Time to change the contact centre mindset
Contact centres. It’s an industry that commands a market size of £3bn and employs around 1.3 million people in the UK. If when you hear the words “contact centre”, the BBC programme “The Call Centre” comes to mind then it’s time to change your mindset.
The call centre to contact centre evolution
The days of huge call centres where hundreds of agents would make or take calls all day are long gone. The world has moved on - and so have contact centres. In the same way that mobile phones have moved from being the size of bricks just used for making calls, we’ve moved on from call centres simply used by businesses as a sales tool to sell a product or service, to sophisticated contact centres with much greater functionality and a wider role.
The dynamic has changed from contact centres existing simply as a sales function to being a crucial tool that enables the delivery of a better, enhanced customer experience. It’s a key component of an omnichannel customer service offering for any business, meaning customers can reach out to a business in whichever way suits them best.
Technology has underpinned the digital transformation of the contact centre to enance features such as skills-based routing, Automatic Call Distribution with customer-focused metrics, social media channels, the use of AI for customer self-service and workforce management. Contact centres have evolved from data driven to analytics driven processes, delivering not only a more efficient service, but a more personalised customer experience too.
Then came COVID
The pandemic threw a curve ball to the industry. The very nature of the contact centre environment where employees work in close proximity in open plan offices meant that contact centre staff had already experienced an increased risk of exposure to COVID. Then in the same way that businesses across most other sectors were forced to down tools and work from home, contact centres in their traditional form were also forced to close their doors when the country went into lockdown in March.
And some simply weren’t ready.
Like many other businesses, having a disaster recovery strategy in place that meant employees could leave the building and set up to work from home overnight was a “nice to have” contingency plan. In reality, many contact centres struggled, at a time when they were experiencing an unprecedented rise in demand. The vulnerabilities in the existing set up were laid bare: from stories of customers having to wait 3 hours to talk to their bank to Virgin Media contacting their 5.5 million broadband and cable customers to ask them not to call.
It’s time to change the mindset and think of a contact centre as key to enhancing the way you do business and how you serve your customers. We’d argue that any business that offers a service or a product in any sector - whether that be the likes of retail giants like Amazon, or high street banks, or even small businesses that simply need out of hours call answering - should have a contact centre in order to deliver the levels of customer service that customers have come to expect. At a time when holding on to a customer is more important than ever, contact centres should form an integral part of an enhanced customer service offering for your business, enabling customers to interact with you in a meaningful way, in the channel of their choice.
The future is now
We’re not out of the woods yet.
COVID has forced a change in buying and selling behaviour. Consumers are buying more online and with the most important shopping season for retailers on the horizon, how businesses deal with their customers is more important than ever. The “Will COVID steal Christmas” debate is already on. Throw in the potential of another national lockdown and the ability to weather the storm and come out the other side really is blown wide open.
Preparation is key.
The time has come for businesses to change their mindset about contact centres and embrace all they have to offer - not only from a disaster recovery angle but as a means by which they can potentially save money, and still deliver a better customer experience.
The Charterhouse Group is your consultative partner for contact centre technology, if you would like to know more please speak to one of our experts today.