Consumer prices aren’t the only thing rising with inflation. Consumer expectations for customer service are also soaring.
During the pandemic, many in-person services were digitized. Consumers got used to accessing almost everything online whenever, wherever and however they wanted to. This new level of convenience sent their expectations for customer service sky-high.
In one global study, 72 per cent of consumers said they would likely stop doing business with a company after just one bad customer service experience. So much for second chances! In this digital age, customer experience (CX) is everything.
“Customer experience and customer journey, these are the ways you differentiate your business from the competition,” says Jon Arnold, principal at J Arnold & Associates, an independent technology research and consulting firm based in Toronto.
Arnold predicts that as companies continue to expand their digital offerings, consumer demand for better CX will escalate further.
“The digital consumer is way more savvy than the analog consumer, so their expectations are a lot higher now. They want richer experiences, they want personalized experiences, they want mobile, they want social channels,” he says.
To deliver these exceptional experiences through new CX channels, contact centers are adopting the cloud-based technology of contact-center-as-a-service (CCaaS).
New CX channels
Although the phone still reigns supreme among CX channels (51 per cent of consumers say they prefer to interact with contact centers by phone), a global survey suggests new channels are gaining ground, especially among younger people:
- while 11% of consumers aged 18 to 29 prefer to engage with contact centers over social media
- … only 1% of consumers aged 50+ prefer social media engagement
In the same global survey, younger people are also more likely to use virtual agents or chatbots, an even newer type of CX channel that harnesses artificial intelligence (AI) in the contact center:
- although 44% of consumers aged 18-29 use virtual agents and chatbots …
- … only 19% of consumers aged 65+ use them
Similarly, young consumers are more willing than seniors to try a video call, yet another new CX channel emerging in the contact center realm:
- 70% of consumers aged 18-29 are interested in a video call with a contact center …
- … but only 33% aged 65+ are willing to try video calls
It’s clear that consumers are embracing new CX channels like texting, social media, chatbots and video calls. Now they want contact centers to increase their own channel offerings for customer service and support. One research team found that contact centers with eight or more channels have significantly better CX ratings than those offering just four channels.
Omnichannel vs. multichannel CX
Simply adding more CX channels is a multichannel approach. But Arnold says today’s consumers want an omnichannel experience.
“The concept of omnichannel is more than just supporting different modes of communication like voice, text, video and mobile. It’s also about pulling in information from multiple channels within the organization so that everything isn’t siloed,” he says.
In an omnichannel model, the contact center’s communication channels, technology solutions and data are fully integrated to give agents a holistic view of each customer. Every agent can readily access real-time data from across the business (i.e., in-store, online, CRM, invoicing, payments, shipping, etc.) to provide each customer with a seamless, personalized CX every time they interact with the contact center.
“You can tell a customer ‘It looks like on your last visit to our store, you bought this product,’ and expand on it from there,” Arnold explains. “Now you have the (data-based) intelligence to talk to them at a different level. It’s personal, it’s what they really want. Agents can be empowered to do more than just solve problems. They can build that relationship and strengthen the brand by showing they really care about the customer.”
Arnold says the next wave of personalized CX for contact centers will be more proactive rather than reactive.
“Now we have enough intelligence about the customer to know their habits, to know their preferences. So we can actually anticipate problems before they come up. We can say ‘Your subscription is due in six months, if you renew now we’ll give you 10 per cent off your next purchase.’ This is where customer service interaction actually becomes a revenue generating, business building opportunity,” Arnold says.
Unfortunately, traditional contact center technology can’t adapt to these CX goals and needs.
“On-premises contact centers are kind of hidebound to these legacy systems that are complicated, expensive and inflexible,” Arnold says.
That’s why so many contact centers are adopting CCaaS.
Business benefits of CCaaS
In a CCaaS setup, the contact center subscribes to a fully integrated platform of cloud-based software applications for its main business functions. CCaaS software is installed, customized and upgraded in the cloud instead of on-premises. It can quickly be scaled up or down as business needs change, keeping operations agile and costs low. According to one study, CCaaS costs just $1,256 annually per agent compared with $2,104 for an on-prem contact center model.
No wonder CCaaS is gaining popularity, with more than 60 per cent of organizations adopting some form of CCaaS technology during the first year of the pandemic.
Let’s look at how CCaaS allows contact centers to deploy that omnichannel, personalized CX we talked about earlier.
How CCaaS improves CX
The limitations of traditional contact center infrastructure make it challenging to adopt and scale many of the newer CX channels and tools on-prem. In fact, some of the more sophisticated contact center solutions (with features like natural language processing, predictive analytics and customer sentiment analysis) are only available via the cloud.
Researchers found that on-prem contact centers offer an average of just 4.7 CX channels, much lower than the 6.3 CX channels provided by the average cloud-based contact center.
A cloud environment also makes it much easier and faster to integrate modern CX tools with the data and applications used by other departments in the business. Again, this kind of integration – across the business as well as within the contact center itself – is necessary to create a cohesive view of the customer and provide personalized, omnichannel CX.
As Arnold puts it, “customers want all these things that the traditional contact center was never built for.”
By contrast, CCaaS is built in the cloud to meet and exceed the CX expectations of customers today and tomorrow.
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