The Contact Center Crisis: How to Deliver an Omni Channel Experience
by Andrew Easterling, on Oct 8, 2020 8:00:00 AM
Creating a differentiated experience requires you to surrender yourself, in a way, to understand how you’re going to delight every customer.
A customer typically only calls a contact center when something is not working, putting them in a less than stellar mood ahead of the call. Navigating long wait times and complex phone tree menus only perpetuates the situation. Once the customer connects with an agent, they may find themselves speaking to someone unequipped to handle their requests. This leads to a transfer, yet more waiting, and perhaps worst of all, the required listening to elevator jazz Muzak.
The employee experience of contact center agents is not much better. They spend hours a day using piecemeal software solutions to cobble together a customer resolution path to the best of their abilities. When speaking to a customer, they seldom have context into who is calling or why they are calling. They might not have a knowledge database nor insight into cases already opened for the customer readily available to properly answer questions. If an incident causes, say, a 10x increase in calls, they may spend hours repeating the same conversation and implementing the same ‘fix’ over and over again.
Of course, agents aren’t the only employees shortchanged by these antiquated systems. Managers also find themselves without the proper tools needed to do their jobs. They don’t have insight into the data needed to properly train employees, and they don’t have the ability to respond to new problems as they occur. Consider again an event like an email blast or marketing campaign which causes a 10x increase in calls, all related to the same issue. In a traditional system, a manager is limited in their ability to respond. They can’t rapidly bring in more agents to help field the calls, instantiate an Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot agent to deflect these calls or turn on more channels of support to allow multi-tasking from the already online agents. All they can do is have their agents ask customers to “please hold” as more Muzak plays.
How can you improve the contact center customer experience?
As it turns out, running a successful contact center is difficult when using traditional, on premise systems. On-premise contact centers are expensive and require technical experts to configure and maintain. The need to centralize employees in traditional contact centers means the contact center is less agile in response to unpredictable spikes in customer contacts. This is frustrating for customers and employees alike.
Furthermore, once configured, these systems are locked into specific hardware ecosystems. They don’t communicate or integrate with other systems. This inability to integrate leads to agents requiring a number of tools to complete their work. Worse still, the hodgepodge of systems required to fulfill all customer requests leads to the siloed transfer-heavy system to which we are all accustomed. Once an agent does receive a transfer, they often have lost the context/purpose of the call or, due to lack of integration between systems, must re-enter information already gathered from the customer.
Traditional contact centers are not truly omnichannel, indeed many only support a voice over phone channel. More and more, customers expect to be able to reach a company via text, online chat, and social media, and they’ll abandon companies where they cannot. In fact, “89% of consumers have switched to doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience.”
The frustrating employee experience brought about by toggling between an assortment of clunky old software to help disgruntled customers all day leads to high agent attrition, a common pain point for traditional contact centers. When asked about this issue, businesses “believe they set their employees up for success, an astonishing 84% of agents would disagree.”
Our Call to Action: Solve the Contact Center Customer Experience Crisis
Amazon Connect, coupled with ServiceNow, addresses the major pain points experienced in traditional contact centers. The solution can be set up in minutes, scales to your needs and is continuously updated to offer the latest technologies for customer service.
Out of the box, you get omni-channel support across browser, mobile chat, walk-up, and voice. The automations and resolution paths you configure for one channel, can automatically be applied to other channels with no additional work, transforming your antiquated contact center into a multi-channel contact center with very little effort. Better yet, customers can keep working with the same agent across channels, and their interaction history is preserved, eliminating the need to repeat themselves, enhancing customer experience and reducing resolution time. Built into the platform is a series of analytics and management tools that allow managers to respond proactively to new conditions as they arise. A 10x increase in calls can be identified quickly and AI and human agents can be brought online to ensure that both customers and employees have a positive experience.
All agent work can be accomplished within the ServiceNow agent workspace. When a phone call is routed to an agent, it appears directly within this workspace. When a customer needs to have a case or an incident opened, the agent can create one without having to change programs or even navigate away from their main view. If a transfer is necessary, the agent who receives the transfer can view all tickets created for that customer. Access to ServiceNow’s knowledge base means agents always have the most current and accurate information needed to help customers at their fingertips.
Leveraging the Power of AI to Deliver Customer Experiences
Amazon Connect with ServiceNow is AI-enabled by default, allowing agents to immediately use AI services to automate interactions and improve customer service. Using the artificial intelligence provided by AWS and ServiceNow, many cases can be resolved without agent interference. This allows for agents to work on more complicated and interesting issues instead of simply following the same routines all day. Customers benefit from the natural language understanding provided by Amazon Lex, so virtual agents interact using conversational terms across voice and chat, simplifying the handoff by providing context. AI can transcribe calls and show caller sentiment in real-time, and then mine your customer engagement data to surface insights and spot trends.
Speaking of the continued and inevitable growth of artificial intelligence, only a cloud-based contact center such as Amazon Connect with ServiceNow will be able to keep up with the ever-accelerating pace of innovation. As machine learning and artificial intelligence become smarter and more ingrained into your process, you’ll have automatic access to the cutting edge, no re-implementations required.
Our Evolving Work Environment in the Wake of COVID-19
Requiring employees to work in a centralized location is a relic of the past thanks to Amazon Connect with ServiceNow. Work has been trending towards remote and semi-remote workforces. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend and even after COVID is behind us many predict that workforces will continue to be remote. This relentless march towards remote workforces applies just as much to a contact center as to any other industry.
Due to COVID, current and potential employees all know that the work they do can be done from the comforts of their own homes and will begin to expect this. The remote workforce capabilities provided by Amazon Connect with ServiceNow can be parlayed with potential employees as a benefit. With the monitoring tools provided by Amazon Connect and ServiceNow, managers can still maintain the quality of their agents work as easily as if they were in the same building. Contact Lens for Amazon Connect is a set of machine learning capabilities integrated into Amazon Connect that allows contact center supervisors to better understand the sentiment, trends, and compliance risks of customer conversations to effectively train agents, replicate successful interactions, and identify crucial company and product feedback. Managers also benefit from the ability to rapidly bring agents online when needed using on-call systems which would be impractical in an on-prem employee system.
Empower Your Contact Center Agents
So, let’s imagine, one final time, a day at our contact center. Let’s say there has been a system outage, and suddenly calls are pouring in. When the customer calls, opens a chat, or texts, they are greeted with a message that the manager was able to configure immediately once ServiceNow alerted them that the system was down. The manager configured the message once, and it was applied across all channels. “We are aware of the issue and we are working to resolve it. Do you still need assistance?” this system will say over chat and voice. “Yes, that’s not why I’m calling, I’m calling to reactivate my account.” “Okay”, says the AI agent “one moment and I can help you with that.” After confirming the customers credentials the AI agent can automatically reactivate their account, no human intervention needed.
Meanwhile other agents, working from the comfort of their home, are fielding calls that do concern the downed system and for customers who prefer human interaction. As customers ask for details on when the system will be restored the agents have visibility into the problem “ticket” that was created in ServiceNow and its associated tasks. This allows the agents to give more detailed reports to the customers as they call in. “We’ve identified the problem and have an agent on the way to repair it” sounds a lot better than “I’m not sure what’s wrong, but we hope to have it repaired as soon as we can”. Once the field agent identifies the issue and gives an estimated repair time, the manager of the contact system easily updates the AI agent. The agent can now offer, “We are aware of the problem, the system is currently being repaired. Normal operations should resume by 10:45 EST”. Once this message is recorded the AI call deflection really kicks in and call volume returns to almost normal rates.
The ability for the manager to quickly see issues as they arise and respond to them, as well the ability for agents to have insight into the issue turned what would have been a chaotic, stress inducing, attrition generating event, into just another day. It’s thanks to Amazon Connect with ServiceNow that the employees at the contact center were empowered to do this.