How cloud-based contact centres will ensure agents can work from anywhere
In the early stages of the COVID-19 lockdown, all attention was focused on how to implement business continuity plans to keep organisations up and running.
This included putting provisions in place to let staff members work from home with little notice, including contact centre agents. However, the solutions that kept the business running in those early stages may not be the same solutions required for long-term success in a changed business landscape, and cloud-based solutions are likely to dominate the future in which employees need to be able to work from anywhere.
The new reality is that people need to be able to work from anywhere without compromising productivity or security, and while delivering a consistent customer experience.
Many organisations are heading back to the office as the COVID-19 threat recedes, but there is no guarantee that there won't be a second wave of the virus, or another situation in which contact centre agents will need to be able to work from anywhere.
The future is likely to see a mix of work styles with many people preferring to continue working from home at least some of the time, split shifts in businesses to reduce crowding, and some workers going back to work full time. The challenge for contact centre businesses is how to deliver a consistent and engaging employee experience for all staff members, regardless of their location.
Cloud is the only infrastructure option that will deliver the kind of flexibility and agility required to deliver this experience. It improves the availability of applications and infrastructure, and removes the burden of management from the IT team.
Cloud-based infrastructure removes the need to spend large amounts of money on infrastructure in the office and in people's homes, should they choose to (or be required to) work from anywhere.
With a cloud-based environment, the physical location of staff members becomes irrelevant, as everyone can access the same systems and applications regardless of where they're sitting. This is important because customers interacting with the contact centre need to have a consistent experience regardless of whether the employee is in the office or working from home.
That means information must be available at the employee's fingertips, including knowledge bases, resources, colleagues, and coaches, and the business must be able to deliver a seamless experience.
Using a cloud-based system with voice, text, and desktop analytics capabilities drives detailed insights on what employees are doing, which systems they're accessing, and whether they're being productive or need additional training, for example. Artificial intelligence (AI)-based metrics can also be used to measure employee performance, not just in terms of traditional productivity metrics but also in terms of the impact of customer-centric behaviours.
When employees are at home, they don't have a manager sitting nearby who can help train and coach them, providing advice in real-time. Coaching can't leverage social capital built up when agents and coaches spend time face-to-face.
This is a key area that needs to be addressed. Workforce engagement and automated quality measurement solutions help enterprises identify the key improvement areas that need coaching.
With AI-based metrics, managers can see if agents are listening and being empathetic, if they're acknowledging loyalty, and if they're building strong relationships. This approach makes it easy to see which agents would benefit from additional training and which agents are the top performers. Gamification can help deepen employees' commitment to ongoing improvement. And, these same tools must be available to employees in the office to ensure consistency.
A cloud-based solution can also help technology-proof the contact centre so that it can continue to provide exceptional experiences even as technology evolves, without having to invest in expensive, monolithic, on-premise upgrades.
For example, the collaborative nature of work is expanding to include the customer. In this evolving field, cloud is the linchpin that makes collaboration, communication, and availability possible.
Some new employees may never have seen the office. Working from home for these people can mean that some things take twice as long.
A digital twin can act like a virtual assistant, walking these employees through customer interactions and letting them know the next best action, so that they can deliver a strong customer experience right from their first day. From monitoring employee desktop activity to automating mundane tasks, digital twins participate in every key activity in the employee's day.
As companies emerge into the changed business landscape, contact centre agents must be able to work from anywhere. They need to deliver outstanding and consistent customer experiences, empowered by the right coaching and incentives, and supported by technology that automates parts of the customer service task to free them up for more complex and high-value interactions.
Organisations may also have to consider how they integrate additional technologies into the contact centre, such as augmented and virtual reality, in a way that complies with industry regulation and best practice.
There are plenty of opportunities at the moment for savvy contact centre operators to reduce costs with a more geographically-dispersed workplace supported by cost-effective and highly secure cloud-based applications and systems.
Operators can do this while simultaneously improving the quality of the customer experience and deepening employee engagement, as long as they have the right tools.