Over the past few years, the rise of social media, always-in-hand mobile devices, and the generational workforce and consumer swap have made waves in customer service and best practices for contact centers.
Companies struggle to evolve and keep up with the changing demands of customers. Contact centers and customer service strategies can’t shift fast enough to keep pace with the rest of the world.
With so many changes and improvements in queue, there’s urgency backing every priority. And contact centers of all sizes live in a harried frenzy, looking for their starting point.
To help set the pace for projects to take on and priorities to move to the top of your list, we’re sharing seven best practices for contact centers to follow this year. They aren’t ground-breaking or new – just a steady set of truths that are often overlooked among flashy industry fads.
1. Be eager to explore and adopt new technology.
Vendors are constantly upcycling their technology. (Who else has 99 app updates waiting on their phone?) And, contact centers aren’t immune to the changes – your customers expect nothing less. So, when it comes to technology, you’re left with two options: Reap the benefits of savvy tech early on or resist new tech until you’re forced to adapt.
Best-in-class contact centers embrace technology and are eager to find new ways to increase efficiency and improve operations.
In fact, CCW found by 2025, some 52% of contact center leaders plan to completely unify their contact center systems through technology. And, another 60% plan to intelligently route customers to the right agent, at the right time, across any channel.
Reaching for the right technology now puts you ahead of competitors who see tech as a hurdle rather than an opportunity.
As you lean into technology to support the human functions of your business, don’t fall victim to shiny object syndrome, though. Only implement tech that helps you reach your customer and revenue goals. Invest in systems that make sense operationally and financially.
2. Meet your customers where they are.
Those ever-changing customer demands come with an evolving set of ways to reach out for help. Nowadays, you can get service requests by phone, or by a tweet tagged with your company’s Twitter handle. Some companies get so many customer Tweets and mentions, they have a 24/7 social team on deck to handle the requests (like our friends over at Alaska Airlines).
Customer requests pile up and come at you from every angle. But not every company can dedicate an entire crop of agents to each new channel that pops up.
Instead, use omnichannel contact center tools to make your current agents ever-present for your customers. True omnichannel customer service means your agents can handle customer interactions on any (and every) channel. And, as new channels emerge, your vendor can loop those channels into your contact center platform, so agents can still manage all interactions from a single interface.
Even better, with omnichannel tools, agents can switch between channels during interactions to meet the needs of your customers. If a customer needs to text in a picture of their receipt while on the phone with an agent, they can do it without ending the interaction. How frustrating is it to be one step away from solving your problem, only to be disconnected and re-routed to a new agent when you reach out again?
Omnichannel tools built for today’s agents and customers intelligently share customer data throughout each channel, and with other systems, so agents can personalize every interaction.
3. Make unified customer data the nucleus of the company.
It’s commonplace for contact centers to use several different systems that don’t work together. In fact, a recent Gartner study found that agents use an average of 8.6 different tools, have 23 interactions with their peers, and handle 130.5 different support interactions in a single day.
All that jumping-to-and-from creates high-effort interactions for your agents and your customers.
Following the omnichannel data-sharing mentality, integrating your systems should be on the to-do list of every contact center this year. As customer demands evolve, you need a way to simplify the service process and move swiftly through interactions.
Here are a few of the benefits:
- Customers won’t have to repeat the details of their current (or past) issues to multiple agents. Getting rid of a key cause of customer frustration.
- Average handle time decreases because agents don’t waste time searching for information.
- Agents have entire customer history handy, so they can be more thorough with their resolution. Ultimately, increasing first call resolution.
When all your systems work together, you get actionable data to back your decision making. Integrating your systems lets you share information and gather insights about every stage of your customers’ journey. You know exactly when, and how, Rebecca first reached out for help with her warranty. And you can track her specific journey to learn more about common customer paths.
Not to mention, you can boil interactions down to the agent as well. You can narrow in on a specific agent’s metrics, tracking them through every touchpoint to get summed up insight about their experience. Then, you can coach your agents to what you find. Plus, you’ll have actionable insights to optimize your customer journey.
Distill actionable insights from the data that already lives in your contact center. Learn how to use your data to build impactful customer experience strategies. Get the ebook.
4. Set benchmarks specific to business objectives.
There’s no question that all contact centers share a universal goal: to provide excellent customer service.
But, what qualifies as “excellent customer service”?
Every business is unique. That means every business has different key objectives, KPIs, and idealized outcomes. So, “excellent customer service” isn’t one-size-fits-all. But, you can use all the data you collect through your integrated systems in your favor. Use your data to pinpoint the sweet spot between operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. All while factoring in your agent experience, too. Use customer sentiment, AX and contact center metrics to better inform your decision-making.
Once identified, your baseline customer standards and key metrics can help you set goals for your contact center. You can target KPIs based on the specifics of your contact center. You get more detailed, obtainable targets compared to generalizing your business unit’s performance to industry benchmarks that often don’t fit with how you work.
5. Keep the customer top of mind.
Don’t base your entire strategy on industry trends. Often times, industry-backed trends serve the interests of those talking about them. They aren’t tailored to the needs of your company and your customers.
For example, self-service is one of the biggest customer service trends coming to bat over the past few years. While the benefits of self-service are undeniable, too much self-service can actually create a negative experience for your customers. Like when it’s impossible to reach a live agent. Or, when there’s no lifeboat in the shape of a “contact us” button in a sea of self-help articles that aren’t actually all that helpful.
We see this sometimes with lengthy FAQ pages that are really a customer avoidance tool in disguise. Some companies hide their contact information or require lots of digging to find it.
While these companies may tout their increased efficiency and improved metrics, their customers are frustrated and drowning in FAQs that don’t solve their problems. Sometimes, the questions your customers have are too complex for self-help. And, there’s the chance that your product or service might have nuances too complicated for a computer to explain.
So, as you make changes that impact customers, swap seats with them for a minute. Think about if you’re making the change for the benefit of your customers, or just to keep pace with what the industry is talking about.
6. Listen carefully.
As talked about during our self-help spiel, some changes might improve efficiency metrics and keep up with top trends, but your customers are the best voice for changes you need to make.
Check in with customers to prioritize their needs and make changes with intent. The best way to get a handle on customer sentiment is to regularly review customer interactions. Dedicate time to review call recordings and transcriptions. That way you can ID common customer pains and praises from their daily use cases.
The insight you gather acts as a guide for your next big improvements in service, procedures, and even policies.
7. Spend your training budget wisely.
Many contact centers waste their training budget dumping dollars into outdated training materials and techniques that don’t resonate with agents. Printing a 90-page manual for a team of 25 agents costs roughly $1900. For that price, you could buy a one-year subscription for a knowledge base that serves all your agents. Twice. Instead, that 90-page manual will likely end up at the bottom of a backpack (or worse, a trashcan).
Statistics show that millennials account for over half of the employees in the contact center industry. This tech-savvy generation is unlike any before. And, sticking them in a traditional classroom setting for a few weeks or handing them a binder filled with policies just won’t cut it anymore.
According to Ryan Jenkins, millennial speaker and generations expert, micro-learning is the best training model for modern employees. In short, micro-learning is a method of agent training that puts miniature lessons into their queue for quick and convenient review.
Here’s what qualifies as micro-learning:
- Quick, digestible lessons
- Simple design with an easy-to-use interface
- Digitally native and mobile-friendly
- Accessible anytime, anywhere
- Collaborative content
- Relevant and relatable
- Blended real-world and digital experiences
Shake up your typical contact center training and invest in learning that will sink in and resonate with your agents. Ditch old, costly methods that don’t give you the ROI you’re looking for. Your spend will go farther, and your agents will be more productive and positive.
With thoughtful procedures and habits in place, contact centers can successfully take on change and shape-shifting projects to improve this year.
This post was originally published on December 6, 2017 by Sally Mellinger. To get some fresh insight on best practices for 2020, jump over to our latest post on contact center trends, here.