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Managing the Customer Experience with a Work From Anywhere Workforce

by Darren Rushworth

In the COVID-19 era, contact centres are looking for extreme business agility to compete effectively. Being able to move faster and respond to changing market dynamics has never been more important. And, even though the threat from COVID-19 will eventually recede, new ways of working are unlikely to be going away.

We surveyed 797 contact centre decision-makers in April 2020 and found that 70 percent are planning to keep more agents working from home after the outbreak and 66 percent are planning to accelerate their move to the cloud.

The question is, how can contact centres maintain excellent customer experiences with a Work from Anywhere workforce?

Key factors affecting customer experience There are six key factors affecting the customer experience:

1. Consistency Service consistency is integral to customer experience. Working from Anywhere has brought flexibility to employees, in many cases translating to a better customer experience. However, the same flexibility also might cause scenarios where people are too casual in their environment and reflect that in their customer interactions or work ethic. Regardless, it is critical for companies to ensure consistency across the spectrum when it comes to the experience they deliver to consumers, whether it’s a voice, digital, or self-service channel. Quality across the spectrum is essential.

There are two key elements to achieve this: customer-centricity and compliance. Contact centres use these two levers to ensure customer service is consistent. This means making sure they say the right things (compliance) in the right way (customer-centricity). It’s important to measure performance, shine a light on failures or problems, and then provide coaching and training to improve agent performance and deliver a consistent experience.

2. Call control The way agents control calls has changed dramatically in the wake of COVID-19. Call control is a key metric for contact centre agents, requiring them to follow a flexible script or guidelines. This helps them provide service consistently while reducing the time it takes to serve each customer. However, with the changes in the macroeconomic environment, customer sentiments have also changed. Customers now like to be in control of these conversations. Agents are transferring conversation control and outcome control to customers. These are being measured as customer experience metrics.

This is true not just for assisted channels but also in automated channels such as bots.

3. Demand spikes Our survey found 92 percent of contact centres saw an increase in overall interaction volume and 62 percent reported increased digital interactions. More than half (57 percent) reported increased phone interactions. It’s important to avoid excessive wait times to deliver a strong customer experience. This means having enough people on hand to answer customer queries, ensuring these are the right kinds of agents. Dealing with these demand spikes without over-provisioning the contact centre is a fine balance. Leading technologies like predictive behavioural routing (PBR) connects customers to the right employee at the right time.

4. Connectivity Our survey showed that 60 percent of contact centres had major barriers to full and productive Work from Anywhere experiences. This is due to limitations in existing on-premise infrastructure, complexities around devices and making them available in a Work from Anywhere situation, and incomplete tools and processes.

While customers are generally more tolerant of things like poor audio quality right now, it’s important to provide contact centre agents with a technology stack that is consistent and robust. A solution that can work across multiple environments seamlessly is an absolute prerequisite for a Work from Anywhere workforce to deliver strong customer experiences.

Cloud contact centres are leading the race to solve this issue.

5. Training Well-trained contact centre agents deliver the best customer experiences. When all agents were in one location, training and coaching were easy. Supervisors could take questions on the spot and help agents close out their calls rather than escalate them. Without this guidance, Work from Anywhere agents may struggle to escalate at the right time. Fixing these communications gaps is crucial. Technology, processes, and automation can help overcome this challenge. For example, using instant chat functionality can put agents in touch with supervisors while they’re on the call so they can get the guidance they need.

Making sure employees are performing at the right levels, receiving necessary support, and staying engaged should be more technology-driven and automated.

6. Responsiveness The suddenness of the COVID-19 disruptions caught many organisations off guard with the need to ramp up contact centre operations fast, adding capacity even as they had to provision these agents to Work from Anywhere. This created significant challenges for organisations, however customers only care about whether a company is responsive or not and providing them the right level of support. Therefore, setting up a contact centre and provisioning new agents as fast as possible is crucial to customer experience.

The value of a cloud-based contact centre solution in strengthening customer experiences Cloud-based contact centres remove the need for contact centre agents to work in a central location and empowers them to Work from Anywhere. Using a cloud contact centre lets you:

  • scale infrastructure to meet demand spikes

  • add new features and channels faster and more reliably

  • provision contact centre agents to Work from Anywhere without compromising the customer or agent

When COVID-19 hit the United States, a Los Angeles non-emergency hotline for people who need help connecting with social services, 211 LA County, became a frontline responder. 211 LA County needed to ramp up to cope with enormous loads and partnered with outsourced call centre provider, Expivia. Using the NICE InContact solution, Expivia and 211 LA Country took less than two days to provision more than 200 contact centre agents to work from home in a totally virtual contact centre. Without a cloud-based solution, this would have been practically impossible.

Best practices for a quality customer experience with a Work from Anywhere workforce There are four best practices that can help dramatically improve the customer experience regardless of where your contact centre agents are working from:

1. Establish the Work from Anywhere foundation Getting agents up and running is the first step. This includes ensuring the infrastructure is robust, that agents have appropriate devices, and that scripts and flows are modified to suit the new reality.

2. Adapt agent scheduling Employees have different personas and various skill levels in different parts of customer experience delivery. For example, some people are excellent at customer retention while others can sell more effectively. Understanding and mapping the right customer persona to the agent persona is key for best results.

Where possible, streamline processes like approvals and meetings to avoid overwhelming agents with work that doesn’t directly contribute to the customer experience. Flexibility is important because providing employees more flexibility in when they work allows them to focus on their core tasks. This lets contact centres manage service levels at an intraday level.

3. Manage agent performance Keeping a close eye on quality controls is essential to give agents the coaching and feedback they need while maintaining positivity. Real-time dashboards are crucial here as they let team leaders and supervisors understand exactly what’s happening and who needs help.

While most agents are eager to perform well, there have been stories of agents calling themselves from a second phone, then putting the call on hold and leaving their desk for hours at a time. The right tools will flag this, letting managers act sooner to coach or discipline agents who are doing the wrong thing.

4. Communicate It’s important to not just communicate but to do so more than you think you need to. You should use multiple channels for communication, including phone, instant messaging, text, and more, to make sure it works for everyone. It’s important to set workspace and productivity expectations and get agents on board with the goal of providing exceptional customer experiences at every opportunity.

Next steps Given the ongoing and crucial importance of providing excellent customer experiences, it’s important for contact centers to put the right technology and practices in place to support this. Doing so requires a holistic approach.

Enable your business to Work from Anywhere To find out how we can help your business improve quality and customer experience, contact us today.

PLUS, try CXone free for 60 days 2020 has been a challenging year and we’ve helped many contact centres move to a remote and agile workforce in less than 7 days, with a future-proof cloud solution that delivers on CX, omnichannel capabilities, analytics, agent productivity and compliance.

With this in mind, you can now try CXone at no cost or obligation for 60 days (for a limited time only).

By week 1, you will have a fully operational and award-winning cloud contact centre platform with agile omnichannel service, ACD & IVR, calls, chats, email, integrated softphone, voice recording and CRM integration.

Darren Rushworth Darren Rushworth has served as the president of NICE Asia Pacific since 2017. He is responsible for complete field operations with focus on the region's sales, marketing and customer services. Darren's career spans over 30 years in the IT industry, with the past 21 years spent in the Asia Pacific Region. He therefore brings significant experience in enterprise sales, country management, and business operations. Prior to joining NICE, Darren was managing director of Singapore for SAP Asia Pacific where he increased SAP's market share by delivering double-digit growth in ERP and cloud sales. He also was instrumental in improving customer and employee satisfaction and elevating SAP to become one of Glassdoor's Top 5 Great Places to Work. Prior to that, Darren led SAP's Philippine and emerging market operations where he was responsible for a team of more than 1,000 employees across 10 countries. He drove a cloud-first go-to-market approach, resulting in SAP Philippines being the leading cloud market for SAP South East Asia. Before joining SAP, Darren held multiple leadership roles at Oracle including VP Applications Sales APAC, VP Channels, and VP Oracle Direct APAC. He also developed several businesses within Oracle, including establishing the first Oracle value added distributor in APAC, setting up the Dell business unit for mid-market sales, and spearheading Oracle�s Linux strategy taskforce, resulting in the creation of a Linux line of business.

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