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All levels of the contact centre need to be able to work together effectively from anywhere and on any device. Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru, explains the options available for implementing the necessary Unified Communications technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on enterprises around the globe. With entire populations going into lockdown, adapting day-to-day operations to address the realities of the ‘new normal’ became a mission-critical priority. This was especially true of the contact centre, which saw enormous changes both in its customers’ behaviour and the demands governments were placing on operations and employees. The way we all work and communicate has changed completely and, in many cases, permanently.
As we begin to emerge from the stricter lockdown periods into our ‘next normal’, it is important for organisations, either directly managing or outsourcing contact centres, to think about how they are going to move their operations beyond COVID-19. At its core, the questions that need to be answered are: how can we ensure all levels of the contact centre continue to work together effectively from anywhere and on any device and what does implementing the necessary Unified Communications (UC) technology actually look like?
Keeping The Plates Spinning, Smoothly
There is an abundance of collaboration tools on offer, but with so much choice, spinning the multiple plates of various customer conversations across different platforms and channels can be incredibly challenging. Even the smallest crack in communication will affect a contact centre’s efficiency and degrade the customer experience.
Investing in a cloud-based contact centre approach, married with UC tools, is one viable option for contact centre owners to approach this challenge. These solutions will fully integrate channels and applications into a single, easy-access user interface. Truly effective UC solutions leverage multiple services, such as instant messaging (IM), voice calling (fixed, mobile and softphone support), video conferencing, presence sharing, voicemail, screen sharing, file sharing and more.
There are multiple benefits to a UC solution. The first – and possibly most important under the current circumstances – is efficiency. Delivering a quick and connected experience that meets customer demand and expectation is now more important than ever. By improving the information flow between front and back office operations, a customer service department can more easily provide a quick service and present a united front to customers, even when agents may be physically dispersed.
Providing call agents with a single, unified interface makes accessing channels and collaboration tools effortless. They are able to obtain necessary information more easily and solve customer problems faster as a result, ultimately delivering an excellent customer experience.
Another benefit of incorporating UC into a cloud-based solution is resilience. As proven by the COVID-19 pandemic and the turmoil that many companies across industries have endured, external and internal communication is key during a crisis. Customers need immediate attention when alerting organisations to issues they’re experiencing. If a front office call agent cannot provide an answer without connecting with their back office colleagues, they must do this as quickly as possible. It may even be that they need to transfer a customer to a back office colleague for quick access to their expertise.
On top of this, during a crisis, more often than not contact centres will experience spiked levels of demand, which can be difficult to handle if all agents are occupied. This challenge can be augmented if key colleagues are working from home and are not as visible to those who are less experienced and require assistance.
A cloud-based UC solution provides the tools to tackle the challenges of unprecedented demand head-on. Its resiliency and scalability allow business operations to continue by integrating front and back office operations. With presence sharing and call forwarding, back office employees can be mobilised rapidly, acting as call agents if need be, to ease demand and provide subject-matter expertise. As a result, excellent standards of customer service can be maintained, even in the face of disruption.
With all operations running online, a cloud-based UC solution has the potential to reduce costs and resources by eliminating the need for deploying and maintaining physical equipment and hardware. Furthermore, it is much quicker and more cost-effective to maintain and upgrade cloud solutions over legacy on-premises contact centre infrastructure. With no need to rip and replace – only adding to – existing systems and applications, a cloud-based UC solution is ideal for most businesses looking to streamline and reduce costs. It is much simpler to successfully provide a unified experience that won’t break the bank with all customer and business information integrated into one easily manageable cloud-based UC contact centre solution.
Providing For The Modern Workforce
It is, of course, impossible to ignore the stark reality that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a lot of businesses in. A vast majority of companies plan to remain working from home for the foreseeable future in anticipation of a potential second wave. However, even before COVID-19, there was a widespread shifting focus to home working across all industries, which has only been accelerated by the current situation. According to research from the Office of National Statistics published prior to the pandemic, 50% of UK employees were already set to work remotely in 2020.
Remote working is a subject bound to divide opinion across small to large organisations in every sector, but nowhere more potently than in the contact centre industry. These concerns are perfectly understandable – the contact centre has always been a very physical workplace, with call agents hooked up to a legacy phone system, answering calls on multiple lines, in-sight of employers.
Cloud contact centre technology, that integrates UC technology, is browser-based, so agents can access the system wherever they are, whenever they want. The ability to work from home gives employees more flexibility and control over their working hours, making it easier to fit their career around busy schedules in a way that benefits both themselves and the organisation.
Their working schedule can coincide more easily around family and home life, as they have the opportunity to log in while the children are at school, for example. This not only delivers something for the reward strategy of a contact centre, but increased satisfaction and happiness for the employee in a more flexible workplace landscape. It is undoubtedly a more progressive setup for a modern contact centre.
Unifying Customer Expectation & Employee Satisfaction
In the midst of the confusion and upheaval caused by COVID-19, it is understandable that businesses may be hesitant about investing in new technology. However, it is clear to see that moving to a cloud-based UC solution is one transition in a company’s Digital Transformation that makes the most logical sense right now. For businesses operating in the contact centre space, it may turn out to be the make or break moment in maintaining relationships with customers, as well as ensuring the long-term satisfaction and wellbeing of employees. Taking the leap with UC will help to meet the ever-changing demands of the modern business – and societal – landscape now, and into the future.
Article by: Rebecca Miles, Intelligent CIO