Here's four fearless contact center predictions you need to know for 2021.
Predicting the future is like predicting the weather. Sometimes you are right. Sometimes you are wrong. With that in mind, this is the way the wind seems to be blowing for the contact center industry in 2021.
1) Customers will expect even better customer service:
It is not your imagination. Customer service got harder this year. Customer behavior changed due to the stress of job losses, financial pressure, health worries and childcare concerns as schools were closed. That trend will intensify as customers expect artificial intelligence, web self-service and omnichannel to provide even better customer service in 2021. Customers do not grade on a curve. They do not say, “Your company is pretty good for a cable company.” Instead, they expect you to be as technologically advanced, and a customer focused, as the best organizations in any industry. While most companies study industry competitors, have you benchmarked the best customer service organizations in any industry? What makes Zappos, RBC or Nordstrom stand out? How can you apply those lessons in people, process, and technology to your organization?
2) Contact centers need to work closely with their fulfillment and billing teams to support online shopping:
Online shopping has increased as a percentage of overall sales. For some companies, online orders were only 10% of sales, pre-COVID-19. Now, online purchases can be 30-40% of a company’s revenue. That trend will continue in 2021. An increase in online shopping brings an increase in related issues. That means answering issues with website functionality and online shopping carts. It means helping customers with delivery dates/time problems, missing/damaged orders, and credit card statement discrepancies. To support those inquiries, work closely with your warehouse, shipping, billing, and social media teams to ensure seamless customer support. Hold weekly cross-functional team meetings with those departments. Work on holistic solutions to common customer online ordering/delivery/billing issues. Develop processes, improve your Knowledge Base and coach to help your Agents solve online shopping issues.
3) Contact center and Marketing departments need to cooperate more closely:
Who “owns” the customer? Is it Marketing, if the customer is happy? Is it the contact center, if the customer is upset? No. The entire company is responsible for the overall customer experience. That means customer facing interfaces such as your company’s website and smartphone apps need to build your company brand and provide support. Does your contact center have input on website self-service options? Or, is your team’s influence limited to a “Contact Us” button on the Home page? Instead, provide Voice of the Customer (VOC) feedback to help your Marketing and web design departments add the most in-demand self-service options to your website and customer apps. Work with them to ensure a seamless customer experience.
4) An Agent’s written skills will become more important than their phone skills:
That shift has been underway for a few years. However, 2020 was the tipping point, when written customer interactions exceeded phone calls in many contact centers. How does that change Agent recruitment? Your Human Resources team needs to test for typing speed, reading comprehension, and multitasking skills, as part of their Agent candidate pre-screening process. The goal is to identify potential Agents for live chat, email and text/SMS queues, or blended voice/written queues. Those skills have to be reinforced by updating your new hire training curriculum to include exercises on “reading between the lines” to detect a customer’s emotional tone in live chat or email. It also includes how to seamlessly blend “cut and paste” phrases from your Knowledge Base, as well as how to multitask between several chats at once.
In Part 2 of this series, I will take at look at four more trends to watch in 2021!