Digital transformation won't soon end the common use of annoying interactive voice response (IVR) technology to provide customer service, but a new survey by RingCentral claims it will make it much more likely the right human will be sitting at the end of the "press 2 now" process.
As part of an omnichannel customer support process, with web-based, app-based and traditional customer support options like 800 numbers, cloud-based call centers are taking hold because they enable more efficient and effective collaboration, according to "Contact Center 2.0: The Rise of Collaborative Contact Centers," written by Brian Solis of Altimeter. The report is based on a survey of 500 employees at companies in the US and UK who either have a formal contact center today or plan to introduce one.
The survey found 70% of those surveyed already have an official digital transformation strategy and that improving customer experience is one of the focal points of such a strategy, with 71% saying it was a priority, an equal number to those who cite integrating digital technology. Agility and empowering employees with the right tools were next in line at 50% and 46%.
Moving the contact center into the cloud is all part of this, says Max Ball, director of product marketing at RingCentral Inc. Moving a call center to the cloud lets companies more quickly break down barriers or silos within their operation so that customer service calls can be more rapidly funneled to the best place within a company.
"Companies are taking the flexibility of the cloud and the ability to do a cloud mash-up where I can take different products and start doing different things, behaving more like Uber or Airbnb," he says.
The on-demand, app-based world has trained consumers' expectations and traditional customer experience processes no longer meet changing needs, Ball notes. He cites one customer, Carvana, which sells used cars online. Most of the cars are delivered to the new owners, but some are dispensed through a "vending machine" process using large towers of cars distributed around the country. Buyers make a selection online and Carvana pays up to $200 to fly the buyer to a car lot to pick up their car. You can see video of the process here.
"What that led to was that when people have a logistical problem they've got the guy in the sales office that is their contact and guy is getting all these calls that have nothing to do with selling the car but are all about logistics," Ball says.
Carvana set up an intercept that asks the incoming caller what their problem is and then routes calls about logistical issues to the contact center while letting sales calls through to the sales team. Either way, there is a human involved at the other end, but it's a more appropriate human, he claims. And the information about the call is passed along with the call itself, so it doesn't have to be constantly restated.
"When I am forcing you to a machine, people get really crabby," Ball admits. "But when I am forcing you to another human, who can address the problem, they tend to take it better. Everyone who is involved is managed appropriately for their role and has to tools to be able to do what they are supposed to do."
A cloud-based contact center enables better collaboration because it can allow shared access to data so that contact center agents and others within an organization, including experts on specific problems, can use the same real-time tools to address customer concerns, according to Solis. Writing in the report, he says cloud-based call centers can better support the omnichannel solutions -- those that work across channels and devices including email, text, phone calls and social media -- so that both customers and employees can be comfortable with the tools in use because they are familiar.
"In the Carvana example, just because it is shared infrastructure, everybody in the company uses Salesforce and both the people in the contact center and the sales guy are going to get a screen pop when the call comes in, so everyone is going to know who is calling," Ball says. "The sales guy in the field is on a PBX [premises-based switch] so it's more simplistic but in the contact center, it can be very targeted, not only here's the customer, but here's the open ticket."
RingCentral's survey notes, however, that 62% of the companies surveyed still depend on premises-based solutions. That is beginning to change -- an almost equal number (61%) have at least started the process of shifting to the cloud or are planning to do so.
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