Not long ago, if a customer wanted to contact you to sort out a problem, they’d make a phone call. But this is changing.

Let’s say you’ve sold someone a product that doesn’t work properly. In all likelihood, they aren’t the first person to encounter this issue, and it might well be something common that can be easily fixed.

That’s why increasing numbers of businesses are developing digital customer service channels like social media, web forms, virtual live chat agents, apps, or step-by-step online procedures that direct people to helpful information (like an FAQs page or video).

The latest research from Dimension Data found a clear move towards this kind of channel and away from more traditional interactions. In 2015, phone transactions handled by contact centres fell by 12%, but traffic increases were recorded across almost every digital channel. The report predicted that there would be more digital customer service interactions than voice interactions by the end of 2016.  

That’s hardly surprising. When people can get the help they want quickly and easily, it suits both the customer and the business. At the end of the day, they’d both rather be spending their time on something else.

The impact of contact centre automation on staff

But don’t think for one moment that the increasing automation of contact centres makes human contact less important. In fact, the opposite is true. In a report from Engage Business Media last year, one customer emphasised the importance of a human touch when describing a preferred organisation: “they listen, they are friendly, they have a sense of humour, they solve the problem in general at the first contact.”

So why is it so important for your contact centre staff to be at their very best? With routine tasks going through digital and automated contact centre channels, they’ll tend to be speaking with customers who have exhausted all their other options.

To handle complex enquiries that people haven’t been able to sort out online, staff will have to know their stuff. But it’s not just about technical expertise. Customers at this point may be feeling confused, frustrated or angry. Your team will need to be able to use draw on human intuition as well as analytical skills to get to the heart of the problem. All while showing the warmth and empathy that makes customers feel valued.

There may be fewer contact centre agents in future, but their role will be more important than ever.

Boosting morale through effective support

Finding, training and retaining people with the necessary range of skills for this kind of service isn’t easy. Companies that really want to transform their customer experience in a world of automated contact centres will still need to focus on staff.

Morale is a key issue. When people in your team are motivated, they’ll be better able to serve customers, offering the technical and emotional support they need. And that means that they’re more likely to want to carry on working for you, too. Reducing staff turnover will save you training and recruitment costs, and lead to a more stable and cohesive team.

So how can you keep your contact centre team happy? Communication, pay and conditions, and training are all important things to consider. You can also help people work in a more efficient, rewarding way by investing in the right technology. Unified agent desktops, for example, can provide a single customer view, an essential component of which is  an overview of the history of all customer interactions with your organisation. This supports agents as they manage the complex multi-channel interactions that are going to be increasingly commonplace. The unified agent desktop can also put a whole range of information at your advisers’ fingertips to help them deliver rapid resolutions and please your customers every time.

There’s no doubt that providing the right support to your contact centre team while keeping control of costs is a challenge. But the reward for companies that can get it right is the all-important, but disappointingly rare, loyal customer.

Key takeaways

Increasing levels of contact centre automation and digitisation make it quicker and easier for advisers and customers alike to get the help they want.

As routine tasks continue to go through digital and automated channels, the role of contact centre staff will change. Increasingly, they’ll be speaking with customers who have exhausted all other options.

Staff will need to be able to draw on technical expertise, as well as display the warmth and empathy that makes customers feel valued.

Finding, training and retaining people with the necessary range of skills for this kind of service isn’t easy. Companies that really want to transform their customer experience in a world of automated contact centres will need to provide the right support for their staff and may well have to pay a fair price for it.

Communication, pay and conditions, and training are all important for staff morale. You can also help people work in a more efficient, rewarding way by investing in the right technology.

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Organisation 3.0, Customer Experience