Ask anyone who’s called into a contact center in the last year, and they can probably guess what a few of the priorities are for customer service leaders heading into 2023.
Across most industries, getting a resolution to an issue has never been harder for customers and wait times are at all-time highs. On the other hand, customers’ expectations have risen following the pandemic. Now, they’re much less likely to be sympathetic with brands navigating complicated regulations and hybrid workforces.
Today, customers expect service whenever and wherever they need it without having to repeat themselves or tailor their questions to rigid IVR menus or disjointed channel experiences.
Fortunately for them, contact centers are on the same page. As part of the 2022 Benchmark Report: Automation in the Contact Center, Replicant and global research firm Demand Metric asked 300+ US-based enterprise contact center leaders what’s top-of-mind for their teams.
Their answers show a renewed focus on customers’ biggest concerns, and a roadmap to how they’ll achieve their goals.
Priority #1: Improving customer satisfaction
The link between contact centers and customer satisfaction (CSAT) is well established. And contact centers in the Benchmark Report are unified around customer satisfaction as their top priority, with 77% listing it as their primary focus.
In fact, among all the consensus priorities of contact centers, many can be tied back to improving the elements that go into a great customer experience. According to PwC, nearly 80% of American consumers point to speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service as the most important aspects of a positive customer experience. Adding to the importance of CSAT in customer service is the fact that one in three customers will leave a brand they are loyal to after just one bad experience.
Priority #2: Hiring enough agents
The second-most common priority for contact centers is overcoming the labor shortage. Following the Great Resignation, 49% of leaders are finding it challenging to bring on enough representatives to keep up with customer demand. Part of the reason for this may simply be that less and less agents “find the job fulfilling and enjoyable.” In addition, inflating costs across the US economy have driven many employees to seek higher paying work.
But strategies aimed at transforming what contact center work looks like are already underway. In a recent webinar titled “How to Recession-Proof Your Contact Center” leaders from some of the world’s most trusted brands shared a few of them:
“We’ve all learned that we can have [our] meetings virtually, and we don’t have to spend as much on airfare. So we’ll take things from those places and make sure that then we can reinvest into our workforce and have the staff there to support our members,” said Lisa Rivier, Senior Director, Operations and Strategy, AAA Mountain West Group.
Rivier also touched on the benefits of rolling out Contact Center Automation, and how their team has communicated the positives of the technology to agents:
Priority #3: Automating customer service processes
It’s no secret that Contact Center Automation is moving into the mainstream, and 52% list it as an immediate priority, with a striking 95% having either already adopted, implementing now, or planning to implement automation within the next year.
Automation is the ability to resolve customer support issues across voice, text, and web channels with natural-sounding, machine-driven conversations that understand complex customer requests.
“Automation has the power to transform the industry, as evidenced by the accelerated adoption of the technology,” said Gadi Shamia, CEO and co-founder at Replicant.
“More and more companies are using automation to address chronic agent shortages and lower costs, while allowing their live agents to focus on more challenging and interesting customer issues. This survey confirms what we’ve seen in the market, that automation, especially natural sounding voice automation that resolves customer challenges, will soon be standard in every contact center.”
Priority #4 Reducing costs
52% of Benchmark Report respondents list cost reduction as a top priority. In the face of consecutive down quarters in the US economy, many are bracing for a prolonged recession that could lead to lower budgets.
But following the playbook of many brands who found success during the 2009 recession, some leaders are taking the invest-and-save approach to cost reduction. “Self-funding” automation projects, for example, can foster customer loyalty while increasing profits.
And while hiring more agents may seem counterintuitive to cost reduction – with people often representing the highest cost of a contact center – a robust in-house workforce doesn’t have to mean inflated budgets.
Contact centers who leverage automation, for example, are able to eliminate expensive BPOs that often come with expensive premiums and overflow charges. They’re also able to decrease attrition and lower the rate of redundant training due to high turnover. In addition, deeper analytics can lead to a 59% reduction in operational costs and a 59.9% increase in productivity.
Priority #5: Upgrading technology
Just behind cost reduction is the priority of upgrading legacy contact center technology, with 51% citing the latter as top of mind.
Today, digital transformation in the contact center revolves largely around composability. Contact centers need solutions that can deploy easily, integrate across systems like CCaaS platforms and CRMs, and impact every channel. Respondents in the Benchmark Report feel that the voice channel has the highest value for automation and is also the highest priority target for implementing an automation solution. Additionally, results found that the usage of each channel does not mirror effectiveness.
It’s imperative that contact centers partner with automation solutions that deliver an omnichannel experience; one that connects and seamlessly switches customers between channels across touchpoints. 80% of leaders from contact centers with 1,000 or more agents, according to the report, believe delivering an omnichannel experience is important or very important.