As part of Solutions Review’s Premium Content Series—a collection of contributed columns written by industry experts in maturing software categories—Ryan Studer, the VP of Product at Khoros, outlines some common contact center challenges companies can start solving today.
Customers often turn to digital contact centers when they’re vulnerable—when they need support, important product or service information, social validation, and more. When brands meet these customer needs with a positive, supportive contact center experience, customers are likelier to recommend the brand to friends and family. A positive contact center experience boosts brand affinity and creates lasting customer loyalty.
However, a negative experience with a digital contact center can permanently turn a customer off of your brand, especially if they feel the brand is untrustworthy. Gartner reports that 89 percent of customers will leave a brand that breaks their trust. Digital contact center leaders can’t take that risk, so looking for and shoring up weak spots is essential.
Digital contact center leaders report four pain points: increased customer inquiries coupled with staffing shortages, customer privacy concerns, increased customer expectations, and agent burnout. Though these contact center challenges aren’t uncommon, preparation and the right strategies can make solving them a straightforward endeavor. Below are four solutions to contact center challenges you can begin implementing today.
Pain Point #1: Staffing for Inquiry Spikes
Increasing staff to handle inquiry spikes might feel like the right solution. After all, many hands make light work. Hiring more staff only throws a Band-Aid at the problem—one that’s really going to hurt when you pull it off.
These new hires tend to only go to the departments that need them most. The resulting silos don’t effectively streamline the customer experience, frustrating both agencies and customers. Not only is this an inefficient strategy that develops silos and increases your budget, but it also creates repetition and roadblocks for customers and negatively impacts their experience with your brand. When customers contact a brand, they want to give their information and tell their story once, not repeatedly.
The Solution: Effective Digital Tools
Digital solutions that allow agents to see every channel in a single platform eliminate silos, thereby streamlining and improving the customer experience. When agents have a holistic view of a customer’s historical interactions with the brand, they can serve customers better and resolve issues faster, and customers don’t have to repeat themselves.
Other digital solutions, like AI chatbots and interactive voice response technology (IVR), improve the customer experience by helping customers resolve inquiries faster. These technologies support agents by handling simple, frequent customer questions, freeing up agents to help with complex issues. With this technology, your contact center can handle more volume without adding more staff.
Pain Point #2: Consumer Privacy Concerns
Privacy is increasingly important to consumers. Forrester predicts that many CX leaders will reevaluate their approaches to designing user experiences, with a focus on privacy and consent. Tech giants are taking steps to improve consumer privacy: Apple’s iOS updates allow users to choose what data apps can access, Google removed cookies from Chrome, and Facebook prevents tracking sensitive topics.
Digital contact center leaders also need to offer a secure experience for customers. Agents often handle customer credit card numbers, security numbers, account information, or other personally identifiable information (PII), and customers want to be assured their information is safe.
The Solution: Secure Communications
Security should be a top priority regardless of your customers’ comfort levels around privacy. Secure forms of communication, such as encrypted messengers and protected phone calls, keep information safe. It’s also crucial for employees to practice good cybersecurity hygiene by regularly looking for potential vulnerabilities and either limiting access to or not storing unnecessary PII.
Pain Point #3: Increased Customer Expectations
Customers (and agents) live through a time of increased stress: political unrest, supply chain issues, inflation, and an ongoing pandemic all mean tensions are high, and patience is minimal. Protecting your brand and agents is essential, as is ensuring a positive customer experience.
The Solution: Make Life Easy for Customers
While you might be unable to reduce prices or eliminate all delivery and process issues, your brand can support customers and agents by offering a seamless experience across the entire customer journey. Focus on three key strategies:
- Make your contact information accessible on your website and your brand’s Google Business listings. A digital community with a social response tree can also reduce the burden on your agents.
- Gather omnichannel data by listening across channels to understand how customers feel about their experience with your brand, as well as why they think the way they do. Aggregating call recordings, chat transcripts, emails, social media, web feedback, and other touchpoints all in one place underscores insights and actions agents can take.
- Analyze data and turn it into action by starting with quick wins and moving into long-term strategies. For example, if you find contact center agents offer refunds too quickly, adjust the call script first, then conduct a deep dive into the problems that lead to refund requests. From there, you can discover alternative ways agents can drive customer satisfaction aside from refunds.
Pain Point #4: Agent Burnout
Call centers are notorious for their turnover. After handling dozens or even hundreds of calls daily, agents get burnt out and seek other options. Or, they continue working, but their mental and physical health gets hampered. Either way, the customer experience suffers. One study found that 34 percent of an employee’s annual salary is lost to burnout.
The Solution: Spotting Signs of Burnout and Supporting Agents
Digital contact center leaders must be able to spot burnout so they can address it quickly. The World Health Organization defines burnout as: “A syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Employees who experience burnout feel depleted and exhausted and display feelings of mental distance from or negativity toward their jobs. Those feelings often result in poor experiences for your customers.
Agent burnout can be overcome with improved training materials and resources for agents. Giving agents more independence and offering perks and incentives for good work is another way to counter and prevent burnout. These solutions provide ample autonomy and support, even if an agent is working remotely.
Because contact centers are often the point of contact when customers are at their most vulnerable, they are a vital piece of the customer experience and, therefore, critical to a brand’s overall success. How contact centers operate is constantly evolving, and brands must keep pace with technological innovations and consumer preferences.
Keeping these four contact center challenges in mind—and using the above solutions to address them—will help your brand deliver the best possible end-to-end contact center experience for your customers.