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Current challenges and trends and their effects on contact centers

Recording, Cloud, Contact Center, Communication

At present, a telephone is still the most important communication channel, especially regarding sensitive or urgent matters. But of course, the digital transformation does not stop at telephone customer support – so what changes are contact centers facing? In an interview with Jacob Nimocks, Director Solutions Consulting at ASC Americas, he discusses trends and challenges and shows the importance of communication recording and analysis for contact centers.

Practical experience shows that calls do not decrease in volume. At the same time, the complexity of service requests on the phone is increasing. The majority of customer contacts are still made by a phone call. But more and more customers are also making use of new forms of contact such as social media, messaging apps, online or video chats, and are actively asking for them.

What is (inevitably) also changing in more and more contact centers is the view of the customer. While in the past, contact centers were primarily used to deal with customer problems as cost-effectively as possible, the new strategy is to no longer just react to problems, but to meet customer needs and ensure satisfaction. Excellent customer service and the need for quality assurance in customer service has become a key competitive factor!

At the same time, the technical framework is changing: New technologies offer the opportunity to make customer service even more efficient. There are many good ways to measure the quality of a service center and to measure agent performance accordingly. Jacob Nimocks, Director Solutions Consulting at ASC Americas in an interview about his experiences:

In your experience, what challenges do contact centers face today?

Many contact centers have to deal with a high employee turnover. If employees leave, a contact center has to first find new replacements, and second to train them. That is one big challenge. But we also come across contact centers that are lacking the right technology to do the work efficiently. Many processes are very complicated and include many steps which could be simplified into something a lot easier.

Right now, with all the health activity in the world regarding COVID-19, a current challenge is that more and more agents are going to work remote. Many contact centers are only experienced with local agents and the current events are forcing them to evolve. It is a challenge just being able to support those agents remotely for voice and screen recording, as the agents then have to handle their own network connection. It’s always a factor if their connection is good enough for screen recording and how the audio quality is going to be. There are definite complexities there when we look at agents that are being distributed and maybe handling some of their own troubleshooting and IT support on their personal computer or personal connection. The supervisors can still do all of their evaluation activities through the application, even though the worker that’s being recorded is not sitting next door at his or her desk. So, having the right software in place can definitely help meet the needs of the agents.

Then there’s the challenge of digital change with new technologies that a contact center should use in order to remain competitive. We see that regularly when we can provide a solution that helps simplify the process. The supervisors are more efficient and spend less time on doing the same task over and over. Also, technological progress, such as cloud-based customer centers, omnichannel or Artificial Intelligence are changing customer service and are becoming more and more important in order to stay competitive.

So, how are these technologies changing customer service?

Take Artificial Intelligence for example, which is becoming increasingly important in contact centers. The newer types of analytics solutions such as speech analytics use Artificial Intelligence in order to detect different words and generate the transcripts. From this perspective using Artificial Intelligence is very useful. There are also chatbots, which are getting more and more intelligent. They interact with the customer first and if the chatbot can't fully satisfy, it forwards it to an agent. In many cases, the chatbot can answer the questions and resolve the inquiry before it even gets to the agent. In addition, there's the ability to also have Artificial Intelligence help the agents during the call. In cases where they have live analytics of the audio during the call, the interface can pop up messages to the agents and give them advice how to answer the question - just based on the words that are being detected. There's some very good technology using Artificial Intelligence that I've seen demonstrated and it's going to start being more and more available.

What other trends in the contact center area are there?

Big data! Big data is less than a trend but a result of our digitized world. In contact centers, huge amounts of data are collected daily from diverse contact channels. This includes recordings of calls and screen activities, chats, SMS messages and other types of communication. A manual assessment of this volume is nearly impossible; however, the information is far too valuable to be ignored. After all, it comes directly from the customer and can be used for upselling or to improve the customer’s experience. So, for me Big data is the foundation for a lot of analytics trends. By means of sophisticated analyses, this data gives valuable insight into customer behavior and thus contributes to improving the customer experience, increasing efficiency, and revealing new revenue opportunities and business risks.

What role does the evaluation of recorded customer conversations play?

Solutions for speech and text analytics support contact center operators by comprehensively filtering incoming communications. Important information can be extracted on demand, and agents can be evaluated in a quicker and more effective manner. In addition, critical interactions can be automatically identified for immediate reaction. The Contact Center defines the content and timing of data to be analyzed. Thus, you can search for conversations belonging to a predefined category or containing specific words, phrases, or emotions. Analytics solutions can then structure the defined communications and return results by directly tagging them to each conversation.

Analyzing communication is also helpful when it comes to identifying trends. If you’re analyzing certain product names that the customers are calling about, and you notice one week that there are more people calling about this product name than they do for another, you can analyze if there is a problem with these products and if the customers are asking for support. But it certainly depends on the type of industry. In the healthcare industry for example, you could associate certain words and phrases with certain symptoms. So, you could see if more people with certain symptoms are calling. In this case you would really need to analyze everything and then have the right tools in place where we know what we are looking for and then we will identify those trends.

What effect do analytics solutions have on customer service and customer experience?

Consumers' expectations regarding customer service continue to grow. They expect short waiting times, first-call resolution, and technically competent agents with high communicative competence. To meet these high demands, agents must continuously develop their skills. With integrated analytics and eLearning solutions contact center can make sure that the agents really take what they know and apply it properly to the conversation. They can determine each agent’s knowledge on an ongoing basis while simultaneously offering convenient training options. Contact center can compare and contrast different groups and agents and get a sense of where they need some training efforts. If they can see that everyone’s having trouble in this one skill group that is on the evaluation, then the contact center can decide to just have a training session for everybody to help improve their skills in one area or another. Having all that data combined from not just evaluations of one agent, but multiple evaluations of all the agents, you can see how those metrics might change over time. And hopefully, after the training is done, they can see in the following weeks that the results are improving in the specified area.

An integrated eLearning solution allows coaching unconstrained by space or time, thus accelerating the trend to a virtual contact center and fostering a constant process of improvement. These solutions provide users with measurable results about each agent’s performance and development as well as suggested actions to improve their skills in a timely and inexpensive manner, without the inconvenience of classroom sessions. And when the performance of the agents increase, customer satisfaction will also improve.

You do work a lot with partnerships. What do you offer these partners?

Let´s take for example our partnership with Mitel. The Mitel partnership is global, and our recording and analytics solutions are integral components of the Mitel Workforce Optimization (WFO) Suite. The joint solution includes interactive voice and screen recording, speech and desktop analytics, quality management, coaching and e-learning functions on Mitel communication platforms. The entire offering is available both as a service from the cloud and as an on-premise solution and is supported by MiCloud Flex. This enables contact center managers to elevate customer experiences and increase staff productivity. With the ability to resolve customer calls more quickly, businesses can improve satisfaction and net promoter scores and deepen customer loyalty.

We've been working closely over the last few years helping with their higher-end and more complex deployments. Together we've had great success recently with many large installations, large hospitals, different financial institutions, and with many smaller installations as well. We work with them to present demonstrations for the customers, to help them with designing the solutions, and with the ongoing support as well. There has definitely been a learning process and they're getting more and more involved as well.

What are key aspects for a good recording and analytics solution?

That’s a good question (laughs). I think a good aspect would be if it was easy to install and to implement in the existing environment. This is definitely an important factor. The ease of use for the end user such as supervisors or administration teams is also important. Having an intuitive interface that will let them quickly access the information they need - whether it's searching for calls, running some reports, or finding all of the analytics information.

Of course, pricing is always an important factor, too. You could have the best solution, but if it's more expensive than anybody else's, it might be challenging to get it out there. We're always trying to make sure we're competitive and have the better features and better price compared to the other solutions that are being offered.

And then support is always important as well. We've had the feedback many times that our support keeps us active in the customer's mind. That we're there, we're helping. The way we interact and how we handle our ongoing support is important. Are we responsive? Do we offer solutions? Are we working with them to navigate through any bug fixes or troubleshooting scenarios? If your ongoing support and your customer engagement after the sale is not there, then it's not going to leave a good impression and the customer may consider other solutions. We have customers who have been with us for over 10 years or more, just because we have this good relationship, constant support, and communication.

Jacob Nimocks
Director Solutions Consulting ASC Americas

Jacob Nimocks is Director Solutions Consulting at ASC Americas. He has been with ASC since November 2012. His focus is on the expansion of business in the United States by marketing solutions for voice recording quality management and analysis.