How Smaller Businesses Can Excel at Customer Experience
Tollring discusses how it is supporting the rise of the informal contact centre
When discussing contact centre solutions it’s easy to imagine larger organisations and the complex and often costly solutions manufactured to manage them. However, for Tollring there is a growing niche within the sector that they believe has hitherto been largely ignored.
According to the Office for National Statistics, over 99% of UK businesses are classed as small to medium sized; that is to say they have less than 249 employees. It is in many of these businesses where the growth in informal contact centres is occurring.
“In our opinion, customer-facing employees across departments can be referred to as the ‘informal contact centre’ of any business and will be taking or making calls, handling web enquiries, dealing with emails and monitoring social media,” states Carl Boraman, Director of Strategic Alliances at Tollring.
“The customer experience is king, no matter the size of your business, so increasingly organisations are turning to customer interaction analytics for an understanding across all areas of the business – not just the contact centre.”
Tollring therefore believes that it’s important to look at every customer interaction when considering customer experience (CX) – not just viewing the contact centre in isolation. To this end, it’s essential that organisations have the tools to analyse data across all users and departments.
“It’s worth noting that many of the larger organisations with significant contact centre capabilities are missing the informal contact points and discussions that their staff, outside the contact centre, are having with customers,” continues Carl. “Formal contact centre analytics very much focus on the here and now, emphasising the importance of live wallboards which will show a range of metrics around calls, chat, emails and social media queries, both in terms of those handled and queuing, as well as agent activity, status and so on. They typically don’t offer comprehensive reporting on trends over time, which means that they don’t provide the critical insights needed to truly understand customer behaviour. Access to this historical and trend-based data, with the ability to query, model and predict and plan appropriate strategies and support levels to meet SLAs during business as usual and for seasonal or promotion-based peaks, is more critical than ever to deliver exceptional customer experience.”
The need to manage and analyse customer interactions across several departments is made all the more important when considering the rise in omnichannel, arguably one of the most significant trends within the contact centre and customer service space today. The integration of multiple modes of communication means that managing the customer experience within an organisation requires a new set of tools.
On this Carl says, “The key is to connect with the customer using their preferred method of interaction and typical customer journeys. Omnichannel communications must solve a real issue, adding value and improving the overall customer experience. Whether adding one or multiple channels to the operation, the focus must remain on the customer experience. Just as important is the management of these tools. To be successful they must be well integrated and staff must understand how to use them effectively. Without this internal integration the customer experience can be negatively affected. It is critical to use analytics to understand which of the channels are delivering the best return and positive impact on customer experience, both in terms of live wallboard style information and historical trends via reports.”
As we look to the future of customer experience, one of the most significant developments in emerging contact centre technology is the evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Chris Marron from analytics company MZA stated in a recent report that “some of the AI that’s appearing in the contact centre right now is about making agents’ lives easier.”
“Contact centres can begin to automate some parts of the customer conversation so that agents can focus more on assisting the customer.”
Whilst largely in agreement on the current use of AI, Tollring considers it to be a niche play in the contact centre space at present. “AI is being adopted predominantly by large contact centres and less so by SMEs. It suits some industries with less complex types of enquiries better than others and can improve certain customer interactions significantly. AI will certainly help contact centres predict and handle demand better than current technologies, as well as help to personalise the service through self-learning and understanding who is enquiring on a near-personal level. This is the game-changer. To recognise the caller/customer, know in advance who they are calling and what they want to talk about will enable companies to provide a personalised service at any time of the day or night – assisted by AI technology,” states Carl.
The march towards the cloud in the contact centre space is continuing, with MZA reporting a decrease in the number of on-premises contact centres. Tollring sees the future of customer interaction solutions for unified communications being facilitated by cloud technology.
“Cloud technology is certainly the enabler, providing security, scalability, accessibility and easy provisioning and management. Cloud presents a unique opportunity for organisations to de-risk the process of adopting new solutions by potentially introducing a solution alongside an existing on-premises solution without major investment and commitment. They can then compare outcomes directly between the two solutions and decide what’s best for their business type,” continues Carl.
Tollring also believes that the increase in cloud contact centre solutions supports the majority of businesses that fall into the informal contact centre space. “Cloud contact centres work particularly well in business sectors where call/communications traffic peaks and troughs throughout the year, such as universities during clearing, travel agents during peak seasons, and retailers during holiday periods, as capacity can be increased much more easily than with on-premises.”
As customer experience continues to be the key battleground for most businesses it’s clear that with Tollring’s solutions, all businesses now have the tools to manage and analyse their customer interactions and this has given rise to the informal contact centre. “Customer interaction solutions are becoming increasingly feature-rich as we embrace omnichannel customer journeys. The speed of evolution of these solutions is exciting, but even more exciting for Tollring is cracking the challenge of accessibility – enabling all businesses to benefit from new technologies in order to gain a true understanding of their customers’ journeys, and to make better and more informed business decisions,” Carl concludes.