COVID Spawned a Next-Gen Consumer, NICE Speakers Warn

For businesses facing the world after months of COVID-related shutdowns is like learning to walk all over again, Barry Cooper, president of NICE's workforce and customer experience group, told the virtual audience at the opening session of the second day of the NICE Interactions conference yesterday. "It will be extremely different from what it was before," he warned.

"This past year has been a crash course that has launched us into the post-virtual decade," said Paul Jarman, CEO of NICE CXone. "We all became next-gen customers with new needs, desires, and expectations."

NICE CX One, the company's cloud contact center solution, has added hundreds of new capabilities in just the past year alone to meet and exceed the needs of those next-gen consumers, Jarman added.

Though it started with Gen Z and then millennials, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed everyone to become a next-gen consumer, expecting to connect digitally.

"Next-gen consumers sometimes care as much about the experience itself as they do about the outcome," Jarman said. "They are disappointed if they don't see that same level of experience that they do in other areas. We expect the same level of experience with our bank or utility provider that we do with our online shopping."

For companies looking to serve those customers, ff there's a single theme, it's about making things easier, Jarman added.

"In our space, making things easier means giving consumers simple access to self-service with expert knowledge right at hand," Cooper said. "It means providing them with the ability to seamlessly elevate and connect with someone using their channel of choice and their time of choice and to make sure that every interaction with a bot or with a human being is always personalized and contextual."

Next-gen consumers also expect the same level of experience from service providers that they receive from friends and family, Jarman said. "Since they have more options than ever to choose from, it's our job to make this expectation a reality."

The organizations that have successfully transitioned to digital interactions have improved the customer experience, Jarman said. "However, for a next-gen consumer, there needs to be a new CX standard.

That new standard will require four key CX capabilities, Jarman added:

  • Full digital fluency;
  • AI everywhere with Enlighten AI (a NICE product);
  • Agile workforce engagement; and
  • A future-proof platform.

The Future of Contact Centers

The outlook for contact centers has never been better. As part of their digital transformation, companies are making major investments to enhance the customer experience and their own effectiveness. Artificial intelligence, automation, analytics, and cloud-based solutions are driving the innovation, according to Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting.

After the challenges of the pandemic, the world of service is emerging stronger, Fluss stated. "Contact centers have undergone more positive change in the last 15-18 months than in they did in the last five to 10 years. The innovations keep coming now that the executives see the benefits."

Contact centers need to deliver excellent customer experience, keeping in mind that what is excellent service to one customer is not necessarily excellent service to another customer.

"Due to the pandemic, many organizations have a smaller physical footprint," Fluss said. "Because of those changes, there's a need for simplified sales. You need to make your sales models a lot less complex than they were in the past."

When the pandemic hit, everything that could go digital did go digital, Fluss pointed out. On top of that, self-service is now the preferred mechanism for conducting business, regardless of the channel in which people start.

There's also been a shift to a flexible workforce, Fluss said. "Contact centers displayed amazing flexibility at the start of the pandemic. Employees expect organizations to be flexible and agile."

But agility is not the only A that contact centers will need to adopt to continue serving this new form of digital consumer. Fluss pointed to three other As that will be at center of the contact center world:

  • AI: In the past three years, AI has evolved from its very embryonic stages to a technology with many practical uses for the contact center.
  • Automation: Automation is the key to the success of a contact center, according to Fluss. Automation enables easy handling of basic actions for several needs, from compliance to next-best actions. "We can automate a lot of activities for our agents if we have the right technology to do so. Automation is not one-and-done. It goes on and on and on."
  • Analytics: Interaction analytics is one of the most exciting applications, according to Fluss. Even though contact center analytics is relatively old, the technology has advanced to the point that today it shows not only opportunities for better contact center performance, but also opportunities for the rest of the organization.

Improving Costs, Agent Productivity

As companies and customers alike have moved to more digital interactions, the volume of communications going through the contact center has grown like never before. But companies need to keep costs in check while handling that additional volume, meaning that agent productivity must increase.

Among the solutions some companies have used to handle this surge in contact center volume while also boosting satisfaction scores is NICE's CXone Agent for Salesforce.

With that solution, Mitchell Genex Coventry, a claims management solutions provider for the insurance industry, was able to slash costs by 64 percent, increase service-level agreement adherance by almost half, and boost customer satisfaction by 10 percent, according to Pauline Mulvey, its vice president of enterprise business technology,

NICE CXone provides a single agent interface, advanced routing, automated data synching, and a proactive outbound dialer.

"With contact centers, it's all about productive agents," Mulvey said. "The more productive I can make my agents, the happier they are. I want them to make it really easy for them to ramp up, understand what their job is, and how they can leverage the information provided to them. I also want to make sure that we are getting the customer to the right person the first time."

To have the most productive agents, contact centers need flexibility for varying needs, Mulvey said. She recommended the following

  • Only enable the technology features each team needs;
  • Automate scheduling and dialing;
  • Choose the caller identification type that best suits the contact center team's needs; and
  • Easily set up agents to work remotely.

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