What does the contact centre tech horizon look like and why should we be excited?
In February and March 2022 two more of the top 5 global tech’ giants joined Amazon and Microsoft by announcing their entry into the customer management and contact centre technology space. One of those giants was Meta, the other Google.
So, with the exception of Apple who remain firmly focused on the provision of stylish and functional computing and communication hardware as well as consumer payments services, four of the Big 5 global tech’ companies are now in a position to help organisations (irrespective of purpose, size or location) to directly support their customers.
For those of us who still remember copper wires and tin boxes with flashing lights, stored in purpose-built rooms with locked doors (usually propped open to keep the places cool), this year may well be remembered as the year that heralded the beginning of ‘the big change’. The moment when the planet's largest and most influential infrastructure, software and communication companies began the battle to manage and add value to the entire customer data journey.
Why do I think that?
Well, simply consider the global positioning of any of those big 5 tech’ giants in the customer management and contact centre space. The super mature Microsoft with its ever-evolving desktop applications, cloud infrastructure, messaging and communication platforms. Amazon providing global data services and from March 2017 has been offering its own successful CCaaS application. Then the new entrants. Google with their global cloud offering now with its own global comms and contact centre AI platform. We also have Meta, who, according to phone.com have provided the world’s top 4 downloaded apps of the last decade (Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram), arguably making them the world’s largest human interaction business, finally acquiring Kustomer, the successful contact centre desktop unification application.
Behind these giants there is also activity. The continued success of Twilio as a seamless global comms platform and customer engagement application builder. As well as the ambitious Zoom, having failed to acquire global UCaaS and CCaaS provider Five9 back on October last year, they launched their own contact centre application as soon as February, with a European launch planned for some time soon.
Whilst the beginning of ‘the big change’ may be super exciting for any organisation on the planet who has customers to manage, the business environment for the old tin box manufacturers and the world's established, historically copper based telco’s, the competitive environment looks just a little bit harder. In the context of ‘the big change’, what I read into that is innovation and change, certainly the prospect of collaboration and consolidation to deliver that. The collaboration plans of Genesys as a long-time global leader will be interesting to see play out, particularly with Zoom and Salesforce as investors in the Dec 2021 funding round.
Having lifted the bonnet of nearly 100 contact centre technology solutions and specialist applications since October 2019, when we began building the Contact Centre Panel Technology Network, we have seen some fantastic technologies and some great innovations. I am absolutely convinced we will continue to see more. We live in exciting times. Let’s see where ‘the big change’ takes us.
For the inside track on ‘the big change’ and what this means for your organisation, get in touch.
WhatsApp Business in the news
Creating frictionless CX in the contact centre.
The BBC recently reported something that to my mind had already happened a while back, making WhatsApp available to businesses so that they can interact with the customers.
Here’s a quote from the BBC article in which Meta chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, stated that the development would help companies customise their experience and that “The best business experiences meet people where they are,". He said at the announcement of the new service that “Already more than one billion users connect with a business account across our messaging services every week.”
So clearly customers are already using WhatsApp to engage with businesses, the change here is more about the “how”.
I do agree that customers want to be serviced where they are, the whole point of frictionless CX is making it easy and if I’m having other conversations in WhatsApp, then why not add another? The rules are clear, I must engage the company in the chat, they cannot engage me. The addition to a "Contact Us" page of a “WhatsApp Us” is a good way to support customers in that space.
From a delivery of service perspective, it can make the conversation harder as there is the asynchronous nature of a WhatsApp. As a customer I may start the chat now but not pick up the response for 3 hours, the conversation could continue for the best part of a week. This creates an interesting challenge for the business and the people within it though. Does it mean that multiple agents are going to interact with that supporter who could send messages across a timeframe that exceeds a shift or a working day? Contact centres have already been managing this situation for sure, but is the result an impact to efficiencies that servicing via WhatsApp is trying to achieve as another member of the team needs to familiarise themselves to respond to the last message? Or should we be setting a lower SLA on the follow up responses, seeing if the initial agent will be back to deal with it and leaving it for them to manage when back on shift?
I remember a time when first implementing e-mail solutions, in which trying to get the system to manage the stop and start of the clock to deal with e-mails "within the SLA” was a whole project strand. This would mean sometimes missing the reason behind the “customer” need and focusing too heavily on what the “client” had stipulated. The model was focused on one mail in and one mail out. Thankfully, technologies have moved forward now and the right blend of technology can ensure the initial phase of a conversation via messaging platforms can capture key information so the agent is best placed to resolve the query. For me, one of the best things with WhatsApp is the ability to switch from messaging to voice easily if needed all within the one channel.
'Meta Platforms Inc (including Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp) have over 3.6 billion active users.'
Energy contact centres’ perfect storm
Rising billing, growing fuel poverty and a new quarterly price cap update.
Just before revealing that the new domestic energy bill price cap in October would rise by another £800, on top of a near £700 increase in April, Ofgem said that it was ‘minded to’ change the frequency of the price cap setting. From October the price cap will be set quarterly, partly in the hope that when energy prices do eventually start to go down consumers will be able to benefit more quickly.
So, what does this mean for energy providers, which are already struggling with the consumer impacts of a massively challenged – and arguably dysfunctional - market and high contact volumes?
The cost centre
If you are responsible for an energy supplier’s contact centre you can forget about engaging in the old profit centre versus cost centre discussion. Your operation is now firmly in the cost centre category. The market is effectively dead, with little or no customer migration between suppliers and E.ON warning that 40% of its customers will be experiencing fuel poverty by the autumn.
The support centre
That level of financial exposure amongst consumers means that the high degree of vulnerability awareness that Ofgem has long required will only increase still further. Energy firms’ agents are right in the front-line of the cost-of-living crisis. An increasing proportion of contacts will be looking for support and enquiring about the suppliers’ own schemes as well as the growing range of government support measures. Keeping the front-line team resilient, protected and engaged is a massive challenge for contact centre leaders to add into the mix.
The Insight Centre
But – as we all know – there is one area in which the contact centre excels and that’s acting as the organisation’s ‘eyes and ears’, benefitting from thousands of interactions with customers every day. That insight might now be redundant from a customer acquisition and revenue generation perspective, but it’s more vital than ever when it comes to understanding the customer experience and reducing costs.
In most organisations, one of the biggest drivers of customer contact (and confusion) is the communications the organisation itself generates. With the price cap being adjusted every 3 months then it is almost inevitable that contacts will rise. And this is where the contact centre can really help.
A quarterly price cap will inevitably just put more strain on the contact centre and its staff, but if the rest of the organisation can be engaged it might just help spur some process and experience improvements along the way.
If you are facing these sorts of challenges, in the energy sector or elsewhere, and would like to talk them through, why not get in touch.
ISO – make it so?
Is it the right time to start looking at an ISO accreditation?
You might be thinking, that ISO thing I’ve heard so many people talking about, what is it? Is it worth it?
It’s a conversation I’ve had more than once over the past few months, so let’s explore further:
What is ISO certification?
In layman’s terms, this is the official approval to show that you comply to one of the many international ISO standards that are in place currently.
What does ISO cover?
There are many (and I mean many) different ISO standards available. Covering things from IT Security to Environmental Management.
Do I need to be ISO certified?
Simple answer is no, however, it does truly depend on your current circumstances and future objectives.
When should I be considering ISO certification?
Again, this really does depend on your current circumstances. Many organisations go for a certain ISO certification because their clients demand it of them, or it is required for a certain tender. Some organisations use it as a barometer of how well they are doing, and whether there are certain improvements they need to make.
If you are considering embarking on the ISO certification journey, we would suggest considering three key areas before setting off:
Be prepared to make a commercial commitment as part of the certification process and beyond. Whilst there will be an initial cost for the audit and award of the certificate, most businesses forget to track the cost of the internal resource they will need to engage with for preparation and delivery of the ISO accreditation.
Ensure that you book plenty of time in ahead of the audit date. Use this time to conduct a gap analysis against the standard, ensuring you cover all of the points ahead of the audit. You don’t want to go through this process more than once – it will cost you precious time and money.
3) Internal buy-in
There’s nothing more important than to ensure you have all key business stakeholders on-board before you set off. Some certifications, such as ISO9001 – Quality Management Systems, will touch upon all areas of the business. Delivering one, strong, united message across your business is pivotal.
Achieving certification may provide increased sales opportunities or identify risk/opportunities you were never aware of. All in all, the benefits that you gain will vary greatly depending on the ISO standard that you implement and the amount of effort you put into it.
Need a safe pair of hands as part of your ISO journey? Drop us a message via our contact form – we are here to help.
'Energy prices are expected to rise more than 50 percent in 2022 before easing in 2023 and 2024.'
The World Bank, 26 April 2022
Why consumer brands need to manage their Trustpilot reviews effectively
Trustpilot is the leading online global review platform, empowering consumers to make purchase decisions with absolute confidence using open and trusted buying information. Businesses can flourish by collecting, managing and responding to verified feedback that comes directly from the people who matter most—their customers.
A survey of consumers by Trustpilot found that 79% say that when a company responds to negative reviews and comments, it increases their trust in the brand. So, how can we work to ensure that we respond to every customer review effectively? And how can we learn more from the rich feedback that Trustpilot reviews provide?
Welcome to the innovators
Trustpilot now have a number of integration partners, such as Zendesk, Freshdesk and DigiDesk, all aiming to help you manage Trustpilot reviews more effectively. These SaaS tools provide real-time monitoring of reviews, with direct engagement through their platform to manage and respond to customer reviews like any other digital channel.
There are a range of benefits to these platforms:
Taking the next step
Obviously, the next step depends on whether you need to step up the management of your Trustpilot channel. But, whether you have a claimed or unclaimed profile and whether you have thousands of reviews or just a few hundred, they’re out there in the public domain and it may well be time to start managing your Trustpilot reviews more effectively!
If you want to set up a quick Webex to explore this area further, please contact us here.