3 key challenges facing contact centres

Neville Doughty, Partnership Director, Contact Centre Panel

Contact centres have faced numerous well documented pressures over the years, but have been on the leading edge in changing how organisations engage with customers. However, as we face ongoing global uncertainty there are three challenges our sector must face head on.

Staff attraction and attrition:  What was already a challenge, seems to have got a lot harder for many. The ability to recruit from a wider pool with homeworking is now a threat as it opens local resource to others. The role of the agent has become tougher, along with their line managers whose capacity to manage and connect with their team in person has been impacted by remote working.
In summary, the role is harder – the profile and skills have changed, the people are fewer and when you do recruit them it is harder to spend time with them to support and develop and therefore retain.

Channel Shift:  Customers expect to be able to make contact through a wider range of channels, so that is a wider profile of SLAs to manage. The challenge is to make sure the conversations are joined up if the customer decides to switch mid-flight and the user experience for both the customer and agent are right, otherwise it could contribute to agent attrition and customer defection.

Organisations may need to implement alternate channels to reduce the cost to serve, with increasing cost pressures and/or contact volumes (sector dependent) businesses need to take every opportunity to move customers to alternate channels where they may be able to be served more quickly and therefore at a lower cost.

Automation:  Silver bullet or the opportunity to infuriate your customers and drive complaints? It is all in the delivery and there are clearly opportunities to make an impact. Providing self-serve solutions has become expected by many customers and perhaps for some organisations the easiest/highest volume activities have already been through this process. Are the gains more marginal? Where should your digital assistant sit? Do they have enough of the answers to provide a service to the customer? and how is your “bot containment” looking?

There are so many questions arising from automation, but I think we could all point to at least one example, as customer, where we feel it has been done badly. A definite conclusion is that there is plenty of work to be done upfront before you plug in and switch on the bot.

Bringing it all together

In contact centres we are consistently in a data rich environment and many of the insights we need can be hiding in the data we already hold. That information could help you to both resolve issues and optimise performance. Indicators which illustrate agent or bot skill, knowledge and performance can be accessed, assessed and actioned. Technology can probably support 60-80% of the challenges if done right, but can cause just as many, including for your internal team, if done incorrectly.

Using technology to augment or support agents and first line managers must be a key priority, along with assessing how well the tools your teams use are working and if they can be better utilised. Ask yourselves the questions, should your bot be enabling your people and is your bot running out of talent and acting as a triage that simply infuriates your customers before they get to your people and indirectly impact attrition?

For others, the answer may just be that you simply need more people now to get the job done. Then there’s the challenge to secure a budget to recruit, along with the recruitment. The questions then must be around whether there is damage being done to your brand as a result of not providing the level of service that you want or need, against what your competitors are providing. Are you impacting your future customer base because of decisions that are being made now?

If you’d like to discuss innovative ways in which to overcome these challenges and improve your customer contact operations, just drop us a line.