important that Gartner believes predictive customer analytics are slated to become the most valuable capability for service organizations moving forward.”
Predictive CX makes consumers feel more like members of a special club getting special treatment delivering answers and solutions to consumers immediately when they reach out without the need for them to ask, based on data and customer actions. Predictive CX is so important that Gartner believes predictive customer analytics are slated to become the most valuable capability for service organizations moving forward.
Proactive customer service addresses calls before they happen, reducing the inbound volume reaching agents and reducing call center costs. Some proactive actions — like notifying customers their shipped order has been delayed — sound simple but can get complicated quickly. As customer service leaders implement proactive service they must remember it requires: understanding what your customers expect and having clear and fast-moving communication channels with customers to deliver proactive service through.
2021 changed a lot about the way we work and live. Customers have prioritized speed and convenience in CX more than before, agent work has shifted to WFH, new hires are more expensive than ever, and service organizations are expected to be just as successful, if not more so. Success despite these hurdles is possible if customer service leaders remember these five trends and focus work swiftly to grow and adjust their business operations moving forward.