Evolving CX Beyond the Contact Center
The term “customer experience” (CX) has gained considerable currency recently, and in many ways has displaced “customer service” as the focal point of the contact center. Just as the call center evolved into the contact center, this shift is largely technology-driven and reflects the importance of adopting the right technologies to keep pace with changing customer expectations.
While technology plays a key role in providing great CX, a team effort that goes beyond agents is required. Most customer interactions still go through the contact center, but other points of contact are increasingly being used, such as marketing, sales and technical service.
Cloud-based technology has recently made all this possible with the net result being that the contact center is no longer the sole determinant of CX. The current state of customer experience is more challenging. Here are some implications for contact center leaders to consider in making the right buying decisions.
Think Beyond the Contact Center
Until very recently, contact centers were “the place” where customer service was provided. Much like going to the service desk at a store for customer inquiries, the contact center has played the same role for most businesses. With the advent of mobility, e-commerce and social media, customers now have many touchpoints to engage with a business as well as additional communication channels. These changes also provide businesses with new ways to engage with outbound communication, not just for current customers but also former customers and prospective customers.
In today’s environment, customer service is just one element of customer experience (CX). Contact center leaders need to adopt a broader view, not just of their role in the business but for the technologies needed to play that role. Conventional approaches that treat contact center solutions as islands apart from the rest of the organization will continue providing effective forms of customer service, but they will fall short in the broader need to address CX.
What’s really needed here is a holistic view where the contact center is now a means to an end rather than being the end itself. Most contact centers remain telephony-centric, whereas today’s CX is very much an omnichannel experience. These realities place new demands on technology needs and contact center leaders must consider how their operations will integrate with other functions across the organization. Great CX requires a 360-degree view of the customer and that’s simply not possible with technology that solely serves the contact center.
Agents Need Broader Capabilities
As the contact center begins to view its needs in the full context of the overall organization, leaders should also look at the needs of agents in a broader lens. Adding omnichannel capability is a big and necessary step forward from the legacy model. Efficient call management remains important, but agents need more than more channels at their disposal. As NTT’s 2021 Global CX Benchmarking Report notes, customers utilize a broad mix of channels, and that mix of channels varies by age. For example, customers who are 25 years old and under are more likely to use social media channels with it being the most popular among 35.7%. However, those in the 40-59 demographic are much more likely to use the telephone to contact an organization.
What agents really need is full visibility across all the touch points that constitute the customer journey with the ability to engage both intelligently and personally in real time. These capabilities are the essence of CX and have little to do with how quickly an agent picks up a call. The challenge is to provide that visibility seamlessly, so the agent has the right information at the right time and over the right channel. All this orchestration must be transparent to the agent and the end customer.
In terms of how agents can provide great CX, this translates into having a unified desktop where all these capabilities come together in one interface. This represents a major shift from the analog world where agents engage using a desk phone or a headset, and clumsily multitask taking notes, sending emails and writing sticky notes. CX is now a digital experience where the channels, workflows and processes are digital. In this world, all activities and interactions are digital, so everything is captured, connected and shared.
The breakthrough here is the ability to draw resources from the entire organization – both front office and back office – where all the information relevant to each customer interaction flows to the agent through the desktop. This goes well beyond providing richer communications tools to agent and needs to be part of the strategy to better support your agents. Not only does this become the main enabler for great CX, but also for a great AX (agent experience).