Long gone are the days when working at a support desk meant dealing with repetitive but simple tasks. Today’s customer queries are far more complex. People now expect agents to help with billing problems, shipping delays, and product malfunctioning, among other things.
Succeeding in such a changing role requires collaboration and communication. Agents have to often reach out to several departments to solve a single inquiry. But creating an environment that fosters these interactions is anything but easy, especially when the global pandemic pushes businesses into remote working.
Nonetheless, it’s vital that companies introduce technologies and workflows that improve collaboration. By doing so, they can delight customers and agents can even beat their pre-pandemic performance.
The high cost of bad customer service
Contact centers in many organizations, however, are yet to modernize. Treated as a necessary evil, support teams have to work with outdated tools and solve problems without support from other departments. Poor collaboration frustrates agents who feel siloed and isolated.
Customers suffer as well. They receive an unsatisfactory experience and many will walk away from the brand because of a single bad interaction. And poor customer service inflicts around $62 billion losses a year to US companies alone.
Collaboration is more important than ever
The need to build effective, remote contact centers that facilitate collaboration and communication isn’t going away. It’s here to stay long term for multiple reasons.
For one, call centers are one of the most densely packed businesses and, as such, a fertile ground for infectious diseases. So it comes as no surprise that 74% of contact centers now support remote work. And even when offices open up, many agents will be reluctant to move back.
Ever more complex support inquiries are another factor to consider. Today’s customers don’t call because of simple problems; they can solve those by checking out YouTube videos or online forums. Customers reach out when their own research failed. And you can be sure their problem is going to be complicated. Solving difficult inquiries require agents to talk to other departments. They need product experts to help with product malfunctioning, while complex billing problems can only be solved with input from finance teams.
Collaborative contact centers are thus a critical component of modern customer service. They allow employees to talk to each other, share documents, and tap into the knowledge of an entire organization. That’s the only way agents can solve a rising number of problems.
Provide agents with access to information
And if those problems are simple, such as upgrade requests or basic billing queries, agents can solve them on their own. But even then they still need the right tools and information. If a customer needs help in understanding her bill, agents must have access to billing information. This might sound simple, but many organizations tend to assume that contact centers should be kept separate from core business.
Such opinion, however, can’t stand the test of reality. Agents need access to information to do their job and that means companies need to have open APIs and allow access to CRMs and other backend systems. Solving customer problems shouldn’t require transferring the call or manually asking for help. Providing agents with the infrastructure they need empowers them and ensures they can stay engaged and productive, no matter how complex issues they’re tackling.
Making the promise of better collaboration a reality
But even if companies want to foster communication and collaboration among remote employees, there are many day-to-day dilemmas to overcome. Agents might wonder whether they should email their colleagues or WhatsApp them via their personal phone? How should they reach out for urgent matters? Is it rude to nudge colleagues if they don’t reply in an hour? Without proper tools, communication gets messy. And people then default to the easiest solution: working alone.
Having a central messaging platform and a set of procedures to follow can remove the friction. Status markers would show when people are around. Messaging gets easier as all employees use the same platform. And as communication runs smoothly, teamwork improves as well with agents drawing on the expertise of dozens and hundreds of their colleagues.
In the post-pandemic world, the collaborative contact center can’t be treated as a nice-to-have. It’s a necessity that empowers teams located in various time zones. And collaboration won’t only help your team reach the pre-COVID-19 service level; it will supercharge your agents and ensure they take customer experience to the next level.
Access to information and experts ensures employees can quickly solve complex problems. And as your first-contact resolution improves, relationships with customers will thrive, too. RingCentral can make this promise a reality. Our customer engagement platform makes it easy to manage remote teams and build a collaborative contact center.
Originally published Nov 30, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022