There is significant reason for optimism as the post-COVID19 environment dawns. After all, the past two years have been challenging in all aspects. Now, with consumers more willing to spend their savings on goods and services than earlier in the course of the pandemic, enterprises face a heightened need for flawless CX execution.
However, the shift toward the post-pandemic world also carries several challenges that enterprise CX managers need to resolve. Increasing costs, a tight labor market, anemic contact center budgets, and growing technology demands – these realities mean running a customer management operation will be difficult, no matter the location or vertical market. For pragmatic executives, all options need to be on the table if they are to drive end-user loyalty as the global economy transitions beyond COVID19.
Growing evidence suggests that major demand markets are steadily moving to a post-COVID19 environment. Only time will tell to what extent the world will look like it did in early 2020. However, policy-makers are taking measures to gradually open economies, while also reducing safety protocols. This has many implications for the CX space. Among the most important include:
Resumption of consumer activity
As health regulations are eased, there is going to be a surge in customer buying. For example, the most recent economic forecast published by the IMF indicates that economic growth will surge at the end of 2021 and into 2022, then gradually return to pre-pandemic levels. This will mean more consumer activity across all sectors, including those badly hit during the pandemic, such as transportation, hospitality, leisure, events, and retail. No matter the industry, enterprises cannot afford to be caught out from a CX perspective. Rather, they need the capacity and tools to support what could be a very big surge in voice and digital interactions.
Quite possibly the biggest concern in the near-to-medium term for enterprise contact center decision-makers is the ongoing rise in operating expenses. Again, using the US as an example, the drop in unemployment is a certain driver for higher wages, as is an upward shift in minimum wage laws across many states. This is in addition to a growing trend of individuals choosing to quit their jobs. As a result, many businesses employing customer-facing staff are reporting chronic talent shortages, which is leading to reduced operating hours and in some cases closures of businesses. Sadly, contact centers are very much in the line of fire, with the net result being more pressure on existing agents, longer wait times for consumers, and poorer quality interactions.
The need for the best in CX technology
The reality of the post-pandemic period is that enterprises need to better understand and respond to their consumer bases than ever before. With a reprisal of commercial activity in the face of a tight labor market, it is paramount to leverage analytics and knowledge management tools to provide agents with the insight they need to exceed expectations. So too are the solutions that intelligently provide customer automated support, or the capacity to solve their own issues. Combined, the technology table stakes moving forward can only be described as complex. For many enterprises, it potentially could be too costly.
Limited enterprise capacity to invest in CX
Sadly, the reality for many captive contact centers is that their budgetary positions prevent strategic investment in customer management. This was quantified in the most recent Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office Omnibus Survey, which sounded the views of 628 enterprise contact center executives in North America, Australia, and Western Europe. Specifically, 3-in-5 enterprises indicated that their CX budgets would either stay flat or shrink going into 2022. Thus, for the majority of in-house contact centers, the ability to invest in people, processes, and technology looks out of reach.
This inability to invest should be a wake-up call for enterprise CX executives. Consumer activity will grow, which means higher demand for contact center services. Being able to finance the best in technology and talent will equate to satisfied and long-term customers. Not doing so will mean lost revenues and a sullied brand reputation, as customers find alternative businesses from which to buy goods and services.
To be clear, changes for the better in the global health situation spells opportunity for businesses across the vertical spectrum. However, these changes also promise disruption. In the CX space, these disruptions can be very difficult to manage, especially if an enterprise is ill-equipped to do so. To succeed, several different elements in the CX ecosystem need to be aligned, which include:
Quality Talent As A Differentiator
There is no substitute for quality on the front lines of a CX operation. A positive, energetic agent who is proactive in solving problems can cement relationships with customers. Sadly, for many enterprise contact centers, being able to find (and keep) this profile of agent is a major challenge, as is providing them with the requisite training required to keep their skills and knowledge sharp. The 2021 Front Office Omnibus Survey indicates that these two challenges are among the most pressing for captive operators. Thus, it is imperative to find a way to overcome the recruitment/retention/training obstacles to ensure the best people represent the client across voice and digital channels.
Using AI To The CX Advantage
Artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay in the contact center. Enterprise CX decision-makers recognize that this technology has groundbreaking potential for driving the best outcomes for consumers. According to the 2021 Front Office Omnibus Survey, more than 4-in-5 enterprise contact center managers anticipate a surge in demand for AI in the coming 12 months. Key components of the CX journey that can be augmented with a well-deployed AI platform include customer interaction interfaces, such as intelligent IVR, which can rapidly resolve basic inbound queries. Equally, self-service technologies that are AI-powered provide consumers the chance to find their own answers to questions, which increases customer satisfaction. However, despite the clear benefits that this technology offers, it will remain out of reach for budget-constrained captive contact centers.
Augmenting The Agent Experience For Better Outcomes
For agents to meet and exceed customer expectations, they need to have the right tools at their disposal. This means ensuring that customer-facing staff are well-trained with the use of the best simulation tools possible to replicate real-life situations. They also require the right knowledge base tools to help them understand the end-user’s relationship with the business, including buying history, previous interactions, and outstanding issues. In addition, agent-assist solutions to guide agents in positioning the right cross-sell and upsell opportunities is essential for revenue generation. Not only will these solutions help an agent do a better job, but it will also encourage front-line talent to remain in their roles longer, thereby increasing performance and reducing human resource costs related to recruitment and retention.
Working Arrangements In ‘The New Normal’
No one should be under the illusion that once the pandemic wanes, there will be a widespread return to the traditional contact center. In fact, all evidence points to the contrary. Research indicates a growing sentiment among employers and employees to perform more tasks from home in a post-COVID world. In the US alone, a study conducted earlier this year indicated that almost 9 in 10 employers would be using more home-working hybrid arrangements. This will almost certainly filter into the CX environment, especially as many agents have embraced the flexibility this model provides as a way of supporting end-users. And, as the new normal of working transcends borders, more remote working is likely to be taken on in those destinations where vaccination rates are significantly lower, and health safety remains a challenge.
Many organizations that face a crunch in resources with which to invest in their CX operations struggle to generate quality interactions. Without a team of well-trained agents that are equipped with the best in technology, the chances of securing the long-term business of consumers re-entering the market are limited, at best. This is why many choose to work with a third party to help ensure the best in customer management.
Engaging an outsourcer whose value proposition rests on quality provides an enterprise with the opportunity to work with a partner that is experienced in finding and training the best customer management talent. Equally, when working with the right outsourcing operator, there is the chance to access the best in cutting-edge CX technologies without the capital costs. Such a relationship also allows the enterprise the chance to focus on their core competencies, while allowing an experienced customer management provider the chance to cement long-term relationships.
The past two years have been unwieldy from a CX perspective, and no one should doubt that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. Enterprise customer experience decision-makers face tough choices in the coming months, as many attempt to reconcile growing demand for interactions with less money with which to invest strategically in their contact centers.
Clearly working with an outsourcer can bring a number of benefits to enterprises across verticals. This business model provides clients with experienced agent management processes, talent acquisition/retention, and access to the best in CX technology. In addition, partnering with a quality outsourcer is a cost-effective way of driving the best in customer experience. For cash-strapped enterprise contact center managers, a strategic relationship with an outsourcing partner could be the best way to navigate the opportunities in a post-pandemic world.
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