On Tuesday, we spent the day talking all things CX at the virtual Customer Experience Conference.
As well as proudly sponsoring the event itself, our CEO Jaime Scott joined panellists from Sky, Deliveroo and Atom bank amongst others to discuss how the role of contact centre agents in CX is set to evolve over the next decade.
What effect has COVID had on customer expectations? How can new technology be leveraged effectively to provide a standout CX in an increasingly crowded market? How has the possibility of home working affected contact centre operations?
It would (unfortunately) be impossible to uncover every discussion we had at the conference - we met and talked to so many exciting, knowledgeable and passionate CX leaders over the course of the day.
Here are some of the top talking points that have stuck with us.
1. Customers only Tolerated a Reduced Level of CX Because of COVID...
...but this was very much a temporary reprieve rather than an indicator of further trends to come.
For many businesses, the first major lockdown announcement initiated a ‘raise the drawbridge approach to dealing with customer enquiries. In many ways, this was fair enough - you can’t provide effective advice if you and your teams don’t know what’s happening yourself.
As a result, many brands turned to self-service or automated bots to help customers find the answers that they were looking for. In many ways, CX suffered, but customers were willing to offer patience as they understood brands were dealing with unprecedented circumstances.
We were interested to hear Charlotte May, Group Head of Customer Research at Legal and General, detail how this was a temporary situation. Increasingly, customers aren’t accepting confusion over COVID measures as a reason for poor CX.
Human Interaction in An Era of Remote Work
At EvaluAgent, we’re finding that contact centres are waking up to the competitive advantage that well trained, empathetic human agents offer.
Despite the benefits automated support offers, customers still crave that personal, human interaction from their experiences with brands. As remote work looks set to play a part in the workplace for the long term, in some form or other, we wonder whether this demand for human connection will be strengthened even further.
In this case, having approachable, competent and engaged agents - and the QA and training processes to create them - will be one of the main ways brands can compete effectively on CX.
2. Contact Centres Will Need to Adapt to Remote Working
It’s how you manage that contact centre in today’s ‘new normal’ that could make or break your ability to provide a great CX.
We were encouraged to see that many delegates, including PayPal’s EMEA VP of Customer Solutions Annette Hickey, felt positive about the future of contact centres in their organisations. There was also an acknowledgement that some form of remote work was here to stay, and that it was important that contact centres planned around this.
To be clear, there are business risks associated with home working - productivity concerns, for example, or worries about maintaining compliance and protecting customer data. Equally, the cost savings are tempting from an operational point of view, and offering flexible working could make you more attractive to top applicants.
So, how do you manage these risks and get the most from remote or semi-remote teams of agents?
It’s all about having the right procedures in place, and the right technology to support them. Offering targeted remote coaching or sharing agent successes via Slack or Teams, for example, are quick wins in terms of maintaining employee engagement, building team spirit and motivating agents to keep providing empathetic, human interactions with customers.
To do this, you’ll need QA processes that can identify top performers, provide feedback in real time and make previous feedback accessible, so that agents are motivated to improve. Whilst you can use automated QA processes like text and voice analysis to facilitate this, it’s a people-centred approach to feedback, coaching and training that will make all the difference here.
3. How Organisations View QA Is Changing
As CX becomes a key metric on which brands aim to compete, QA is set to be a driving force of performance improvement. To build and maintain a workforce of empathetic, high-performing agents, accurate people-centred QA practices are a must. Senior contact centre managers and boardroom execs alike are turning towards QA to provide real-time, actionable feedback to agents, and in-depth performance insights at board level.
We are seeing brands expand their QA function to measure and improve end-to-end customer experiences rather than just individual customer interactions. This ensures QA evaluates both customer engagement across the journey and the back-office fulfilment activity required to make this happen.
As more companies expand their focus from ‘customer service’ or ‘customer support’ to a more holistic focus on end-to-end CX, we expect more brands to follow suit if they want to compete.