Contact centers often see ebbs and flows. Customer preferences change, new tools emerge, and leaders are left with the challenge of dialing up or down specific channels to accommodate evolving customer behavior. For example, at the beginning of 2020, our own research had overwhelmingly shown the importance of digital channels, particularly among younger demographics. Fast forward to April, with the coronavirus pandemic in full swing and millions locked down in quarantine, suddenly phone had a massive resurgence: Verizon reported handling over 800 million daily calls week over week, compared to its 2019 single daily high of 400 million.
The spike in traditional channel usage comes as contact centers are responding to significant increases in traffic across the board due to COVID-19. A study of contact center leaders found that 92% of respondents experienced an increased volume of interactions of all types, and that 62% specifically saw greater digital interactions since the pandemic began. Considering the uncertain economic outlook and the always-rising bar of customer expectations, for contact centers, the pressure is on.
Customer experience leaders need every avenue available to delight core audiences and further grow the business. While customer behaviors are particularly fluid right now, seamlessly blending traditional voice and chat channels with social and digital messaging options provides a buffer against rising operating costs now, while fostering customer loyalty in the long-term. If your contact center doesn’t have a digital-first strategy, or put one on hold as a result of the coronavirus, here’s why you should reconsider:
Digital Channels Increase Efficiency
Contact centers, as a key influencer of customer retention and brand reputation, can be critical drivers of business growth. For example, when agents have the tools and infrastructure they need, they can better support customers, leading to higher sustained revenue. Even a contact center with only 50 agents could be fielding thousands of customer inquiries a day.
Without the right support for the channels customers are gravitating toward, wait queues can skyrocket and issues can go unanswered. This can have a cascading effect on the business, as 81% of customers say they will switch to a competitor after a single poor experience. Digital fluency among agents is a powerful way to mitigate this, offering a lifeline to swiftly resolving multiple issues in real-time. In fact, a properly trained agent can effortlessly juggle up to four interactions at the same time, exponentially increasing volume efficiency. That creates the “feel” of a large support network, despite the actual limited resources. Chat, text and social media enable contact centers of all sizes to maintain consistent, exceptional outcomes for customers.
Digital Reduces Customer Effort
During periods of normalcy, reducing friction is a core aspect of any customer experience strategy. Now, with individual tension and stress higher than ever, it becomes all the more critical in fostering and retaining customer loyalty. Having to contact the company repeatedly, repeat information or start from scratch when switching channels can be a death knell for a customer relationship.
Digital plays an important role in streamlining and optimizing customer experiences, particularly among those on the lower end of the complexity spectrum. Chatbots, for example, can automate up to 50% of customer interactions across chat and messaging, quickly and effortlessly delivering the right information without any hassle. Furthermore, a cohesive digital-first omnichannel ecosystem allows for the simple transfer of data and context as customers move along the CX journey. Contact centers need to eliminate headaches, and this is an important step in achieving that.
Digital Fosters New Skill Sets
One of the highest contributors to agent attrition is a lack of career growth. Agents often want to know there’s a clear upward trajectory within the contact center. Digital channels provide a new, critical skill set to agents who want to advance in their careers and become invaluable assets within the contact center. These digital-first agents can effortlessly move between channels, just as customers do. Higher agent engagement means higher customer engagement, and ultimately, greater customer loyalty.
Getting this right, however, requires more than just the hard skills of channel management and optimization. Agents need to be able to match this know-how with developed human communication skills like empathy and compassion. How can their own individual personality shine through these digital communication tools and create a real, lasting connection with a customer? For example, emojis can go a long way in establishing a positive tone based on a shared digital fluency. The hard and soft skills together are a potent combination.
Digital-First Is the Inevitable Future
Behavioral trends will continue to evolve, but the fundamental need for a wide berth of channels within the contact center is static. Digital-first contact centers are inherently customer-centric, integrating the preferences of their core audience as they evolve in real-time. Customers and agents are digital communicators, so the contact center must be the best facilitator it can be.