Customers are no longer picking up the phone – what does this mean for the contact centre?

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It might sound crazy, but we in Britain collectively check our smartphones 1.1bn times per day! However, it seems that the British public have stopped using phones for what they were originally invented to do – making and receiving calls.

Chatting on the phone looks like it has become a thing of the past, with one in four adults never using their smartphone to make calls, instead using them for texting, social networking and apps.

Instead of potentially waiting in a call queue, many customers will now prefer to reach out via Twitter or web chat. Consumer behaviour is shifting away from voice and moving towards other channels like social media and messaging. Therefore, the contact centre has to adjust. Your customers expect to be able to get in touch with your business in the same way as they communicate with friends and family.

What does this mean for the future of the contact centre, many of whom are still using the standard inbound model?

Having a wide range of channels to offer customers makes your contact centre different to the rest – by helping to improve customer service. Allowing customers to choose the communication channel that they prefer enables them to reach out on their own terms rather than being restricted by limited channels that have been selected for them.

While it’s great to be able to instant chat and tweet customers, sometimes nothing compares to a phone call when you want to gain better insight into how a customer is feeling. Phone calls offer the ability to capture and explore enquiries in more detail and therefore are typically a higher quality interaction that can uncover much more valuable information than static messages could hope to achieve.

You can go above and beyond with your customer expectations and offer a more human experience by utilising the voice channel when it may not be expected. For example, if a customer sent an email as an initial enquiry; why not get one of your agents to respond to the customer in good time with an outbound call that could sort out the issue quicker. My line of thinking here is that just because customers are making and receiving fewer calls these days does not mean there’s no value in telephone contact, on the contrary, you’re more likely to stand out by doing so.

Getting hold of customers on the phone can be supported by software that uses intelligent retry strategies. By scheduling calls to a customer proactively based on the time and channel of their original contact, you get a significant improvement in connection rates. This isn’t about annoying the customer or bombarding them with calls but rather it’s a way of combining channels such as email/SMS/voice effectively and intelligently in a time and sequence (based on how and when they first contacted you) that will engender the best response.

It is absolutely imperative to ensure that all your channels are connected. The aim for any contact centre should be to make sure that agents have a single view of the customer and that contact can be tracked across any channel.

Software that allows you to ‘channel pivot’, switching individual customers from one mode of contact to another, will also help you to quickly direct customers to the most appropriate communication channel for their query. Customers should be able to contact you, using any channel you offer, without having to explain their issue from scratch each time. With a connected cloud service and CRM integration, this is possible.

The technology aside, you must ensure that your agents have effective training to manage communications on these new channels. There is no point in offering multiple channels if customers are left hanging around for responses or are passed on to channels they’d prefer not to use.

Click here to find out more about multichannel contact centre solutions.

David Ford
I am an experienced engineer, director and corporate adviser with focus on technology sector. I now work as the Managing Director of Magnetic North. Magnetic North is leading the contact centre in the cloud revolution by providing organisations of every size with a high-availability, secure, enterprise-class solution at a fraction of the cost of the cost of traditional systems, together with transparent pricing, out-of-the-box integration and continuous product innovation.

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