Column: Are Cloud Contact Center Clients Ready for the Customer Revolution?

By Jacki Tessmer, Enghouse Interactive

Operating expense-based (OpEx) pricing and the inherent flexibility of the software as-a-service (SaaS) model is often cited as the leading factors driving companies to the cloud. And while these are indisputably compelling attributes, research shows that the customer experience (CX) trumps all.

Findings from consulting firm Walker Information’s research report, Customers 2020: The Future of B-to-B Customer Experience, reinforce the assertion that customer expectations have evolved to the point that knowledgeable customers now dictate the experience, including the engagement channels (e.g., mobile, social, personal) they prefer and the criteria necessary to keep them coming back.

The contact center remains a pivotal intersection between companies and customers. And, contact center as-a-service (CCaaS) providers can play an integral role in helping their customers meet clients’ demands well into the future by heeding the following three tips:

Tip #1:  Help Your CCaaS Clients Raise Their Customer IQ

Companies need to know their customers better, a simple yet critical truism for CX. Personalization is key, especially with regard to preferred channels of communication. In fact, 92 percent of the highest performing contact centers surveyed in Aberdeen Group’s Cloud Contact Center: Customer-Centricity with Greater Agility & Less Cost, reported using customer data and automated workflows to connect the right customer with the right agent through the proper channel.

To serve a broader audience, companies must develop intuitive systems that will make the right information accessible throughout the enterprise. Tying contact center interactions to other business data becomes a key requirement. The challenge is that customer information is oftentimes segmented throughout the organization separated by disparate business systems. For example, a company may have separate CRM, accounting, loyalty, sales and service programs that each have information about their customers. A full 96 percent of the customer experience professionals surveyed in the Walker research I mentioned earlier anticipate an increased demand for customer intelligence for the future, which is closely linked to the growing popularity of big data and analytics.

Aberdeen’s May 2017 Contact Center Workforce Optimization: Productive Agents, Happy Customers & Reduced Costs study shows that, on average, agents spend 15 percent of their time seeking relevant information to do their jobs. This is partially due to agents needing to use three different applications during a typical interaction. To that end, the best-in-class contact centers are 31 percent more likely to provide agents with access to relevant insights (e.g. account data) on a single screen.”

But, without a way to aggregate this data and see the big picture, contact center agents can’t see all this valuable information when they engage with a customer.

Tip #2: Replace Historical Data Reports with Predictive Analytics

Big Data entails aggregating structured and unstructured enterprise content into a common repository and running queries and algorithms to extract meaningful information. Obviously, this can be a time-consuming and costly project requiring massive infrastructure investments. By leveraging cloud resources, service providers can alleviate many of the costs associated with big data projects

An important point to keep in mind is that most of the data has little value in helping with customer intelligence initiatives. Avoid placing too much emphasis on historical data. Historic data can give good insights about what’s happened with customers, what problems occurred and how customers felt about those experiences. However, relying too heavily on this rear-view perspective puts companies in a constant reactive mode — identifying past or current trouble spots and then reacting.  By identifying and using only the data sets that matter most, the costs and complexity of analytics initiatives can be reduced significantly.

Service providers looking to be prepared to help their CCaaS customers should consider how predictive analytics can be used to enable customers to be more proactive, not just responding to upset clients more quickly, but anticipating clients’ needs even before the client makes a request. The Aberdeen study on workforce optimization shows that best-in-class contact centers automatically recommend relevant knowledge-base articles to agents through the agent desktop. This allows agents to quickly resolve the customer’s issue instead of spending time searching through the knowledge base, while the customer waits on hold.

Tip #3: Strive for Contact Center Utopia: Insight Selling

The contact center has the potential to become much more than an order taking center. If agents are equipped with the right tools and training, it can become an ideal environment for consultative selling, which when combined with real-time analytics can become insight selling. In a traditional sales conversation, the salesperson has to ask a prospect lots of questions before trying to offer a solution. Imagine if that same contact center representative had all the key details about the client on his call center dashboard along with insights about similar companies and their challenges. Instead of having to ask the prospect lots of questions, the rep could offer valuable advice and serve as a trusted advisor.

The cloud enables companies to be more agile in responding to their evolving technology and communication needs. Customer intelligence is a key to becoming more agile in adapting to market, environmental and internal changes in productive and cost-effective ways without losing momentum or vision. As the CX trend matures, it’s becoming clearer that businesses have to adapt or they will fail. One only needs to look at all the disruption happening in retail this year to see how dire it is that businesses get the CX equation right.

Service providers that understand this trend can play an invaluable role in helping their clients embrace the customer revolution, by leveraging the latest cloud-based CCaaS. They also can combine that technology with not just predictive analytics technology, but with best-practice expertise. A properly configured contact center solution helps create a positive first impression for customers.

Empowering agents with customer intelligence is what really sets apart your client — and you — from the competition.

Jacki Tessmer is vice president of service provider and cloud strategy for Enghouse Interactive, a global developer of contact center and customer interaction software and services.