By Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru…
We are on the precipice of another great cloud migration. It’s something we’ve seen with data storage, software and consumer services and over the next few years, we will witness the same journey in the contact centre industry – from the on-premises contact centre of old, to completely cloud-based, omnichannel contact-centre-as-a-service (CCaaS) infrastructure. It’s a move that is long overdue, which has become all too clear in the chaos created by the COVID-19 pandemic, as businesses worldwide scrabble to implement safe and efficient remote-working solutions for their agents.
The contact centre in particular has historically been seen as a place where organisations can save money. This has led to narrow performance metrics and a general desire to reduce headcount. However, with the colossal shift across industries to a focus on customer experience as the key business differentiator, it is time for businesses to realise that a cloud contact centre model is now the only one that makes sense. Implementation needs to happen fast, as a second wave of coronavirus is probable, and contact centre operators need systems and processes in place to cope when lockdown measures are implemented again and again.
Here are my five reasons why, if they haven’t done so already, it is high time for organisations in the contact centre industry – as one of the largest employers in the UK – to make the move to the cloud.
1. Employee health and wellbeing is more important than ever
Among the UK government’s latest guidance on lockdown regulations was the update that those who cannot work from home are now encouraged to return to work if possible. What does this mean for the contact centre industry?
Even throughout the strictest lockdown period, many non-essential contact centres still had employees working in their offices on a daily basis. Research since the outbreak began, undertaken by the University of Strathclyde and conducted among 2,750 UK contact centre workers, suggests only a third of contact centres now have social distancing measures in place. More worrying still, a further three-quarters said that social distancing when moving around the building was either ‘hazardous’ or ‘very hazardous’, and half are still working face-to-face.
The dangers of continuing to allow call agents to work onsite in potentially unsafe premises are evident. Now is the time for contact centres to implement a homeworking strategy that will help to protect the health and wellbeing of their employees. Cloud-based CCaaS technology can enable organisations to quickly deploy remote working capabilities. Organisations who have already made that move are demonstrating to the industry as a whole how they can continue to provide an excellent engagement experience for their customers under extremely strained circumstances, all while keeping employees safe.
2. The workplace is evolving for a modern-day workforce
Even before COVID-19, there was a widespread shifting focus to home working across all industries, which has only been accelerated by the current situation. According to research from the Office of National Statistics published prior to the pandemic, 50 per cent of UK employees were already set to work remotely in 2020. Remote working is a subject bound to divide opinion across small to large organisations in every sector, but nowhere more potently than in the contact centre industry. These concerns are perfectly understandable – the contact centre has always been a very physical workplace, with call agents hooked up to a legacy phone system, answering calls on multiple lines, in-sight of employers. Right now, permitting home working may simply be a case of survival as a business. However, in future, businesses will have a strong case to answer if they do not offer home working in some form.
Cloud contact centre technology is browser-based so agents can access the system wherever they are, whenever they want. The ability to home work gives employees more flexibility and control over their working hours, making it easier to fit their career around busy schedules in a way that benefits both themselves and the organisation. Their working schedule can coincide more easily around family and home life, as they have the opportunity to log in while the children are at school, for example. This not only delivers something for the reward strategy of a contact centre, but increased satisfaction and happiness for the employee in a more flexible workplace landscape.
3. Omnichannel should now be seamless
In common with many other areas of today’s data-driven economy, solutions provided by cloud-based service providers are disrupting the way technology is applied in customer service environments. Businesses are making a strategic move away from traditional on-premise infrastructure and software platforms in favour of versatile ‘as-a-service’ options which broaden the functionality available while reducing the need for big ticket capex investment. Providers who can offer a holistic omnichannel solution are often better placed to meet the strategic and operational needs of customer service teams. Communications now need to be kept consistent across multiple channels, working together with no disparity, to provide a seamless customer experience. This is easily achieved using cloud-based CCaaS with a one-window view where communications are collated in one space, making it easier to navigate from voice calls, to web chat, to SMS or any other channel.
4. The need to scale-up and scale-out on demand is clear
Even for contact centres that are used to dealing with high volumes, handling spikes in demand can prove extremely difficult using traditional legacy infrastructure. As we have seen in the current pandemic, those working with cloud-based CCaaS across an omnichannel environment are ideally placed to deal with high levels of enquiries and can ensure strong service levels even when demand jumps. For example, screen-pops bring customer data and information on past interactions directly to agents, reducing customer frustration, as callers don’t have to repeat information they have already provided. Intelligent automation can be used to route enquiries to the most appropriate available agent or chatbot, who are also equipped with the right information to engage with the contact. This ensures that customer service is consistently best-in-class, even for contact centres with thousands of seats.
5. Long-term cost savings are achievable
Traditionally, the contact centre has been viewed as an area of business in which to save on costs and resources. However, as a result of this oversight, staff turnover continues to be one of the greatest costs to the contact centre industry, which ‘enjoys’ a relatively low employee satisfaction rate and high churn. This is costly and time consuming for contact centre leads and their management teams, so finding ways of reversing this ratio is imperative. Employers should be researching and investing in technology that will make agents’ jobs more streamlined and more rewarding. Making a short-term investment in a CCaaS platform can massively reduce wider costs in the long term.
For example, the introduction and implementation of AI into the contact centre can have a massive impact on the day-to-day agent experience. Many simple enquiries won’t even reach a human agent thanks to AI-driven self-service, therefore automating tedious and mundane tasks, as well as reducing wait times and speed to resolution for customers. Augmenting agents’ ability with AI while reducing channel complexity with effective omni-channel capabilities will have a significant impact on churn if approached with the goal of empowering agents to better manage service enquiries.
A final word
In the midst of the confusion and upheaval caused by COVID-19, it is understandable that businesses may be hesitant about investing in new technology. However, it is clear to see that moving to the cloud is one step in a company’s digital transformation that makes perfect logical sense right now. For businesses operating in the contact centre space, it may turn out to be the make or break in maintaining relationships with their customers during these challenging times. Migrating to the cloud will help to meet the ever-changing demands of the modern business – and societal – landscape now, and into the future.