Featured Image for the blog: Contact Center Trends to Watch in 2019

Back to Basics Edition

Today’s tech-enabled contact center thrives on connectivity served up with a side of engagement. “Engagement” is one of those words that’s quickly earned a slot on your contact center’s Buzzword Bingo card. It’s corporate psychology that’s overused and (often) abused.

But engagement is at the heart of your contact center, and that’s not changing as we move into 2019.

A one-time fad has evolved from trend to mainstay and it’s redefining the modern customer-centric contact center.

As more mainstays continue to evolve, they’re spurring trends of their own. Some are simply a natural evolution of staples in traditional contact centers, while others underscore the changing scene of customer expectations and the continual emergence of new and advanced contact center technologies.

It’s time for contact centers to get back to the basics of why they exist. Moving into 2019, the biggest trends all focus on the people who are impacted by corporate decision. Resist the urge to get lost in the frenzy of “new and shiny” technology. Instead, keep in mind whether the technology you’re investigating meets your unique needs. For instance, your agents might have an insane tech-stack, but if it doesn’t work cohesively or they’ve never been trained to use it appropriately it’s not going to improve your customer satisfaction. And it’s certainly not going to improve your agents’ satisfaction. Then, in that case, does that sick tech-stack really make a positive difference to your bottom line?

Our friend Jim Davies, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner, talked to this point in a webcast on Emerging Trends in Customer Service and Support Technology.

“We associate a great customer experience with innovation, and with differentiation. And the reality is, we start to lose sight of just doing the basics well within our organization. It’s the basics that are the heart of the customer experience. And if we don’t get the basics right, you can invest in whatever glamorous technology you like, you’re not going to give the customer a good experience.”

The trends that should matter are the ones that are people-centric, not technology-centric. In 2019, we’re looking at how we can dissect these dozens of trends and buzzwords. And how you can use technology to put people first.

Here are some people-centric basics to focus on as you’re weeding through the latest trends in the contact center space.

1. Get rid of tools that limit your agents.

You need tools that work FOR your business. Rather than attempting to adjust your needs to fit the confines of legacy, inflexible technology, find contact center software that’s customizable to your specific business drivers. As a busy manager, are you on-the-go all the time and need a solution that lets you create call routes or share coaching feedback from your phone? Or, do your agents need to switch from SMS to MMS to email or a phone call through a single interaction? Think about what would help your agents provide better service to your customers, first. Then, find the right solution to suit your priorities. Nimble tools will give you the flexibility you need to adapt and provide stellar service to your ever-evolving customers.

2. Use deeper analytics to inform the customer journey.

Your technology powers thousands of interactions between your customers and your agents. Which means you have thousands of data points to give you real-time insights about your customer’s journey. Don’t just sit on the data you have. Use it to guide your decision-making, to understand your customers’ behaviors, and to find out what could make their experience (and your agents’ experience) better. A single metric doesn’t paint an accurate picture of your customers’ path or satisfaction. But when you dive deep, pair metrics together, and customize your reporting down to the desktops of your agents, you have powerful data to inform the decisions that will impact your customers.

3. Hire more remote agents (or allow more remote work).

With thousands of call centers ditching legacy systems for cloud-based options, remote work becomes a more viable option. Previously, needing to staff more agents than you have desk space for meant outsourcing customer service to off-shore call centers. It meant putting your customers’ service experience in the hands of a team who doesn’t know your company’s vision, your values, or what’s important to your customers.

Cloud-native technology gives you the flexibility and security you need to place your customer’s fate back in the hands of your dedicated employees. Now, your agents can still meet SLAs when they are visiting family in Switzerland. Your customers can still get the help they need during peak seasonal hours. All because you have flexible contact center staffing in place and a system that works for your agents, not against them. Not to mention the fact that allowing remote work creates happier, more productive agents and can reduce attrition by up to 50%, too.

4. Focus on employee engagement to improve customer satisfaction.

Putting your employees first and creating a team of engaged workers will improve your CSAT scores and customer happiness. A business with highly engaged employees sees a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20 percent increase in sales, and customer retention rates average 18% higher when employees are highly engaged.

Creating an engaged workforce means you connect your agents with your company’s larger goals. You train and develop them often. And, you give them a voice in the work they do and the purpose they have. When you engage employees and connect them to your company’s purpose, they’ll consistently deliver a positive customer experience. And, they’ll build lasting relationships with your customers.

5. Connect your systems to manage customer information.

Adopt technology that plays well together to deliver a true omni-channel experience. When your systems work together, customer information is shared among your tools, so they’re all working for your agents to gather knowledge about your customers and their journey. Dimension Data’s 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report shared that only 8 percent of organizations say they have all of their channels connected and as many as 70 percent say none or very few of their channels are connected. Customer information floating around in siloed channels means you’re missing an opportunity to truly understand your customers. When you tie pieces of their journey together, you can find patterns and paths that help you and your agents deliver proactive customer service experiences.

6. Coach more often to attract and retain top talent.

Make coaching a top priority on your to-do list. Your agents crave feedback and direction, and if they don’t get it often enough, they’ll leave. Monthly, bi-monthly, and annual training days just don’t cut it. Make coaching a part of your daily workflow. Even if your coaching moment is a 60-second stop by your agent’s desk to deliver some encouragement, it matters.

When you coach your agents daily, they’ll be better at their jobs and get more satisfaction out of helping customers. By 2019, organizations want to expand training and improve analytics as the two key initiatives to improve contact center talent. In fact, 63% of organizations plan to expand training opportunities for their agents. Developing your talent is key to keeping them, making customers happy, and ditching all the expenses that come with sky-high attrition rates.

7. Train with contextual relevance.

With more frequent coaching and training comes the need to make that training more relevant for your agents and your customers. Simply addressing KPIs without looking at specific interactions means your agents won’t get feedback that’s actionable and relevant. Training needs to be more personal and human, too. Agent’s deal with complex customer issues, dozens of scenarios, and hundreds of different personalities each week.

Instead of giving a general performance overview, dig into a handful of agent-customer interactions. Then, start a conversation with your agents. Look at the words your agent used, and pay attention to your customer’s tone. See how communication can be improved, and leave notes in-line with the interaction. Then, your agents can listen to calls and identify the exact moments where they need to shift their language, put a little more pep in their voice, or ask more clarifying questions.

New technology is absolutely essential if you want to do good business. But you should use it to help keep people at the center of your world and make your agents’ and your customers’ lives easier. Keep people at the heart of what you do, and you’ll rock through 2019.

To see a people-centric vision in action, see how Vibrant Credit Union partnered with Sharpen to create memorable customer experiences and reduce member wait times by 90 percent.