Tips to Avoid Keeping Customer Experience at the Mercy of Legacy Infrastructure

While the basic tenets of customer service are everlasting, consumer expectations are not. As we make breakthrough forays into a customer-first dimension, evolving customer expectations coupled with complex interactions at every stage of the customer journey are pushing enterprises to shift from being customer-attentive to customer-committed.

The writing on the wall is clear: If companies do not improve their customer experiences, customers will just take their business elsewhere. The fact is that poor customer service is costing businesses more than $75 billion a year! Also, according to Gartner, artificial intelligence (AI) will be a mainstream customer experience investment in the next couple of years, with 47 percent of companies expected to use chatbots for customer care and 40 percent to deploy virtual assistants.

Companies must focus on innovating beyond the predictable product or service threshold and delivering a CX that truly differentiates. This brings the role played by contact centers with the integration of artificial intelligence and automation—the critical bridges between companies, the understanding of hidden intents, and customers—to the forefront. The failure of contact centers to provide seamless, contextual, immediate, and personalized experiences and service across customers' channels of choice could lead to significant customer churn. Transform your contact center from a cost to a strategic asset by transforming the CX.

So, what do customers want? There are three key expectations they have when it comes to contact centers:

  1. Prediction of needs and personalization of services: 84 percent of consumers state that being treated like a person, not a statistic, is the key to winning their business. In practice, this means that companies, and especially their contact center agents, need to have constant access to customers' entire interaction histories, analyses of their preferences, and key digital footprints and leverage these insights to offer stellar and tailored CX. Let's take the example of a frequent traveler who has Delta and Southwest Airlines gold memberships. He has to book a ticket to Florida from San Francisco on a United Airlines flight for time convenience. He calls the United contact center, and the agent gets a quick running analysis through AI and machine learning algorithms that the customer is a United Airlines blue member but holds gold memberships on other airlines. The agent treats him as a potential gold member and offers him attractive options.
  2. Omnichannel operability: Accustomed to channel and device hopping, consumers now expect seamless omnichannel services. Research from Salesforce shows that 75 percent of people expect similar experiences while engaging with companies through social media, mobile apps, or while interacting with actual people.
  3. Responsiveness: Immediacy is in demand. Customers will not tolerate long resolution times and want fast and accurate responses to their problems. Research states that 66 percent of consumers expect a same day response to their queries, and more than 40 percent expect a reply within the hour.

So why are traditional contact centers falling short?

The biggest challenge today is a lack of timely access to relevant data and the inability to derive real-time insights from it. Companies might have mobile apps and social media and brick-and-mortar presence, but these are often not integrated under a central CX umbrella and operate in silos. It's vital for contact center agents—humans or bots—to be able to reference customers' previous purchases, preferences, contacts, and complaints across channels and have a 360-degree customer view. Businesses need to provide exceptional CX through integrated interaction channels, including voice, email, and chat, powered by AI-enabled and contextual capabilities.

A Lack of cloud-based infrastructure and cognitive tools curtails companies' ability to integrate and analyze customer feedback and consumption patterns holistically. So, when customers approach contact centers, they find broken experiences and slow service. In addition, most companies still primarily depend on voice-centric contact centers, limiting customers' ability to reach out to them from a channel of their choice. Today's standard multi-choice menu options at the start of voice calls is very passé, and customers are often annoyed at having to identify and share their personal information to authenticate themselves each time they speak with an executive or log into a mobile app.

While there are several contact center solutions on the market offering omnichannel capabilities, cloud and managed solutions, and numerous AI tools providing dynamic, predictive analytics, they aren't meeting the needs of the modern enterprise. Companies need a single solution that does it all—a unified, ultra-agile, secure, omnichannel, cognitive, and end-to-end managed contact center solution.

Pioneers with proven market leadership are heralding cloud-based, AI-enabled contact centers that offer predictive analytics-based routing, leverage data across multiple systems, and apply predictive analytics to dynamically predict every customer's needs and map them to the agent best suited to address those needs. In these most advanced contact center environments, humans and AI work hand in hand. AI targets specific customer requests while simultaneously acting as an assistant to live agents, helping them optimize tasks and mine multiple data sources using live call transcripts. Gartner reports that 35 percent of contact center and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistants or chatbots across engagement channels this year.

Effortless engagement is crucial, not just between an agent and a customer, but also between departments and lines of business. Your contact center platform needs to enable seamless collaboration both internally and externally across multiple devices to allow your company to truly elevate the customer service you provide.

The call to action for companies is clear: Go digital or lose your market advantage. While upgrading legacy contact center infrastructure and incorporating digital tools might entail immediate costs, it will guarantee a tangible and appreciating ROI in the long term. The new frontier for enterprises is to develop an ultra-agile, high-performing contact center strategy and start using CX for competitive advantage.

Ankush Gangwani is director of business collaboration at Tata Communications.