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Beyond customer service: How organisations and their technology partners are transforming the contact centre


A common perception of contact centres is that their callers - be they customers, patients or end users - only contact them if something is wrong. Nonetheless, throughout 2020, we have seen this underrated (but nonetheless essential) part of the overall customer experience enter a new stage in its evolution.

But with distributed workplaces and the way organisations communicate with customers and colleagues irrevocably changed, what will the contact centre of the future look like and what does this mean for organisations and their callers?

A great agent experience means a great caller experience

Contact centres of any sort are very much social environments, where the human touch is everything. And that engagement must be maintained throughout every point of contact between agents and callers, whether it's face-to-face over a video link, over the phone, or through online chat.

But throughout 2020, we have seen a shift in how this is accomplished, with the opening up of a wide range of new channels of communication through which callers can engage with agents. This includes voice, online chat and video - all of which provide the agent to access sophisticated Unified Communications platforms that not only deliver a consistently high-quality customer experience, but through Cloud technology and intelligent automation, are fully integrated with the rest of the IT ecosystem. This way, with the full range of caller data at their fingertips and direct connections to internal Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), contact centre technology becomes invisible, and agents are free to focus on delivering successfully resolutions.

Beyond reducing the average time spent on calls and increasing the number of quick, successful resolutions, this model of Unified Communications ensures agents can continue interacting with their colleagues when working remotely, just as they would in the traditional contact centre environment, leading to a smoother, less stressful environment that enhances their performance and wellbeing. And this, in turn, leads to better employee retention, by ensuring agents are properly supported in their daily work and ongoing development.

A model for future contact centre environments

It's often argued that the move to a Cloud-based model for contact centres was a reactive one, in direct response to COVID-19, and to a certain extent this is true. But while it's true we could not have envisaged such a fundamental transformation taking place so rapidly and such a scale just one year ago, Cloud adoption has been steadily on the rise for a number of years now. In other words, the technology needed to implement remote working at scale has been available for some time.

Nonetheless, once the required standard of connectivity was achieved, there were still numerous challenges to consider. By their very nature, contact centres work with a high volume of personal information, which means privacy, data security and compliance are all key requirements. Overcoming these depended on close collaboration between organisations and their technological partners, with many longstanding partnerships across the UK revealing their true value. In particular, technology partners who could integrate multiple channels of communication within single platforms - true Unified Communications solutions – proved invaluable to the success of many organisations' Cloud transformations.

Bringing together customer service and business growth

With the move towards a distributed workforce now very much complete, organisations in both the public and private sectors are shifting their focus from implementation to long-term growth and sustainability. Historically, gathering actionable customer data is often time-consuming and inefficient, especially when working with multiple channels of communication. Unified Communications and Cloud-based contact centres solve this problem, allowing call data to be consolidated within a single platform, with all sensitive information stored securely, in line with all applicable data protection regulations.

Streamlining and automating this process provides contacts with a steady stream of valuable call data, ensuring targets are consistently met, opportunities for improvement are identified and acted upon, and agents enjoy ongoing professional development. But beyond that, this provides the wider organisation with a real-time view of how their products and services are being delivered 'on the ground', and how their customers, patients or end users view them. As this model becomes more and more established across a range of sectors, we expect to see contact centres shift from a purely reactive role, to playing a major role in organisations' ongoing business growth.

A model for future contact centre environments

While we are still very much in the early days of the 'new normal', the principles we have explored in this article are far from theoretical. At Exponential-e, we have participated in these contact centre transformations numerous times throughout 2020. An excellent example of this was our partnership with the NHS in South-East London, in which we successfully helped GPs and frontline staff transition to a remote working environment, continuing to engage with their patients through multiple channels from wherever they are based. Our UC-ONE for Health solution was deployed across six boroughs and 206 GP sites, integrated with existing EPR systems, with the first 1,000 users online in just 48 hours. The system was subsequently extended to more than 5,000 frontline staff over the course of three weeks, ensuring the usual high standard of patient care could successfully co-exist with social distancing requirements. All this was accomplished completely remotely, thanks in part to Exponential-e's deep experience with Cloud migration and well-established network.

This approach is by no means confined to the healthcare sector. The beauty of the Cloud is its flexibility and scalability, which means similar strategies could be used to execute Cloud transformations in contact centres across a range of challenging industries, to the benefit of organisations, agents and callers alike.

Afshin Attari, Exponential-e's Director of Public Sector & Unified Platforms, discussed these topics in greater depth at the recent Servion webinar, "Realigning CX to the New Normal with Best of Breed Service Providers". Click here to watch it.

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