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In our latest guest blog, Niki Waters, Projects Manager at Premier Holidays, identifies the trends and challenges shaping the contact centre of the future.
They haven’t always been viewed as a company’s most valuable assets, but with customer service critical to winning new customers and enhancing loyalty, the role of the contact centre is fast taking centre stage. So what are the key challenges faced by those responsible for the performance of the contact centre? And how are evolving staff roles and customer expectations influencing the way service is delivered by organisations seeking to achieve brand differentiation?
Customer experience is king
Typically occupying the front line of customer communications, call centre agents own responsibility for critical interactions with customers, where each and every conversation must be regarded as a “moment of truth”. As such, they have the ability to shape the customer experience (or “CX” as it is more commonly known), so it is essential that agents are armed with the tools and systems required to deliver quick answers by a variety of communication channels. Agents need fast and easy access to information and they need access to it via a simple and consistent interface without the need to log into a multitude of different systems. Quite simply, confident and efficient customer service responses and the ability to quickly collaborate with colleagues to answer a difficult question, mean the difference between average and first-rate customer relationships.
Arise the universal agent!
Customers want more from their interactions with a contact centre and expect any agent they speak with to be equipped to answer all their questions. They don’t want to be transferred to another agent or department or put on hold, so how an agent performs will shape the perceptions of the business and influence whether a customer will engage or remain loyal.
There’s no doubt those organisations which facilitate the introduction of “universal agents” will benefit from considerably improved first call resolution, better customer retention and an increased lifetime customer value.
Omnichannel is the name of the game
Digital innovation is having a profound influence on the contact centre. One of the key drivers is the widespread use of mobiles and smart devices, offering instant access to multiple channel including email, social media, video and web chat, and allowing customers to make contact how they want to, regardless of location and time.
The key to success lies with a clear appreciation of how today’s digitally-savvy customers want to engage. This means that businesses must understand which communication channels matter most to their customers and ensure that the service operation is equipped with the right technologies to enable a seamless and integrated customer journey.
The flexible working revolution
The days when employees all worked under the same roof are numbered with home-based and remote working all becoming more prevalent and work being something you do, rather than based from a specific location. Equally, organisations are striving to recruit and retain the best skilled workers, so offering flexible working practices is a top priority for the digitally-savvy millennial generation.
Promoting seamless communication and the exchange of rich information across physical boundaries is vital to the performance of the contact centre. Get this right and organisations will be able to leverage the benefits that improved collaboration and customer contact deliver, by empowering an increasingly mobile workforce to provide a consistently superior experience - one that actively engages customers and reinforces value.
Analytics for continuous improvement
Access to call analytics and management information about the quality of agent performance and customer interactions will help pinpoint areas for improvement. The ability to view real-time information is vital in enhancing performance, while the ability to compare historical data will give a better understanding of trends to plan optimum staffing levels. This will help ensure that agent availability is scheduled appropriately, supporting the drive to achieve enhanced customer interactions.
One of the key challenges in optimising contact centre performance is achieving the balance between human interaction and the convenience and efficiency of automation. Utilising new technology can significantly improve first call resolution via intelligent call routing, leading to a reduction in call waiting times and repeat calls into the contact centre, which in turn enhances the customer experience.
Cloud is becoming the norm
Cloud-based contact centre services allow companies to rent bundles of equipment and software, and stay competitive while pursuing an operational commercial cost model. If contact centres want to transform their contact centres without capital outlay in order to improve the customer experience, communication services can easily be consumed on a utility pricing model with Cloud and hybrid solutions.
It is clear that we live in an age of increasing consumer power, where the customer is now in the driving seat as to how they want to engage with companies. The success of companies is being defined by their ability to listen and interpret customers’ requirements. What better place to act on this knowledge than at “coal face” of service delivery – the contact centre.
The need for digital services has never been stronger. According to recent research, over a fifth of us will always opt for a digital service, if offered, and online banking and online shopping reign supreme as the most used and valued digital services every day (both at around 67%).
Despite this uptake, there are still obstacles when it comes to digital services, as successfully embracing the digital revolution requires a sea-change in attitude and a clear strategy, if it is to succeed. Housing providers face a number of potential challenges, with the entry barriers into new markets less prohibitive to new players who may be far more agile and entrepreneurial at bringing improved services, such as assisted living, to realisation.
The entire housing sector faces considerable disruption, but embracing digital opportunities is the only option, if providers are to transform their approach and remain “competitive” in a market which is certain to undergo significant change. There are three aspects that housing providers must focus on:
Digitisation of the business
IT teams will drive major change: IT outsourcing, exploiting the Cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) offer new opportunities, such as the management of physical assets, Utility companies have already started to embrace IoT through sensor technologies to monitor their assets and proactively arrange maintenance visits, as required.
Transforming the service user experience
The goal is to transforming the service user experience for both tenants and employees, by providing access to new channels, such as Live Chat, instant messaging and social, by operating an omnichannel strategy that lets users interact in a way they feel most comfortable with. For tenants, this means putting digital inclusion at the heart of the communications strategy. For employees, this means providing simple to use and access tools and services that help them be effective – irrespective of their location, time zone or device.
Reinventing the business model
Housing providers need to reinvent their models and think about how they can deliver innovation – before someone else does. While housing providers still need to “act social”, they must start to “think and behave commercial”, driving change through ideas that help them to be “disruptive”. Far from being a buzzword, there are more ways than ever for housing providers to interact and engage in an innovative way. With the increasing pace of change that exists in the sector, providers need to think on their feet and act fast.
The scale of change approaching - and the disruption it may bring as it is implemented - means that there may not be another chance this decade. Amidst the politicking, uncertainty and cuts, and the housing sector adjusts to whatever becomes the “new normal”, the next twelve months need also to be remembered as a time of innovation for UK housing.
To learn more about Incom's communications solutions for the Housing sector, click here
In the third in our series of guest blogs, Iain Warde, IT Support Manager at Clothingsites.co.uk, reflects on the current challenges facing the retail sector and the rise of me-tailing.
Despite the doom and gloom of recent years, a retail renaissance is underway and it is digital. It’s no longer enough to capture attention and stand out of the crowd, as everything now hinges on how well you engage with a consumer – irrespective of whether they’re in-store, using an app, conducting research using social media or browsing your website.
The speed with which new technologies are being adopted by consumers is breathtaking, as digitally-savvy consumers drive the unstoppable retail revolution. New customer touch points and channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, leave retailers struggling to decide whether to prioritise social engagement, digitally enabled stores or mobile strategy. Understanding when to harness these technologies and how to use them is what connected retail is all about.
Forrester predicts that connected retail will influence 44% of retail sales in 2016. Within three years, it has the potential to revolutionise the industry and transform how retailers operate and how they engage with consumers. It has enormous capacity to improve operations, streamline processes and lead to greater efficiencies. It will improve the in-store experience, breathing new life into the high street in three core areas:
"It’s all about me" Success for retailers lies in developing a deeper relationship with customers, offering highly personalised products and interactions that are contextualised by information gathered in real-time through mobile, social and in-store channels. This new approach, me-tailing, empower consumers with the tools to connect with a brand anytime and anywhere, through varied channels that bring the brand to life in meaningful way to the consumer.
Me-tailing in practice Stores are vying to deliver ever more creative and personalised shopping experiences as they try to develop connections with their customers. To be successful, me-tailing must be personal, so it can quickly backfire if the wrong proposition is delivered, no matter how exciting the technology. Success lies in its execution and in understanding the individual customer.
The future of the high street New channels should not be viewed as threats. Retailers who embrace the changing landscape will do so through a mix of online and offline experiences for the consumer – making shopping more convenient and easier. Unless retail brands understand these issues and anticipate changing digital shopping habits, they will disappear from the high street. If they embrace new technology and invest in developing a clear picture of how customers use digital in their daily lives, they will provide the commercial framework for its future. The ability to personalise will foster the type of loyalty that will make retailers successful in the me-tail world. After all, it's all about you.
Learn more about Incom’s communication solutions for retailers here.
Technology is a driver of competitive advantage and innovation in the business world, but with such progression comes challenges. Technology is forever evolving and keeping up with change continues to be a struggle for many IT departments.
With employees expecting to work very differently from a generation ago, these challenges are set to grow. You can now work wherever you are, at any time and on any device. This means better collaboration, increased mobility, better business control and an empowered workforce. It’s essentially “business without boundaries”.
And this flexibility in working has resulted in an increasing trend for company employees wanting to use their own devices to access company data. According to IDC, 95% of employees have used their own device in work and they are often newer and more advanced than the equipment offered by many IT departments. So it's hardly surprising that this new IT self-sufficiency is changing the way that people want to work and has led to the advent of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).
There are some key advantages to operating a BYOD strategy, including increased employee satisfaction as they can work more flexibly; cost savings due to reduced hardware spend, software licensing and device maintenance plus productivity gains as employees are more comfortable and often work faster with their own technology. BYOD also means the workforce is no longer tied to a single location and customers can get in touch using a single number, whether their key contact is in the office or out and about.
However, employees expect to have the same level of access to their company systems and applications as they have on business-provided devices and this is where convenience clashes with security. But businesses must recognise the importance of taking action, as by far the biggest risk is not having any sort of BYOD policy in place at all. And by ignoring the challenge, companies may inadvertently expose themselves to attack.
So the arrival of BYOD is forcing IT departments to develop and implement policies that govern the management of multiple, unsupported devices. What data can employees have access to? What security measures are in place? What happens if an employee's device is lost, compromised or stolen?
According to a survey by Spiceworks, a third of IT professionals say their BYOD policy works well for some devices and poorly for others, while 23% say it's a headache for their department. Only 17% maintain that they fully embrace the trend.
BYOD is about being innovative and helping your people to work better. Employees want to use the devices that they are comfortable with in the workplace and they want to have the same experience at work that they have at home. And by giving employees what they want, companies will ultimately benefit – providing that they instigate some control to reduce risk.
Personal Unified Communications (UC) is helping to transform Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies by providing improved collaboration.The research firm ZK Research defines personal UC as, “the ability to deliver a consistent set of UC services to any user, on any device in any work location.”
Personal UC used in collaboration with BYOD policies further enhances the capabilities of the growing mobile workforce. Empowering mobile workers with the same features they use on desktop UC solutions transforms every employee-owned endpoint into a full, robust opportunity for unprecedented collaboration. Businesses can further refine operations to improve productivity as employees become more capable when mobile. Organisations that make the best of personal UC are set to gain a valuable competitive advantage.
Learn more about ShoreTel BYOD solutions here and for advice on implementing BYOD, contact us on 0161 788 0000.
Bradford Shellhammer, co-founder of design-centric online retailer Fab.com, recently made an eyebrow-raising claim: that bricks-and-mortar stores are becoming more cost-effective than their online counterparts.
He claimed that opening a high street store is “probably” cheaper than launching an e-commerce outlet in today’s market, even when factoring in increased overheads from rent and payroll. And the reason for this shift? According to Shellhammer, it’s down to ever-increasing marketing spend, as well as the hefty costs of postage and returns. In other words, “It costs money to make money”. According to Shellhamer, “When you’re competing for the same ad channels against guys who have unlimited coffers, it’s really difficult.”
Shellhammer contends that if a retailer has a relatively low number of employees, combined with a single premise, it’s perfectly feasible for this model to be cheaper to run than an ecommerce store. As evidence of this shift towards the “old school”, he points to an increase in the number of online start-ups shunning paid online advertising – because getting noticed has become so expensive – in favour of traditional media like direct mail and ad hoardings, where competition is less fierce.
Aside from escalating advertising costs, Shellhammer highlights customer returns as another significant drain on revenues for e-tailers. This is where clear, accurate and informative product description content can play a vital role in the customer journey and help to minimise the likelihood of shoppers returning items on the basis that they weren’t “as described”.
Aside from the well-publicised SEO benefits of producing unique product descriptions, this “primary content” should be seen as a critical sales opportunity – the equivalent of an interaction with a sales assistant in-store. Get product descriptions right and a customer will feel informed, inspired and compelled to buy; get them wrong and the customer could end up with something they don’t want.
Getting product descriptions right
Creating a product page that really assists conversions and provides as much information as possible to the buyer, lowering the risk of returns, requires smart interaction between design, UX (user experience) and content.
The basic best practice principles include:
1. Highlight product benefits as well as features in product copy. That woven-rope handle isn’t just there for the sake of it – it makes the bag extra comfortable to carry and taps into the season’s nautical trend. Appealing to customers’ emotional and aspirational sentiments, as well as providing the “nuts and bolts” of product composition and features, is important.
2. Use high-quality product imagery. Research from MDG Advertising found that 67% of consumers consider images “very important” when they buy, and this is critical for reducing the likelihood of returns.
3. Maximise your user-generated content. Analysis from Figleaves.com found that products with reviews had a 12.5% higher conversion rate than those without, while products with 20+ reviews showed an even more marked increase in conversion rate, at 84%.
4. Give as much detail as possible. When customers shop in-store, they can rely on the knowledge and expertise of sales assistants to help them make a decision. The same principle applies to e-commerce; supplementing product pages with extra information like sizing guides, care and maintenance advice, FAQs and “how to wear/use it” tips will give shoppers confidence and make them less likely to return items.
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In our latest guest blog, Niki Waters, Projects Manager at Premier Holidays, identifies the trends and challenges shaping the contact centre of the future.
They haven’t always been viewed as a company’s most valuable assets, but with customer service critical to winning new customers and enhancing loyalty, the role of the contact centre is fast taking centre stage. So what are the key challenges faced by those responsible for the performance of the contact centre? And
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