6 big predictions for the contact center post COVID-19

By David Robertson, Managing Director, President of Sales, Avaya Canada

David Robertson, managing director and president of sales at Avaya Canada

Studies emerging out of COVID-19 show that most contact centers were unprepared for a crisis of this magnitude, with many admitting they do not account for an infectious disease outbreak in their emergency planning (10% said they don’t have a crisis plan at all). Companies acted quickly to navigate this difficult situation, but what happens after the here and now? Over 80% of executives say they are moderately or extremely concerned about the continuing impact of COVID-19 on business. The pandemic has shined a spotlight on inefficiencies that cannot be ignored as we move towards the new norm of a post-pandemic world. 

Here are six ways to measurably improve your level of customer experience in the short- and long-term: 

  1. A consultative approach for managing strategic planning and infrastructure initiatives

As we ease back into normalcy–whatever that looks like–organizations will have no choice but to take a step back to understand, and successfully improve, their existing contact center framework for greater agility, capacity, and resiliency. This will drive a huge shift towards technology vendors that offer a full-service consultative approach for client-centric transformation–from initial education to design to delivery and ongoing management. You’re not expected to navigate today’s rapid pace of change alone, but you can’t rely on a limited or siloed advisory approach. You need a vendor with proven knowledge of, and experience in, handling budget realities, internal dependencies, constraints of existing technology, and challenges and risks of new implementations to help you create the right solution for your specific needs (not just based on what they offer). 

  1. A browser-based application solution

Studies show that in just two weeks, companies saw the percentage of service calls scored as “difficult” more than double due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, agents–most working from home for the first time–are finding themselves without the tools and resources (like peers and managers available to lend a hand) that they once enjoyed onsite. Hold times and call transfers/escalations are skyrocketing (by 34% and 68% respectively). The findings also show a massive uptick in instances of both customers and reps saying, “I can’t understand you.” These impacts are even greater on outsourced facilities in countries like India and the Philippines where communications infrastructure is challenged and there is no time to prepare for the transition to remote work. 

A key investment is a browser-based desktop application solution. All users need is a browser for getting started with advanced contact center features like end-to-end call recording, screen capture, real-time voice transcriptions, sentiment analysis, intelligent voice response and more. Supervisors also maintain access to the right tools to easily manage remote agents, including reporting and analytics. 

  1. Pervasive communication and collaboration tools  

There’s only so much your teams can do using outdated or limited tools. Companies like T-Mobile prove that we can do better with better communication and collaboration (the company’s open communication model has been proven to perform 50% better than organizations that force reps to stick to the script and seek answers only from management). Every person across your organization needs access to pervasive communication and collaboration tools to support the customer journey. Specifically, with:

  • A pervasive cloud “space” that brings people, content and communications together
  • Persistent chat that enables users to stay engaged and pick up conversations anytime on any device (start a group chat where reps can leave notes for others as they change shifts or where managers can hop in to answer questions, offer suggestions and correct misinformation)
  • Scalable meeting with HD video, content sharing and recording 
  • Seamless organization (stop searching through email threads or across multiple disconnected apps) 
  • Management for coordinating projects across teams, assigning tasks and tracking progress 
  • Easy administration 
  1. Transition from a perpetual license to a subscription model for cloud software 

At no other point in time has there ever been such a need for the benefits of a cloud contact center solution than during this pandemic. But what if you’re restricted by a perpetual license? You may not be able to make the swift decisions that leaders at competing organizations are able to in order to better serve customers and protect employees. Think of a subscription model as the bridge that enables you to cross over to the level of innovation and adaptability you need. Data from Nemertes shows that successful companies spend 48% more on contact center subscriptions compared to the average organization. Coincidence? We think not. In today’s rapidly changing world, nothing threatens business continuity more than the limitations of a technology refresh cycle.  

  1. Do NOT lose focus on your employees 

Agents are dealing with rates of change never seen before. Provide them with everything they need to continue working without missing a beat via an integrated agent desktop solution. This solution should make different tools easily accessible for actions like creating a case, exploring your company’s knowledge center and more. It should provide agents with a choice of touchpoints for accomplishing what they need in the quickest and most effective way possible, with full access across different devices if needed. Individual scorecards should be easily viewable, presenting key performance metrics related to call handling behaviors,Average wait times and first call resolution. Personalized e-learning materials should also be available with the click of a button (i.e. materials on empathy in the call center or your company’s “values in action”). The agent experience matters big time, especially during times of crisis. Your employees need everything to do their job well all in one place–at home, onsite or working remotely.  

  1. Intelligent mobile experiences

Customers are heavily relying on their smart devices during quarantine, and research shows that most prefer to solve urgent or complex issues by calling for support rather than using other modes of interaction. It’s for this reason we can’t stress enough the importance of crafting an intuitive, mobile-first experience. You need to keep agents available for complicated interactions and ease the stress on your call handling infrastructure as demand spikes. Capabilities like digital redirection can automatically route customers to the mobile Web for a mobile application or mobile browser-based self-service experience so that agents can remain focused on more urgent or complex issues. Real-time transcription can also be applied to mobile conversations to more quickly determine why a customer is calling and match them with the best-suited agent or most appropriate interaction mode.

In many ways, COVID-19 was a wake-up call for organizations. Check out our new interactive eBook to see what all of these tools and capabilities look like when seamlessly brought together across the end-to-end customer journey to maximize the impact of every interaction (human or digital, simple or complex, self-service or assisted).