Contact Centers Add Technology but Still Fall Short

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Companies have discussed the need to improve the customer experience for some time, but in 2023 they continued to fail to deliver on that promise, according to a report from CCW Digital.

“For all the talk about competing on the customer experience, all the hype over the transformative potential of AI, and all the excitement over predictive intelligence, today’s experiences remain reactive, generic, inefficient, and unwelcoming,” CCW Digital concluded in its latest contact center report.

Less than 15 percent of consumers feel that companies are sufficiently personalizing customer interactions, according to study author Brian Cantor, managing director of CCW Digital’s customer management practice digital division. “The majority continue to endure long wait times on the phone while remaining wholly underwhelmed by AI-driven chatbots. Nearly 60 percent are facing undue difficulty getting refunds or make-goods when things go wrong.”

Only 4 percent of consumers think CX improved in 2023, according to the report.

“The typical customer experience has remained fragmented, inefficient, and inconsistent, and arguably even worsened, in the years since omnichannel became a popular term,” Cantor maintains. “By finally beginning to unify their channels, however, brands move closer to creating predictive, personalized, seamless customer journeys that foster long-term loyalty.”

Employee experience at contact centers also remains challenging, despite improvements that companies think they’ve made, according to Cantor.

A full 84 percent of contact center leaders think they markedly improved their approach to agent engagement over the past year. Other noteworthy improvement areas, according to the report, included collaboration with other departments (70 percent), cost management (70 percent), and omnichannel engagement (66 percent).

As part of their employee training efforts, contact center leaders plan to prioritize empathy and soft skills, complex product mastery, and personal career development. More than half (52 percent) expect to be able to increase employee retention in the coming years. Additionally, contact center leaders are most optimistic in their ability to better empower agents, reduce wait times, and strengthen proactive engagement.

Cantor adds that contact center leaders expect to empower agents to easily access the data and knowledge they need to deliver exceptional support. More than 41 percent feel this statement will definitely be true of their contact center in the next two years, while another 47 percent feel they will make some progress.

“Confidence in this goal is unsurprising given that agent training, knowledge management, and customer intelligence represent major investment priorities,” Cantor says.

Contact center technology continues to evolve, with contact centers investing in AI solutions, data protection, UX design, and case study evaluation, according to the report. “As web self-service becomes more prominent, contact center leaders will have to determine which issues are most suitable for chatbots to handle. Presently, the typical contact center leader is comfortable allowing customers to make appointments or process basic transactions in chatbots. There is less agreement, however, on whether these bots should be able to initiate account changes, issue refunds, or make exceptions to policies.”

Despite the advances in AI, web self-service, and other technologies, contact center leaders do not feel phone communication will fade away in the coming years.

Cantor adds that leading contact centers will continue to invest in innovation, even though 9 in 10 expect to undertake some cost-cutting measures in the next two years.

Nearly a third (31 percent) will make cuts across the board, while 34 percent will invest heavily in contact center operations but trim spending at the customer experience level. Roughly 23 percent will take the opposite approach, prioritizing customer experience while reducing internal costs.

“Contact center leaders can acknowledge their limitations,” Cantor says. “They can identify their solutions and priorities. They can account for complications and considerations. But the ultimate goal of these endeavors is not to win a participation trophy. It is not to show that they are taking customer- and agent-centricity seriously. It is to create a more robust, empowering, customer-centric operation. It is to create a contact center that is better in the future than it is in the present or was in the past.” 

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