For the past decade, contact centers have been focused on cutting costs to keep bottom lines healthy – a support function, not a growth driver. But increasingly, due to the rise of digital-natives like Millennials and Generation Z, consumers are demanding that brands overhaul their approach to customer service and communication. Customers want to engage with organizations through the digital channels they love like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, or save time by using chatbots. As the frontline of any customer experience strategy, contact centers are now charged with leading the shift toward digital.
But becoming digital-first isn’t as simple as launching a chatbot or a Twitter handle for customer service. These channels need to work together seamlessly, allowing customers to move from one to another with the least amount of friction possible. While it might seem intimidating and complex, getting it right is the difference between captivating a customer and turning them off entirely. In fact, the latest NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark Study found that 93 percent of consumers want seamless omnichannel experiences, but are increasingly giving companies a poor rating on how they actually deliver it.
If you’re looking to develop a scalable, digital-first contact center strategy that fits individual business needs and addresses consumer demands, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Customers Love All Their Channels – Do You?
Being digital-first does not mean abandoning the usual hallmarks of customer service. In fact, live phone agents are a vital resource – especially in situations where the customer is dealing with highly complex issues, as 91% of all consumers prefer a live agent. But this average follows a downward trend if you look at generational preferences: 98% of the Silent Generation, 96% of Baby Boomers, 91% of Generation X, 86% of Millennials and 83% of Generation Z say they prefer a live agent. As younger generations and their preferences drive today’s trends, brands need to adopt a wider range of channel options.
While contact centers expand channel choice to meet customer expectations, they are also dealing with an exponentially growing volume of interactions as these additional channels are available to consumers right at their fingertips. Think of it this way: if you had a question about a return, and the brand didn’t respond to your tweet in a timely manner, why wouldn’t you also Facebook Message or email them to get a response? That’s three times as many interactions for a single issue compared to 10 years ago.
Contact centers need to be able to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by new channels and deliver a seamless digital-first omnichannel customer experience strategy. Text, social messaging, or even chatbots – digital isn’t replacing voice or vice-versa. All channels need to work together effortlessly to ensure customer inquiries are handled as quickly as possible.
Tap into your Agents
Millennials and Generation Z aren’t just your customers, they’re your employees. Millennials are already the largest generation in the workforce, and with the oldest members of Generation Z now joining the workforce, your agents know how customers want to engage perhaps better than anyone. As digital natives, they’re highly comfortable moving between channels and platforms as needed.
Therefore, contact centers need to tap their own digital native employees’ expertise in order to break down “phone agent” and “digital agent” silos. For example, the best trained and managed modern contact center agents should be able to manage 3-5 chats at a time, and transition to phone if a chat develops into a complex issue. That said, getting agents there requires the right technology. A modern cloud customer experience platform provides an easy-to-use, unified agent ecosystem that emphasizes the individual skills of each agent to maximizes their potential. True digital-first contact centers mirror the way real people communicate with each other each and every day.
Build a Business Case
Customer behavior is changing at an ever-quickening rate, and can sometimes be completely at odds with the way organizations approach customer service. Decision-makers are also grappling with the continued effects of digital transformation – every journey is unique. Therefore, collaboration and education across the C-suite for a flexible approach to CX needs to be continuous.
Keeping up with customers requires meeting them where they are and drawing a direct line to how that impacts business goals. In fact, most consumers agree they are willing to buy more products (87%) if they have an exceptional customer service experience and many are willing to recommend a company to others (81%) if they have an exceptional customer service experience. But it cuts both ways. If customers are trying to reach you via social channels and there’s no response or service, they’re likely to share that experience with their network – which has its own set of potentially negative financial consequences. Being digital-first isn’t just helping the contact center be more effective in serving customers, it enables the brand to stand out in an increasingly fierce competitive market.
Always Follow the Customer
Our research has found that 90 percent of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers more ways to communicate. These consumers span channels of every variety – so brands that foster relationships accordingly and build meaningful connections are poised to succeed. The essence of digital-first is mirroring the real-life ways people communicate with each other.