The pandemic has been a catalyst for profound change in the contact center. According to a Gartner study conducted just a few months before the coronavirus outbreak, nearly 90 percent of global organizations relied entirely on on-premises contact centers. Now, almost 75 percent have at least some of their agents working from home, according to Nemertes Research.
While shelter-in-place orders forced the initial transition, most organizations have come to embrace the work-from-home model. More than 70 percent of businesses surveyed by Nemertes say they will continue allowing agents to work remotely at least part-time once the health crisis has passed.
In most cases, organizations are finding that the new technologies, management practices and staffing models they were forced to adopt have helped make them more efficient, productive and resilient. Here are some of the ways organizations should continue refining remote operations in 2021:
Embrace the cloud. Cloud-based technologies demonstrated their value as business continuity tools by streamlining the transition to remote operations, but they offer many other benefits as well. Integrated call distributors and management systems enable customers to communicate by phone, email, live chat, text, mobile apps or social media. Pre-built integrations and open APIs also make it easy for agents to access and share customer or product information across different communication channels. In addition, the cloud provides access to the latest contact center technology and applications without large capital investments.
Expand self-service. Enabling customers to use self-service tools to book appointments, track deliveries, check balances and perform other basic tasks produces faster call resolution times and saves money by eliminating many live agent interactions. Integrating tools such as digital assistants, video tutorials, knowledge bases, community forums and FAQ pages into your customer support processes can help deliver a solid self-service experience.
Get automated. Robotic process automation (RPA) creates many benefits for agents. It can be used to train new agents with simulated customer engagements, and it can extract, analyze and cross-reference customer data in real time during actual engagements. RPA bots can also handle post-call updates and fulfillment activities, delivering faster results to customers, freeing agents to assist more people, and reducing handling time by up to 40 percent.
Embed intelligence. Chatbots that handle routine calls are the most common use of artificial intelligence in the contact center, but there are many other possibilities. AI-powered agent-assist applications can support remote agents with intelligent call routing, language translation and step-by-step guidance during calls and chats. Sentiment analysis uses natural language processing, text analysis and computational linguistics to understand what customers think about your brand, your products or your service based on particular words, phrases, voice inflections, rate of speech and other cues.
Improve security. Remote operations increase the risk that agents could expose customer data, whether by accident or with malicious intent. Data loss prevention (DLP) solutions generate alerts if sensitive information is transmitted by email or file transfers, or if it is copied to removable media. Regular training helps ensure agents understand how to safely handle customer data and what to do if a breach occurs.
Enhance management. Lacking face-to-face engagement, it is difficult for managers to actively coach, encourage and motivate agents. Workforce optimization software can help by integrating a variety of essential performance management, call monitoring, scheduling and training modules through a single dashboard. Managers can use the tools to evaluate performance and streamline workflows. Agents can also use the tools to receive feedback and access training materials.
Although the pandemic disrupted contact center operations around the world, most organizations have been able to leverage new technologies and processes to maintain strong connections with their customers. Contact us to evaluate ways to enhance your remote operations.