The COVID lockdowns triggered an unprecedented demand for customer service, with both contact centres and digital channels seeing rapid growth. Tim Pickard, Chief Marketing Officer, Sabio Group discusses the changing landscape.
Indeed, demand for human reassurance across some sectors resulted in contact centre volumes leaping by as much as 50%, with many reporting no drop off as conditions eased.
At the same time, rates of digital adoption increased dramatically, with McKinsey reporting that the COVID-19 lockdowns have accelerated the digitisation of customer and supply chain interactions by some three to four years.
The result is that, for many organisations, the COVID response has moved them forward over a digital technology tipping point, transforming their operations forever – and driving unprecedented change in CX (customer experience) delivery.
While this digital transformation opens up huge opportunities for brands, it can also introduce significant challenges in terms of customer expectations, automation, support for contact centre advisors, and technology deployment. Key issues here include:
- AI & automation transforming the customer journey
- Customers requiring more joined-up service experiences
- Human advisors needing extra support
- Traditional contact centre technologies merging with the customer engagement centre market
Extending CX leadership beyond the contact centre
Instead of just focusing on traditional operational requirements, CX digital transformation projects typically have a much broader focus – extending beyond the contact centre to embrace all aspects of engagement. This requires a comprehensive view of the full customer journey, as well as the ability to collect deep granular insight into what’s actually driving the customer experience.
Three particular drivers – internal corporate evolution and the overall responsibility for CX initiatives, closer vendor integration, and increased technology convergence – are combining to help move the focus of CX beyond the contact centre to embrace the end-to-end customer journey.
Recognising CX’s expanded influence, it’s hardly surprising that many organisations are turning to executive roles with a wider brief to help drive the success of cross-departmental CX projects. Analyst firm Ventana Research suggests that by 2024, three out of four large enterprises will have executives such as a Chief Customer Officer or a Chief Experience Officer in place with full responsibility for customer experience.
These senior roles reflect the increasingly important role of CX as a differentiator, and acknowledge the value that transformational CX projects can have in helping to deliver business goals such as reducing customer churn and increasing customer spend. Given the importance of these goals, CCOs and CXOs simply can’t accept or afford any damaging disconnects within their customer journeys.
Inevitably this CX-driven leadership will start to have an impact on many of the operational silos and different stakeholders that can easily lead to disconnects within extended customer journeys. CCOs and CXOs understand the importance of different customer service perspectives, but they have to be subservient to corporate customer engagement needs.
At the end of the day, customers don’t really care who’s driving CX from a corporate perspective, they just want a consistently great experience whenever and however they get in touch.
Industry shift towards vendor convergence
CRM, AI & Automation, and contact centre technology vendors have always acknowledged the complementary adjacency of their respective technologies. However, the gulf between CRM software suites and traditional PBX and Automatic Call Distribution systems was previously seen as just too wide.
Lately, however, there have been clear signs that vendors themselves are looking to bridge the gap – not just via alliances but also through significant investments. When Genesys, a global cloud leader in customer experience orchestration, announced its recent $580 million funding round, it was significant that the round was led by Salesforce Ventures with support from ServiceNow Ventures and Zoom Video Communications.
The investment recognised that customer expectations continue to rise exponentially around personalised, empathetic and connected experiences, and that truly integrated digital and human experiences will require input and collaboration from multiple phases of the customer journey. Previously contact centre technology vendors felt that CRM, ITSM and enterprise vendors didn’t really understand the specific needs of the contact centre. However, there’s now a growing recognition that these disciplines are not only complementary but are all instrumental in addressing the ‘experience as a service’ market opportunity successfully.
Technology convergence accelerating at pace
For the last 20 years, most organisations’ experience of CRM and contact centre integration has involved little more than a basic screen popping customer phone numbers to the contact centre agent desktop for basic identification purposes. Hardly advanced, but actually proving very useful for both customers who felt recognised, and advisors who gained a start on their conversations. Add in another question to help confirm the customer’s identity quickly, and contact centres saved a lot of call time while also paving the way for a great interaction.
But customer expectations are increasing, and most CX teams know that basic CTI integration really isn’t good enough to support voice let alone the explosion of interactions across channels such as live chat, virtual assistants and knowledge-based bots. And with much of the simpler interactions now being handled by self-service channels, it’s certainly not enough to support the much more complex conversations that are already taking up more and more of a contact centre advisor’s time.
Delivering this kind of high-quality customer experience at scale has always been challenging. However, the convergence of more extended CX capabilities, CRM, AI & automation, and various contact centre technology is set to provide brands with the technologies and data insights that are needed to provide a unified, end-to-end customer engagement experience. And with the growth of CPaaS (communications platform as a service) technologies such as Twilio, we’re now seeing traditional silos break down as brands seek to unify customer experiences.
By providing a consistent set of APIs to support a broad range of customer journey touchpoints, as well as the ability to integrate customer-facing applications into existing enterprise workflows, there’s a real opportunity now to build enterprise-class, AI-enabled customer journeys at scale.
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