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The world is in a recession. Things could be as bad or worse than the 2009 global financial crisis. Many companies are hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, leading to a sharp increase in the unemployment rate . Most countries are still unsure of how to end lockdowns safely, creating extreme economic uncertainty. But companies have to continue working and maintaining business continuity, with contact centers being no exception to this rule.

Surviving the recession means working under slowed growth and tight budgets. And although you might think that reduced financial resources will lead to worse customer service, that does not have to happen.

In fact, new technologies can help you to serve customers well and reduce operational costs. The key steps on that path are minimizing inefficiencies and embracing all-in-one cloud contact center (CC) platforms.

Engage customers using low-cost communication channels

Agents are typically a major cost factor in contact center operations. Forrester Consulting has estimated that the average cost of a customer service phone call is between $6 and $25, averaging around $20 per interaction, and even more for when issues are complex. These figures can go up if procedures are not optimized and customers repeatedly call for the same problem or calls get routed multiple times.

Fortunately, there are cheaper communication alternatives. A live chat session, for instance, costs between $1 to $5 as agents can handle multiple inquiries. Whether through Facebook, webchat, SMS, or some other channel, a growing number of customers prefer text-based communication. Chatbots can be of great assistance in these situations, too. They can answer up to 80 percent of routine questions. This speeds up response time and allows agents to deal with more difficult tasks. 

Customers are also getting internet-savvy. They have likely googled their issues, read posts on support forums, and watched self-help videos before reaching out to you. Companies can use this trend to their advantage by building a digital knowledge base for customer self-service. You can reduce inbound calls and hence lower the average spend per interaction by providing people with easily accessible pieces of information. The key to an efficient knowledge base is to keep it relevant and up-to-date. Analyze what questions are typically asked and provide content that helps customers solve their problems.

An omni-channel contact center will make your customer service better and cheaper

Allowing customers to engage with your support team through multiple channels both voice and digital will lead to major benefits.

You’ll delight customers with convenience and a choice of multi-channel support. Also, you can save time and money by routing inquiries to the best-suited agent and quickest support type.

And by enabling customers to easily connect with your company, you’ll increase brand loyalty and, by extension, your revenue. Agents can use historical data on previous customer inquiries to offer personalized support, which is an important influence on the loyalty of 69% of consumers and 82% of business buyers. Loyal customers will then be the best ambassadors for your brand.

But your agents won’t be able to provide exceptional service if they have to switch between various systems and interfaces when dealing with customers. That’s why it’s vital that you move all digital channels of interactions into a single, cloud-based contact center. This communication technology will make your agents more efficient.

Also, you’ll be able to create smart rules and route incoming calls and inquiries to the agent with relevant skill sets. Your client might need, for example, an agent that speaks Spanish and is knowledgeable about the software side of a business. The platform would then route the call to a contact center employee best suited for this task.

You can also integrate chatbots and IVRs into your cloud-based communication platform. Automation machines can easily handle simple inquiries such as password resets or a change of address. And as your contact center keeps collecting data on agent performance and customers inquiries, you’ll be able to run powerful analytics. You could, for instance, monitor calls, numbers, and queues, along with call quality scores. This data would enable you to learn which agents might need help to improve their performance. 

Or you might learn that a certain group of users is reaching out to you more than the others. Also, advanced systems allow you to monitor trends in customer inquiries and take corrective actions. Speech analytics, for instance, can detect customers’ emotions through pitch and tone. The platform would notify you of any significant spike in negative emotions and you could then look into why it happened and fix the problem.  

Cloud-based contact centers also allow you to set up automated monitoring of critical KPIs and parameters, such as device connectivity or call quality. You would receive real-time alerts about ongoing problems and could then solve them. These features enable you to make agents more productive, lower a cost per interaction, improve customer service quality, and fine-tine overall processes and operations.

Make excellent customer service your competitive advantage

Today’s customers are blessed with an abundance of choices. They can pick to whom they give their business and don’t have to put up with a service or a company that’s below their expectations.

If they can’t get their problems solved by a customer service team or have to lodge complaints frequently, a better service is just a Google search away. You can use this to your advantage.

Excellent customer service can be your competitive edge. This is especially important in the current period of economic uncertainty. The McKinsey consulting group says that improved customer service and cost-cutting can help businesses survive a recession and emerge from it stronger. And a small advantage gained during the slow growth period will turn into a major advantage once the economy grows again.

Get started with a cloud contact center right away

The current recession doesn’t mean that you have to reduce the quality of your customer service. In fact, you can use this period to both cut costs and improve the way you deal with customer inquiries. The solution lies in moving to the cloud-based platforms and integrating voice, text, social media, and other channels into a unified communications system.

RingCentral enables you to get started with this right away. If you’re not a current RingCentral Contact center customer and are impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, then you can get free seat licenses access to the RingCentral Contact Center Work from Home Business Continuity Program for 90 days. 

We’ll get you up and running in less than 48 hours.

Your agents will receive reliable cloud-based contact center technologies that will enable them to work from anywhere. And you’ll have the admin and supervisor tools to manage your team. Call us to take advantage of RingCentral’s customer engagement solution free of charge. 

Originally published Apr 30, 2020, updated Jan 30, 2023

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