Home > Columns > CRM Columns

The Contact Center in Its Current Form is Finished

Creative Virtual

Presented By: Creative Virtual

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, Creative Virtual

The contact center in its current form is finished. At first this may sound like a shocking statement, but take a look at your customer base. There is a generational change taking place, with a new generation of customers spending more time having text conversations with their friends and loved ones than actually talking to them. The last thing they want to do is pick up the phone and speak to your company or get into a lengthy email exchange to have an issue resolved.

Today’s customers want effortless interactions with your organization. Research shows that customers are increasingly leveraging self-service and digital channels for customer service for this reason. The traditional model for call centers and contact centers is no longer providing the experience customers have started to demand, and customers aren’t hesitating to take their business elsewhere when their service and support expectations are not being met.

While this contact center change won’t happen overnight, the industry is already starting to see a transition to more automation. For many companies, this requires not only the implementation of new technologies but also a vital shift in attitudes toward customer engagement. This paradigm shift offers organizations enormous opportunities on the cost savings and sales front, too. It will be important to work with a solution provider that truly understands the changing customer experience landscape and can provide both the expertise and technological innovation to guide your organization through these changes.

This transition has also coincided with a renewed interest in chatbots and virtual agents, in part due to Facebook’s introduction of bots for their Messenger Platform this year, and with that an explosion of suppliers claiming to provide these solutions for customer support. However, many of these new chatbots are designed as channel-specific solutions which can disrupt organizations’ efforts to provide seamless omnichannel engagement. So while virtual agents are an ideal way to provide digital self-service, companies must implement them in ways that complement the end-to-end customer experience.

So how can companies properly manage the transition to automation in their contact centers? They should look to a combination of virtual and real support with a central knowledge management and workflow platform. For customers, the combination of natural language virtual agents with live chat means seamless interactions. For contact centers, a central knowledgebase and feedback loop that are linked with workflow functionality means the ability to keep information up-to-date and consistent across all self-service and human-assisted support channels.

Having the proper integrations in place is key for providing effortless, personalized support experiences and allowing customers to seamlessly transition across channels and devices. Virtual agents and chatbots should be integrated with personalized account information so that logged-in or authenticated users receive responses specific to them. Customers should have the flexibility to seamlessly escalate from virtual agent to live chat agent within the same application and have their conversation history passed over for a continuous experience. Failure to do so will drive your customers straight to your competition. In fact, a poor customer experience due to siloed customer engagement is predicted to be one of the top three causes for customer dissatisfaction through 2020.

A central knowledgebase for all contact channels is important for organizations to keep their experience consistent. This builds confidence with customers because they’ll know that no matter how they choose to engage – self-service, live chat, phone call – they are receiving consistent information. Accuracy of that information is also a top priority, so implementing a feedback loop that allows live agents to provide feedback and suggestions on content in real-time is important. Linking the feedback loop with the centralized knowledgebase and workflow functionality enables the automatic creation of a change request associated with the corresponding piece of content. The suggestions can then be easily reviewed, updates made quickly and the correct information deployed for customers and agents across channels. This innovative feedback loop empowers live agents to constantly improve the virtual agent just by doing their normal jobs and is defining industry best practice.

The bottom line: As seamless, personalized smart assistants increasingly automate everything the current contact center offers, organizations need to turn to the combination of virtual and real support to create happy and loyal customers.