• March 17, 2022
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Our New Normal Is a De-Centered Contact Center, CX Connect Speaker Stresses

Companies that continue to use the same customer service methods and applications that they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic will ultimately fail, the speaker at the opening session of CX Connect’s third day said emphatically.

“We are at a paradigm shift, an inflection point” in the pandemic’s aftermath, said David Funck, chief technology officer of Alvaria, a cloud contact center systems provider.

Contact centers will have to deal with a lot in the “next normal,” where the pace of change and the pace of innovation is changing rapidly, where remote working is here to stay, and where, even as offices reopen, nothing will be the same again, Funck said

“The pandemic showed us that we could work from home and still be productive,” he said, but even so, companies will face staffing crises as the Great Resignation and what Funck called the “Great Disengagement” takes hold.

Funck cited Alvaria research that found that only 15 percent of employees feel fully engaged at work, which has caused many to do what he called the “Great Reassessment.”

Current situations have caused many people “to reevaluate their priorities, and in so doing, many people—especially the younger generations—want jobs that fit their lives and are willing to sacrifice pay and advancement to get it, according to Funck. Companies can respond by paying more attention to what their contact center employees want and making their work life more engaging, he added

But even more pervasive of a trend was what Funck called the “De-centralization of the Call Center.”

“Work from home shifted the contact center forever,” he said, noting that contact centers were able to survive because of workforce management, cloud contact center, and other technological changes.

In this ‘decentered contact center, the boundaries of the contact center were expanded,” Funck said. But significant challenges remain and will have to be addressed.

As with all CRM issues, the key points focus on people, technology, and processes, he added.

On the people side, motivating and retaining the new generation of employees will be tough, and on the process and technology sides, it will be difficult to maintain efficiency and consistency without one central location.

“The challenges are very real and significant, but they are not insurmountable,” Funck said.     

The key to providing good customer service in this “next normal, de-centered contact center,” is to make everything as frictionless as possible, Funck said. This is especially true of the channels that companies offer for customers to reach out to them.

Not only will the new generation of customers demand their channels of choice, but they will require companies to keep up with the proliferation of channel choices, the shift away from voice as the leading channel, and an increase in the number of self-service options.

Frictionless customer service means quick and effective resolution of issues. And, if the issue resolution can be proactive, where the company reaches out to the customer to prevent a problem before it occurs, even better, Funck said.

Also key to surviving in this de-centered contact center world will be up-to-date and accurate customer data, engaged agents, and technologies fueled by artificial intelligence and machine learning, according to Funck.

Contact center agent motivation could involve something as simple as gamification, taking the data you have about agent and contact center performance and making it fun,” he said.

In the end, though, the key to it all is to offer customer service that is flexible, effective, seamless, and proactive. And then companies need to realize that “no contact center can be effective without engaged agents,” Funck said.

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