Justin Hamilton-Martin of Enreach for Service Providers outlines the opportunity for resellers
As businesses have had to pivot to being online, demand for remote customer service and support is at an all-time high. Anyone who is customer-facing is in effect a contact centre, or part of one, and as a result of the pandemic, making that experience digitally viable has become a priority. Much of businesses’ engagement with their audiences has been narrowed down to digital screens, so ensuring the best possible customer experience is vital.
All this has fuelled interest in a new category of contact centre: the ‘casual contact centre’, often underpinned by Contact-Centre-as-a-Service or Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) technologies. Cloud-based casual contact centres represent a huge opportunity for resellers to add to their portfolios, providing a practical approach for business customers with less risk, commitment and investment compared to typical dedicated contact centre solutions.
Casual contact centres
Casual contact centres address several needs and challenges:
*They are ideal for businesses that do not require, want or have the funds for a traditional contact centre solution, as the technology offers a low cost-per-seat/user or even a transaction-based model, which brings essential contact centre tools within reach of more businesses, even very small ones.
*The cloud-nature of these contact centres makes it easier and quicker to integrate all inbound and outbound communication channels and to have better transparency and interaction across teams. This is increasingly important because customer contact has evolved, with more channels to support: email, text, WhatsApp, social media and customer service conversations within apps.
In addition, many people — particularly the younger generation — prefer to communicate using WhatsApp, Snapchat and SMS. Of course, real-time audio still needs to be in the mix for customers who prefer those channels, and we are seeing an increase in multi-channel customer engagements.
Where to start
A good starting point for a successful casual contact centre adoption strategy is a customer relationship management (CRM) system that allows integrations with the chosen customer channels.
With the CRM as the central point encompassing all aspects of customer engagement – social media, websites, marketing campaigns, inbound and outbound calls — individual channels don’t become siloed and fragmented, enabling a consistent and captured customer journey regardless of channel, with better reporting and analytics.
Other applications such as service ticketing can be integrated into the environment too.
Casual contact centres powered by the cloud have other potential benefits. For example, the channel can introduce fixed mobile convergence (FMC), without the need to become mobile network experts. Staff can switch seamlessly between broadband and mobile, even in the middle of the same conversation, without any interruption.
In the last 12 months, despite lockdowns, mobile traffic has actually increased. Not only do people like the ease of being able to carry on working anywhere within their home without having to move around their laptop, but a more ‘mobile first’ approach helps businesses switch between office and home and support hybrid working models. Incoming calls can be routed to staff depending on availability (using their presence status and reachability settings), irrespective of device or network.
Artificial intelligence (AI) features and Natural Language Programming (NLP) can be introduced to decrease the initial burden of contact and help improve service quality. Casual contact centre environments adapt, so interactions become more tailored as information is captured, resulting in customers being better supported.
Without these technologies, it is extremely challenging to provide 24/7 support to customers and prospects who are becoming more demanding as their timetables shift to accommodate changing behavioural patterns.
Here is an example: the majority of customer questions have a uniform answer, yet customers understandably do not expect to have to hunt for that information. They also do not want a long wait to speak to an agent. The latest generation of smart chat bots or voice conversations powered by AI can give customers accurate answers faster. Furthermore, staff time is not wasted answering routine queries, enabling human conversations to be retained for more difficult tasks involving empathy.
This may sound complex, but it certainly doesn’t have to be, as these features can be added into the technology platform by the technology provider. The channel doesn’t need to invest in developing its own IP, but at the same time, it can create its own customisation if preferred.
We have already seen a huge change in how businesses collaborate internally, and we are now witnessing a big change in how they communicate externally, which is taking the customer experience to a new level. Cloud-based contact centres can contribute to that change, with the help of the channel.