The Three Keys to an Agile Approach to Customer Experience

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted how contact center agents and customers interact, causing organizations to adapt their operations models. While every industry dealt with their own unique challenges, customer service organizations across the board faced a particularly difficult battle. As the pandemic caused a surge in customer interaction volume, with consumers looking for updates on things such as travel cancellations, contactless returns, requests for payment delays, and, of course, healthcare issues, organizations have had to ensure business continuity, positive customer experiences and employee engagement, all while enabling employees to work from home.

With so much uncertainty on when and if employees will return to their offices, organizations are finding themselves faced with the question of how to maintain and create extraordinary customer experiences in times of continued uncertainty, complexity, and change.

The answer is a new emphasis on an agile customer service approach. This type of flexible strategy enables organizations to change quickly, swiftly reinvent themselves, and succeed in a rapidly shifting, ambiguous and turbulent environment, while also preparing for a longer-term operational future where remote work will remain much more prevalent.

A Framework for Success

As the expectations of both customers and contact center employees become more complex, customer service organizations need to quickly adapt and move forward. To build an agile customer service organization that provides continual and positive experiences for customers and employees, organizations should focus on the following:

Creating a flexible cloud foundation that empowers rapid change, innovation, and smart digital first experiences

Organizations need to look to technology that can enable agile service, allowing them to respond to extreme changes in their service environments without disruption to the quality of experiences they provide. Migrating to cloud-native platforms drives speed, elasticity, and digital access, regardless of location. This enables organizations to extend contact center capabilities to any environment without hesitation, including agents working from home, in the office, or a flexible home/office approach. More importantly, cloud foundations allow organizations to quickly reinvent themselves and adapt their offerings to changing market dynamics and customer needs.

One industry vertical where this is more critical than ever is healthcare. Healthcare interaction volume has accelerated and is becoming highly unpredictable and more complex than ever as citizens try to locate information about COVID-19 testing, vaccine status, and their normal healthcare issues.

Another relevant vertical is banking, where customers require support to handle financial transactions in times of hardship. A cloud environment enables both these verticals to innovate and provide these services through digital channels regardless of the volumes and complexity.

Adding visibility and context to customer interactions using advanced analytics and AI for hyper personalized experiences

With increasing customer service volume, personalized service has never been more crucial. AI-driven analytics provides valuable insights to help organizations shift focus quickly by understanding interactions and predicting how realities may change, supporting agents through this time, and helping them to make more informed decisions. Organizations can leverage AI-driven analytics to gain insight into customer sentiment, interactions, and contact center processes, and then take data-driven actions and confidently adjust their customer experience approaches to meet the radically changing expectations of customers and employees.

With new customer needs being driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with agents working from home, AI enables organizations to quickly understand the root cause of customer issues and how agents are responding to them. It can then quickly identify gaps and suggest the appropriate agent training or process adjustments. For example, these insights can be used to understand employees working from home by analyzing their customer interactions. From this, they can uncover the drivers of customer satisfaction, such as customer sentiment and employee empathy, and how they might change over time.

Engaging the workforce through streamlining processes, automating guidance in real time, and creating persona-based employee experiences

The third pillar of an agile framework is focused on creating agility through automation. This makes employees true business partners by empowering and motivating them through attended automation that allows them to be more guided, efficient, and engaged from any location.

One example is providing employees with tools that guide them through critical processes and then sharing next-best actions. Another example is by automating mundane tasks so employees can concentrate on more important tasks requiring human judgment or empathy. In fact, according to the International Federation of Robotics, almost 70 percent of workers believe automation will help them qualify for more highly skilled work. This has a positive impact on employee engagement and work/life balance, which in turn directly impacts customer satisfaction.

The Future is Agile

The social and economic impacts of the pandemic will have a lasting effect on organizations, forcing them to adapt to this new reality in ways they never before imagined. However, organizations that manage their businesses with these three agile pillars in mind will be able to provide exceptional experiences to both customers and employees, regardless of what the future might bring.

Agility creates stability for organizations, serving as a foundation and a springboard for innovation and adaptation to external forces, while progressing forward. This allows service organizations to successfully handle uncertainty and be always ready for whatever comes next.

Aviad Abiri is vice president of portfolio marketing at NICE. For more than 20 years, he has been helping customer service organizations create exceptional customer and employee experiences, using advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, and cloud technologies. In his current role as head of portfolio marketing and enablement, he is responsible for NICE's customer engagement solutions messaging and vision, as well as portfolio sales enablement, ensuring sales executives have meaningful conversations with NICE customers.