Cloud-based, UC-enabled contact center platforms give customers what they want. 

As the key touchpoint for customer interactions, the contact center is essential for shaping the customer experience. Research suggests that organizations around the world spend more than $300 billion per year on technologies to help them resolve customer issues quickly, track engagements, identify trends and gain valuable business insights.

Here’s a little secret, though: People hate calling contact centers.

Three-quarters of Americans say that contacting customer support is a frustrating experience, according to a 2018 online poll conducted by Propeller Insights. How frustrating? Forty-four percent said they’d rather clean the toilet, 26 percent said they’d rather go to the dentist and 24 percent would rather do their taxes.

Part of this frustration can be explained by the fact that many — perhaps most — consumers interacting with a contact center are already unhappy and a bit annoyed before they ever begin the process. They generally don’t need customer service unless they have problems or questions about a product, service, bill or policy. According to the Propeller Insights poll, that initial aggravation is often heightened once they make contact due to a variety of factors:

• Long wait and hold times (60 percent)

• Being transferred and having to repeat the problem over and over (59 percent)

• Lengthy automated self-service menus (50 percent)

• Difficulties communicating with agents in offshore contact centers (49 percent)

• Poor levels of service (41 percent)

Easy Does It

In many cases, problems may stem from a basic disconnect between what customers want and what organizations think they need to deliver. In recent years, organizations have devoted significant time and resources into enabling “personalized” interactions using multiple communication channels, increased automation and AI-powered chatbots, all tightly integrated with CRM systems. Very often, this results in a platform that is highly complex and difficult to navigate.

That runs counter to customer preferences. In a 2018 survey by CCW Digital, consumers said that they prefer “easy” experiences to “personalized” ones, and they prefer fast access to a live agent when they need to address anything more than simple transactional matters. Yet most IT and operations executives surveyed believed that increased personalization is more important than ease of use.

This disconnect isn’t uncommon. According to Forrester’s 2018 U.S. Customer Experience (CX) Index, businesses across all sectors don’t seem to fully understand what matters to their customers. CX scores remained stagnant for the third consecutive year, with U.S. companies getting generally mediocre reviews.

Simple but Powerful

Unified Communications (UC) solutions bring compelling benefits to the contact center. UC’s all-in-one architecture enables organizations to route calls, emails, web chats and social media interactions using a single queue so agents can respond faster and more consistently to customers — regardless of the communications channel the customer chooses.

When integrated with CRM software, UC systems can also collect relevant data about existing customers and push that information to the agent through screen pops, allowing more personal and effective service. Click-to-call or instant messaging functionality within consumer-facing web pages simplifies initial contacts and gives agents contextual information about the caller before a conversation begins. Armed with the upfront knowledge of the product or service the customer is interested in, agents can find the right information quickly and improve the odds of a first-call resolution.

Meanwhile, the CCaaS model give organizations access to the latest contact center technology and applications without a large capital investment. Additionally, CCaaS allows companies to be more flexible and agile with the ability to scale assets up or down to meet changing demands.

Cloud Efficiencies

By shifting the infrastructure to the cloud, CCaaS also reduces network management costs, provides consolidated reporting across all media types, eliminates the need for multiple databases and creates the ability to build geographically dispersed contact centers that satisfy “follow-the-sun” coverage and assure business continuity.

Cloud-based solutions also eliminate integration issues with application programming interfaces. APIs enable rapid integration with a broad range of cloud-based and on-premises applications, making it relatively simple to add new features and scale up or down based on demand.

The consulting firm Frost & Sullivan claims that under almost any scenario, organizations can achieve “substantial cost savings” by switching from on-premises contact center infrastructure to a CCaaS solution. The firm says that features such as powerful analytics, quality monitoring and improved recording were drivers for growth of the cloud-based contact center market and contributed to improved total cost of ownership and return on investment.

In a recent YouGov survey, 76 percent of respondents said that even a single unpleasant contact center experience was likely to make them take their business elsewhere. Worse yet, unhappy customers are more likely to air their grievances on social media platforms, thus negatively influencing potential customers. Cloud-based contact center solutions that tightly integrate UC technology can help keep customers happy by simplifying their customer service experiences.