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2020 has seen call centers face the perfect storm.
Let’s start with the easy stuff, customer expectations have been rising dramatically in recent years, fuelled by the enhanced capability of new digital technologies. Put simply, customers have come to expect a better and faster service from the organizations they deal with, and they’re now wanting to call the shots on how business is conducted.
Any time, any day, any how
Customers now expect to be able to engage with your company using their preferred channel, any time or day of the week, and they assume you will have all the answers to their questions ready when they need them.
Being kept on hold and passed around various departments, with nothing but weak explanations to help them along the way, is no longer acceptable practice.
To meet these increased customer expectations, your business needs a unified communications system. This should extend all the way across your business and include the contact center, the main point of engagement for all those demanding customers.
Innovative call center technologies
We’ve also seen changes in the way contact centers operate. This is partly due to the launch of innovative technologies such as chatbots and artificial intelligence. Add an increased emphasis on employee engagement and wellbeing that has emerged during the lockdown, and it’s no wonder that forward-thinking operators have been quick to address new ideas and make positive preparations for the future.
This leads us neatly on to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has turned the world of contact centers upside down. With businesses forced into lockdown, along with everybody else, the challenge of operating an efficient and customer-friendly service suddenly took on epic new proportions.
Post-lockdown survey results
The effects of the lockdown were the subject of a recent survey conducted by Talkdesk, Contact Babel, Call North West and South West Contact Center forum who interviewed over a hundred leading contact center professionals. Among other things, the survey looked at how people had coped with the extreme disruption caused by the pandemic. They also sought expert opinions on what the industry might look like in 2021, when hopefully the main threat of Covid-19 will be behind us.
Working from home
With no other choice available for most organizations, homeworking became the big story as the pandemic took hold. According to the survey, 77% of contact centers had 50% or more of their employees working from home during the crisis.
That will probably come as no big surprise, but what might raise a few eyebrows is the news that home working is likely to become a lasting ‘thing’ going forward. 35% of respondents reckoned their contact centers will still be mainly homeworking in 2021. 58% of them shared the opinion that homeworking would be partly optional and partly compulsory.
There will, of course, be a price to pay for this upheaval, but most forward-thinking organizations merely think of the extra technology costs as a long-term investment that will help future-proof their business. (Besides, the extra spend will be met in many cases by reduced rents as businesses downsize their office space.)
Increasing investment in communication technologies
The survey also revealed that 79% of contact centers invested in employee communications, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, during the lockdown. But, perhaps even more telling, 40% said they were planning further investment in communications for remote workers in 2021. It seems there is already a widespread commitment to the new ways of working.
While technology issues have not been as big a problem for most contact centers during the current crisis as depleted staffing levels or operational problems, there are still one or two things that most businesses need to address.
Over-stretched contact centers
The survey left us in no doubt that managing contact volumes had been a ‘significant’ or ‘very significant’ problem, and this is not an issue that is likely to clear up any time soon. In fact, 21% of respondents believe that managing contact center volumes will be an even bigger problem next year.
It’s easy to understand why. With the ongoing requirement for social distancing, many contact centers are only working at 50% capacity. Yet the thinly-spread agents are facing the same number, and sometimes even a greater volume, of contacts than before.
In-queue call-back service
In the current climate, an in-queue call-back is something that is sure to appeal to many customers. Typically, between 30% and 50% of callers will accept a time-saving call back if the service is offered.
As well as offering an attractive benefit for customers, the service provides advantages for organizations too. It significantly reduces call abandonment rates and flattens call volumes to help you maximize the working capacity of your agents.
The Buzzeasy solution from Geomant is quick and simple to deploy. It comes with a long list of potential features that include in-queue call-back. Better still, this service is fully automated, so there’s no need to listen to voicemail or make any manual interventions.
Completely scalable, Buzzeasy provides a range of integrated cloud-based solutions that can be used in isolation, or combined, to deliver the highest levels of customer experience. Each solution is designed to complement, rather than replace, your existing systems and process.
Looking to the future
The future of contact centers is anything but certain. Whatever lies in wait for us around the next corner, there’s no doubt that, even when the threat of Covid-19 is eventually behind us, many aspects of working life will never return to the way they were.
When asked what the working environment would look like in 2021, 57% of Talkdesk’s survey respondents envisaged a socially-distanced contact center and 35% predicted more working from home. While there seemed to be some difference of opinion about how things might develop, an emphatic 89% of respondents agreed that Covid-19 has changed the contact center industry forever.
New business models will emerge
One thing is for certain: technology will continue to evolve and new business models will emerge. Many of these changes will have an impact on the way we design and operate the customer and employee experiences going forward.
Managed well, contact center in-queue call-back technology is just the job right now, but you’ll always need to keep an eye on how business, employee and customer needs change in the future. While there are no guarantees at a time like this, it’s the agile and forward-thinking businesses that are most likely to thrive in the months and years ahead.
If you would like to know more about how Geomant can help you implement a cost effective call-back solution download the information sheet.