The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the contact center. Now, months into the “new normal,” we gathered a panel of experts to discuss this transition and what we can expect for the contact center in the coming years.
Today’s panel includes Shep Hyken, Customer Service & Experience Expert at Shepard Presentations; Scott Schoenherr, SVP Ops & Tech at Healthcare Claims Management; Joanna Palmer, CX Client Principal for RingCentral Contact Center; and Max Ball, Director of Product Marketing for RingCentral Contact Center.
Customer Experience: The Art of the Possible
The pandemic forced a radical shift that relies heavily on digital technology and at-home agents. As companies moved to this new set-up, they had to quickly adapt to different demands from both customers and employees. Some have used this shift to make long-term improvements, but others have not.
“We’re all changing how we work and we’ve all done it in survival mode,” Ball said. “We’re going to see a lot of companies that take advantage of new technology and new ways of doing business to differentiate and others that are going to stay in survival mode and they’re not.”
Integrating this new technology is critical because, despite its challenges, remote contact centers will continue to be the norm moving forward.
“Work from home is here to stay and there will be definitely variations of that,” Palmer said. “But, in terms of what we see from the agent side and terms of what we see from the next step here, it really is that digital engagement and ensuring we engage with customers on the channel of their choice. We’ll see more and more of the digital engagement, I think, as this moves on.”
Though the transitions we’ve experienced have been drastic, Hyken said, they didn’t happen because of new technology or inventions. Instead, it was the adoption and adaptation of innovations that already existed.
“We are in the future right now in terms of what we are experiencing from the standpoint of technology, the remote workforce, the processes that are being automated,” he said. “I believe this whole COVID thing shifted us. Instead of doing it three to five years from now, we’re doing it now. We’re forced to do it now, we just didn’t voluntarily get into it.”
This past year has also offered the opportunity to evaluate and improve current contact center practices. Flexibility and a “fail fast” mentality have allowed companies to improve their customer interactions.
“If we fail, that’s okay. We learn from that, we build upon that, and adjust and try the next thing,” Palmer said. “And that’s really where we’re going to see a lot of momentum picking up and really taking the customer experience to the next level.”
It’s also put a greater focus on the agent experience. Supervisors have had to find new ways to check in on agents’ well-being and productivity in a remote workspace. This has become even more important as remote work moves from a temporary situation to a permanent one. Communication is vital in this new contact center environment if you want to keep your team aligned and motivated moving forward, Hyken said.
“We have to keep in mind that there’s going to be flexibility needed in the future as well. I don’t think we’re close to what the end looks like,” he said. “Change is constantly going to happen in bad times and in great times.”
Much of your success depends on the tools you use. For Schoenherr, workforce management tools allowed his team to enjoy greater scheduling flexibility. Other essential tools include cloud software, a comprehensive contact center platform, video conferencing, AI, and more. If you want to succeed, you need to have the capabilities to adapt to the changes and continue offering convenience to your customers.
“What’s happened today is that while convenience was once something special to separate yourself, it’s now something that’s expected,” Hyken said. “So check out opportunities to be more convenient to your customers because it’s now becoming an expectation.”
Today, the contact center isn’t just a customer service center. Instead, it’s your customer revenue generator, he said. Rather than focusing on cutting back or hanging on to what you have, be willing to pivot and make investments that will improve your customer experiences.
“Because that’s what we do. We make sure the customer wants to do business with us again,” Hydek said. “And we don’t want them just to give us repeat business, we want them to give us loyal repeat business because they will spend more with us when they’re loyal, not just when they come back and repeat.”
Companies can do this by digitizing, allowing AI and automation to continue to enhance their services, and seeing how they can use new technologies to improve customer loyalty.
“COVID has really given us the gift to rethink everything, to really think about the art of the possible,” Palmer said. “And so it’s utilizing everything out there in emerging technologies and figuring out, how do you use that in the customer journey to make their interactions easier and to build stickiness with your company.”
For more about the ways you can improve your contact center during the pandemic, emerging technologies you can’t ignore, and the future of the contact center, watch the full webinar here.
Originally published Jan 28, 2021, updated Jan 30, 2023