What does customer experience (CX) mean in 2021 and beyond? With consumers more technically-aware, digital tools will certainly have a key role to play. Indeed, with more options than ever for customers to contact businesses, from email and phone to newer services like chatbots and social media, organisations need to make sure they have a presence wherever their customers are.

However, the landscape has changed rapidly in recent times, and many customers have been exploring new ways of getting in touch with businesses. This means the contact centre needs to be agile enough to respond to these new demands and ensure that customers can receive the same high level of experience no matter how they choose to get in touch.

What’s more, businesses will increasingly have to achieve this with agents who may be working remotely, so quick and easy access to customer data will also be a must.

The rise of digital communications channels

Digital channels have seen a major boost in the last year. With the pandemic making in-person communications harder, and many consumers turning away from traditional channels such as voice under the assumption that they will be busy or understaffed as a result of the pandemic, a new range of connectivity tools have stepped up.

For example, research by Zendesk revealed messaging apps enjoyed a major boom in 2020, with 2.77 billion people around the globe using these to get in touch with companies. While most said they preferred embedded chat solutions within a company’s website or app, support requests placed over channels like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger spiked significantly during the pandemic.

Overall, the use of social messaging apps grew by 110 per cent in the last year, while SMS messaging was up by 75 per cent and in-app messaging increased by 36 per cent. This has driven a trend towards “conversational CX” that encourages “an ongoing dialogue between customer and company”, the research stated.

However, while the use of these apps may be suitable for basic queries, sometimes there’s no substitute for a live in-person discussion, be this by chat or voice. And in these circumstances, it’s vital that agents have all the information from previous interactions in front of them.

The need for an omnichannel contact centre approach

The first step for any contact centre in this environment will be ensuring it is offering the channels today’s users expect. But beyond this, you need to ensure any new options are fully integrated into their overall contact centre strategy, so they can handle consumers switching between channels at will.

This may require businesses to have a range of options for different customers. For example, some customers may turn to email or contact us forms as their first port of call if they have an issue, while younger Millennial and Generation Z customers who’ve grown up interacting with the internet primarily through social media may expect to simply tag a company in a tweet and get a swift response.

Regardless of how interactions start, the chances are an issue is likely to involve multiple channels before it is resolved. Indeed, according to figures from Ovum, the majority of customers believe it will take five or more interactions to solve a problem.

This is where the value of an effective omnichannel strategy comes in. But if this is not implemented properly, it’s also the part of the process where inefficiencies and frustrations are likely to be seen. Indeed, Zendesk’s research noted that most agents don’t have access to the most common types of customer data, such as recent orders, personal details or chat history.

Meeting customer expectations with a seamless experience

Customers moving from one channel to another can quickly become frustrated if they feel they have to start over again or repeat details they have already provided, whether they are moving to a completely new channel or to a different agent within the same channel.

For instance, going through multiple authentication steps can quickly become tedious, while if a person has to explain the problem they are having to new people, this greatly increases the time taken to resolve the issue and can leave customers feeling they are not being listened to.

To avoid these issues, it’s vital that the omnichannel process is as seamless as possible. For example, if a person has begun their journey using a chatbot, it’s essential that a human agent that steps in has immediate access to the entire conversation history so far, so there is no need for any repetition.

Similarly, if a consumer is getting in touch with a contact centre by phone from email communications, it’s hugely helpful for agents if they have the existing records at their fingertips, including the customer’s messages and any notes from other agents, so they can pick up from exactly where the customer left off.

This means integrating all channels into a single contact centre solution that allows for details to be easily recorded, shared and retrieved in an instant. Get this right and many of the frustrations that customers experience when contacting a business can be eased, and they will be able to seamlessly move between agents and channels without any disruption.

Find out more about the evolving expectations of customers and how to meet them in our new white paper.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2020 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness

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