Expert Advice on Improving Customer and Contact Centre Experience

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In early 2021 Carlos wrote series of articles around delivering customer experience through the contact centre, managing and leading remote teams, and preparing contact centres for the new age of hybrid work. In this video, Carlos rounds up those topics, looking back on the most important messages to come out of the series.

Hello, RingCentral community. I am Carlos Hidalgo, the founder and CEO of VisumCX, and I’m also proud to say that I’m a regular contributor to the RingCentral blog. Now what I want to do with this video is just give an overview of the various things that I talked about in my articles in the last quarter. If perhaps you missed an article – and why would you? – but if you did, hopefully this video gives you some insight into the things that I felt the RingCentral community needed to know.

No doubt, running a contact centre or running a remote workforce is difficult, and we know that the RingCentral products can make that easier for you. However, there’s also strategies that we need to consider to make sure that we are doing what is best for our customers. If you did read my articles, if you look through the different blog posts that I put out there this quarter, you saw a recurring theme. That recurring theme was human connection.

Of all the things that we have experienced in the pandemic over this last year is really our need for human connection, whether we’ve been working out of our put-together home offices or working with a contact centre. It is vitally important as human beings that we have connection to human beings, because that’s just how we’re fundamentally wired.

It’s one of the reasons why I started this quarter with a blog post dispelling the myth that the telephone was dead. To be clear, this was a myth that was on a TechCrunch article more than a decade ago, that the telephone is dead and we’re seeing Millennials prefer a different form of communication. When it comes to things that we are looking to do in the contact centre, there’s this idea that the telephone is dead, and the reality is: it’s not.

The reality is that whole thing is just a myth. We revisit that idea later in quarter with another article. What we want to understand is that sometimes people prefer the telephone because they want to talk to a human being. I am one of those people – sometimes if I have a quick answer, not so much – but if I have something that’s very in-depth, I do want to pick up the telephone and I want to hear a voice on the other end of the telephone that will reassure me.

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New research: Leading UK contact centres through change. Learn from the experiences of your peers. Read the report

Regardless if you are in the call centre management space, and you’re looking to deflect calls – I understand all the reasons for that – give your customers an option and make that option easy to find, if indeed they do prefer the telephone. That’s just giving them the option to make that human connection.

We then talked about the whole idea of building a human connection within the context of customer experience. Why do I talk about customer experience so often? It’s because I believe it is the new competitive differentiator for companies – and research would back me up.

I think a lot of companies are talking about how to do customer experience, but I don’t think they’re actually doing it well. I believe that the contact centre is kind of the ‘Ground Zero’ for developing a customer experience and giving your customers the experience that they need and want. I think we can do this in a number of ways.

Number one is empathy. As a customer, I want to know: does my vendor, the brand that I’m working with and giving my money to, do they understand me? Do they understand my problems? Just training our agents to be empathetic with our customers can bring that human connection and that human element to CX. Let’s just be human.

I was talking with a call centre agent literally last week, who said, “You know, if that person had just issued an apology, I think things would have gone better for you.” And they were right. I just wanted someone to act and be human, when I was frustrated with a circumstance that happened to me.

When we think about how to bring that human element into our CX strategy, within the the context of the contact centre, train our agents to be empathetic, and just let them be human. Let them have conversations; not everything needs to be scripted.

We then switch to talk about how CX starts with employee experience. So often in the clients that I work with, they want to develop this end-to-end customer strategy without any recognition on what it takes to build that employee experience. Here is why this is so important. If our contact centre agents do not understand and embody our brand promise, there is no way that they are going to be able to bring that to your customers.

We have to enable, equip and empower our call centre agents to deliver that experience. The way we do that best is by getting them engaged in that process. Go to them, ask them what they’re seeing, ask them what would help make their jobs better, ask them what they need to be enabled and what they need to be equipped and what they need to be empowered to deliver that experience.

One of the best ways to drive employee engagement is let them know they are appreciated. I’ve worked in businesses that have contact centres and call centres on the floor: it is a hard job. We know it is, and the turnover that we see in this space would give evidence to that. Let your agents know that you understand their job is difficult, you understand how pivotal and vital their job is to your brand. Let them know that you appreciate them and the efforts that they are putting forth on behalf of your business.

How to meet customer expectations, manage remote agents and set staff up for success.

Then I moved from CX to leadership. I believe one of the ways we can lead as brands and we can lead in the contact centre is by being human. Chatbots are great; if I want a quick answer to a question, I can type it in, boom, it’s great. Having a knowledge centre on your website is fantastic if I need something quick, but sometimes I just need to hear that voice. I need to be reassured that the person I am talking to understands my problems and is going to address my problems. That is how we can deliver leadership.

About the middle of the quarter, I took a little pivot and I started to talk about AI in the contact centre. However, I wasn’t ready to necessarily leave the whole idea of the human element theme. I talked about different ways we can use artificial intelligence in the contact centre to make us better from a brand level and how we relate to our customers. Number one, I’ve already referenced it: chat. If I need something quick, I expect fully that I can go to your site, I can click on ‘Support’ and I can do a very quick chat to find a simple answer to a very simple question.

Of course, we’re going to use AI for that – why wouldn’t we – but other things we can do include sentiment analysis. Think about having your agents involved in that phone call where they are getting real-time feedback into the sentiment of that caller. As an agent, I can adjust my conversation, I can pivot, I can become more human based on the feedback that I am getting. That for me is one of the most important uses of AI in the contact centre.

The third one that I talked about was call routing. Nobody likes to get caught in a phone tree. Nobody likes to play this routing game where I have to press multiple numbers multiple times, only to get to an agent to have to say, “Can you tell me what your problem is? Can you tell me who you are?” I’ve already done all that. Let’s use AI in a smart way to deliver a better experience in terms of routing calls to the right agent so our customers can get the answers they need.

Then we talked about how AI can improve CX as a whole. Of course, those three examples I just gave are going to help you deliver a better CX. Gartner talked about three areas: clarity, credibility, and confirmation. Those are the three things that drive CX over everything else. If you tuned into the webinar that we held in March, you saw me talk about those three things.

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New research: Leading UK contact centres through change. Learn from the experiences of your peers. Read the report

When we think about clarity and credibility, how can we use AI in our contact centres to deliver the right information to that agent in real time? Again, sentiment analysis plays a part, but also information on an account. The listening queue is where we are bringing that information back to that agent so they can manoeuvre it within that call to deliver the best outcome possible for our customers. Then the confirmation: we want to make sure that we are confirming what we heard, along with the follow-up path for our customers. If we can make sure that we provide clarity, credibility and confirmation in our call centre, and adopt AI to help drive that, we will be able to deliver a better experience.

One of the things I hear when I talk to people about deploying AI in their organisations is, “Oh, my word that cost.” I know if you’re a call centre manager or in leadership, the call centre is one of those places that we’re always always looking to drive our cost down and control our costs.

Number one, what we can do is provide multiple channels for our customers and how they can engage with us. Just a few moments ago, I talked about a knowledge base. 73% of customers expect that they can go to your website to solve their problems. I’m a consumer; the number of sites I can actually go to, to solve my problems are few and far between. It’s highly frustrating.

Provide that multi-channel approach, give your agents a unified communications platform, and put all of what they need in one place so they’re not jumping from screen to screen and making these calls or making these incidents longer. Reduce the first call time to resolution by giving agents that platform, so they have all the information in front of them.

Then, knowing our customers: we should know our customers almost better than they know themselves. What I find is that a lot of brands, even if they do that work of identifying those ideal profiles, and understanding the path, it doesn’t make its way down to the call centre agents. This is a huge problem, because now they’re limiting the ability they have to actually help.

As we talked about driving down costs, we also have to talk about what traps to avoid. Number one, avoid the shiny new object syndrome. I see this all the time. My entire career has been in marketing and sales and one of the things I see with so many of my counterparts is that they are constantly rushing to the new technology that comes out. Technology is only technology. For an end, to buy it simply for that, is not a strategy unto itself. It is there to enable a strategy.

Before you rush out and fall for the shiny new object, make sure you have a defined strategy. Don’t cut corners on CX. In the article I wrote, I told a story about an executive who asked me, “Can we kind of do a CX light?” There’s no CX light; you’re either in or you’re out. CX will actually help you drive revenue in your organisation.

Lastly, again, employee engagement: it is so critical. I believe the last stat I read was that on average, the call centre turns over 43% of their staff year over year, while the cost to onboard a new agent is somewhere in the range of US $10,000 to $20,000. That is a significant cost. If you can engage your employees, train them, give them a reason to do what they’re doing, along with a meaning behind that, you will see your retention scores move up considerably.

So that’s really in a nutshell, the last 15 minutes or so, what I wrote about. I strongly encourage you to go back and look at the articles that are on the blog. They will help you be better at how you’re managing your contact centre and they will give you insight into how to deliver a better customer experience and deliver that human connection with your customers. Thank you so much for being part of the RingCentral community and I’m looking forward to bringing you more relevant content in Q2.

Expert advice on how to meet customer expectations, manage remote employees and set agents up for success.
Carlos Hidalgo

Author

Carlos Hidalgo is a 25-year business veteran. Over the span of the last two plus decades, Hidalgo has held corporate roles, started his own entrepreneurial ventures and served in non-profits.

In addition to his various roles and business pursuits, Hidalgo is the author of two books Driving Demand, one of the Top 5 Marketing Books of all time according to Book Authority which was published in 2015 and The UnAmerican Dream which was published in 2019.

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