COVID-19 and the Contact Centre: A post-pandemic workers’ paradise?

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Article by Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO and Co-Founder, Content Guru

When the crashing waves of COVID-19 broke across the bows of business, organisations were impacted in ways that few had foreseen. Whilst companies in some sectors sank with all hands or trod freezing water in furlough lifejackets, others found themselves propelled forwards by a powerful storm tide.

One such beneficiary has proven to be the contact centre industry. Not only did these unglamorous organisations sail smoothly through the choppy seas of lockdowns and WFH; they now find themselves charting a new and sunny course, one in which the customer experience they deliver has attained unprecedented levels of strategic importance.

What is their secret? Cutting edge cloud technology, rapidly implemented, untroubled by users’ physical locations, and boasting intelligent automation of the drudge work, has enabled contact centres to cope with unprecedented volumes of demand. Contact centres have serviced millions of customers emailing about flights, web-chatting with insurers and calling healthcare helplines. As demand has risen, so has employee satisfaction, as cloud tech-enabled operators switch to remote and flexible working models.

Cloud contact centre technology has helped the industry maintain and improve CSAT (customer satisfaction) scores, meaning customer loyalty for those who invested early is at an all-time high. Faced with being left behind, the rest of the contact centre armada is unsurprisingly adopting cutting-edge technology in a hurry, to close the competitive advantage gap.

Distributed working is here to stay

A recent study by Stanford University found that 55% of workers want a mix of remote and office working. The benefits for employees are clear: walking the dog at lunchtime, no car parking worries and a new sense of freedom and trust. But employers are also enjoying lower facilities costs together with greater productivity and flexibility from their happy workers.

This unusual synchronicity is reflected in industry analyst Gartner’s trend predictions around the idea of ‘total experience’ – the combination of multi-experience, customer experience, employee experience and user experience to transform business operations.

Employee experience and customer experience are intrinsically connected – one drives the other.

The UK’s largest electricity provider, UK Power Networks, used Content Guru’s storm® cloud solution to implement a hybrid working model for their contact centre, and saw absence levels come down to just 4%, an impressive feat in an industry known for absenteeism. Meanwhile, UK Power Networks’ CSAT scores actually increased during the pandemic – a testament to the power of investing in an effective distributed working solution that also serves up intelligent automation.

Collaboration is key

Microsoft Teams was another winner of the pandemic, emerging as the digital communication tool of choice for homeworking professionals. To optimise business operations in the new era of distributed working, the contact centre’s external communications solution needs to integrate with the organisation’s internal-facing technology, such as Teams, which is used by back-office subject matter experts.

Front-office users dealing with the public can now transfer calls from Content Guru’s storm contact centre solution to back-office subject matter experts on Teams, through a fully Microsoft-accredited connector. The process works equally effectively in the opposite direction for seamless colleague collaboration. Users can furthermore dial external numbers through Teams, while live availability status displays let all colleagues see who is available at any time, cutting down on wasted call transfer attempts that leave frustrated customers waiting on hold.

The storm Teams integration enables complete call and screen recording through the Teams application, ensuring no loopholes in compliance or quality management. storm VIEWTM, Content Guru’s reporting module, furthermore enables end-to-end information on all interactions, including those on Teams. The integration of Content Guru’s storm and Microsoft’s own reporting tools, including Power BI, provides powerful analytics across an organisation’s entire IT estate.

Businesses and public sector organisations alike can improve their all-important First Contact Resolution (FCR) by making front-office agents the single point of contact who can collaborate quickly to solve any query. storm provides these customer service agents with integrated collaboration tools, serving up the right information to the right agent, at the right time, during customer interactions. Content Guru’s unified contact centre agent interface, DTA®, allows employees to locate and chat with one another quickly. Live availability status shows presence on DTA across storm and Teams users alike, for a fully joined-up organisation.

Preparedness is paradise

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how important scalability is for any organisation facing unexpected increases in customer contact. The media reported lengthy queues for people trying to contact travel companies and airlines for refunds on cancelled holidays and flights, whilst calls to the NHS’s 111 phone line hit record numbers as a worried public scrambled for information about the virus. Despite extraordinary circumstances, customers still expect high levels of service, meaning a scalable cloud solution has become a necessity, not a luxury for any contact centre operator.

Though the peak of the pandemic may be over, organisations shouldn’t underestimate the importance of having plans in place for disaster recovery in the post-pandemic world. Customers have become permanently more demanding, and contact centres must be able to cope with planned and unplanned spikes in inbound enquiries. Organisations can choose intelligent automation to divert callers to another communication channel or online information. Artificially intelligent chatbots, or Machine AgentsTM, can answer FAQ-style enquiries, freeing up human staff to deal with more complex queries. storm also boasts virtually limitless cloud scalability, handling over 11,000 callers in the queue for a leading Airline whilst coping simultaneously with a 500% increase in call volumes for high-profile healthcare services.

Future-gazing: Cloud comes up trumps

The pandemic has presented contact centres with an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate their digital transformation and change the way they work. In the post-COVID-19 landscape, organisations must continue to evolve their old-style contact centres into value-driven customer engagement hubs, delivering a personalised customer experience that creates competitive advantage. Implementing cutting-edge cloud technology that enables a flexible working model, enhances employee collaboration and supports an effective disaster recovery strategy is the surest way to keep any contact centre afloat on tomorrow’s stranger tides.

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