The last few years have seen a dramatic change in work processes, driven by the need to provide access to business enterprise systems and data in an agile remote environment. This has created an acceleration of cloud computing and SaaS deployments, including Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS). However, remote work is only one reason to deploy services in the cloud. Cloud deployments create an opportunity to rework business processes and provide personalized customer experiences (CX) and empowered, fulfilling employee experiences (EX).
The Migration to Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS)
The year 2020 created a great change in the approach to managing employees in the enterprise, albeit with a single goal in mind; giving employees the capability to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns. Many companies that had previously rejected remote work policies were forced to quickly regroup to accommodate the crisis. Cloud contact centers quickly supplemented or replaced on-premises enterprise systems, and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) become the preferred method of deployment by the end of the year. Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for the CCaaS landscape showed that by 2022, CCaaS would become the preferred model of adoption for 50% of all contact centers. This was a significant increase from only 10% in 2019.
This accelerated the growing trend towards CCaaS, but the business drivers were primarily reactive rather than creative. This is understandable. Due to the immediate need to accommodate remote work, most CCaaS deployments were simplified replications of the on-premises solutions. It was not a time to re-invent workflows, and if a company could come close to achieving feature parity to what they had on-site, then the immediate mission was accomplished.
Changing Priorities from 2020 to 2023
Enterprises rushed to CCaaS platforms in 2020 just to enable remote work, but in 2023, they are sticking with it. More than 70% of organizations said their agents would continue to work from home at least part-time, according to survey results by Metrigy Research. Much of that sentiment is due to the current focus on employee retention and employee comfort levels in returning to work, but forward-thinking organizations are looking beyond remote work as the potential for CCaaS. These companies see it as an enabling technology for a new phase of innovation. Gartner projects a 29% CCaaS annual growth rate, reaching $17.9 billion by 2024. This projection is not based solely on enabling remote agents. Enterprises will adopt more expansive capabilities including multichannel, AI, analytics and agent engagement. Gartner’s global survey of 2,203 CIOs, representing $322 billion in IT spending revealed that the top two business objectives were to improve operational excellence (53%) and improve customer or citizen experience (45%). Top areas of financial investment for 2023 included cyber and information security (66%), business intelligence/data analytics (55%), and cloud platforms (50%). Lower scores for investment included 32% for artificial intelligence (AI) and 24% for hyper-automation.
UCaaS/CCaaS to Maintain Status Quo, or to Innovate?
The CIO survey from Gartner also reveals a potential gap between CIO priorities and investment. The lowest levels of investment were in AI and hyper-automation, but these are the most promising enablers for the highest priority goals of “improving operational excellence” and “improving customer or citizen experience.” This gap makes it worthwhile to examine both the value proposition of AI and hyper-automation, as well as the hesitancy to make the investment.
There are two mindsets towards CCaaS (and Software as a Service overall). If an organization views its technology portfolio as a liability and sees efforts towards managing it as a diversion from the core company mission, that organization is likely to adopt a “set it and forget it” approach to CCaaS. The objective may be to get the IT Department out of the business of maintaining telephony and managing all aspects of a contact center platform. This is indeed an attainable goal with CCaaS, but there is a missed opportunity to innovate business processes at a speed that was not possible with an on-site solution.
For example, an on-site contact center solution might require:
- Multiple VMs for telephony
- Telco interfaces and Gateways
- Servers for reporting and workforce management
- Gateways, and specialized VMs for diverse channels, CTI or Natural Language Processing.
On-site technology makes the entry point for innovation on-site very costly to scale solutions, to experiment, or to pivot based on evolving contact center needs and interactions. It is no wonder that Enterprise IT may see this as a liability and dread every request for a new channel or feature. CCaaS and cloud technologies not only eliminate the extraneous resources required to maintain the platform, but also remove barriers to innovation by making advanced features available at any scale. Your organization has a choice to either “set it and forget it” or to leverage CCaaS agility to reinvent the customer experience.
Is Customer Experience Part of Your Brand?
Forrester Research states that “Devoted customers will pay 50% to 200% more to stay with your brand. Inspiring and maintaining such loyalty requires your organization to master the discipline of customer experience (CX), which necessitates a shift from the ‘quick fix’ mentality to a continuous transformational effort.” This along with Forrester’s parallel prediction that “The skills shortage will contribute to an erosion of CX differentiation in three-fourths of industries. The range between the best and worst CX in these industries will narrow — 25% of below-average brands will improve, while 50% of above-average brands will either decline or stagnate.”
CX as a brand differentiator is no longer limited to the specialized retail and personal services that we commonly associate with high quality customer care. Whether it is online retail, insurance, finance, and even non-profits, consumers and businesses can now seek out CX as a commodity. Forrester’s predicted skills shortage makes the issue harder to resolve than just increased staff and training.
A public relations department responsible for an organization’s brand may imagine that some viral social media post about a bad customer experience, or a former employee complaining about working conditions as their worst PR nightmare, but outspoken complaints like those are usually the exceptions. Subtler but longer-term damage comes from unspoken, mediocre CX and EX experiences. It is the customers who did not complain but were drawn to a competitor by the promise of a better experience or better price. It is the employees who do not complain but who would also never refer a friend or former classmate for a job interview. There is an obligation for technology decision-makers to provide leadership at this critical juncture. The “set it and forget it” approach will not create differentiating customer and employee experiences, and will not contribute to elevating the brand.
Using Data to Drive Customer Experience
Most contact centers have been developed as Channel Driven Contact Centers (Figure 1). The solution is designed to accept multiple predicted communication channels and to offer a caller self-service or the most skilled agent. A good solution architect will put a lot of care into designing user-friendly menus, determining IVR call flow and agent groups, and predicting volume and resources needed for each supported channel. Still, once the solution is deployed, data from the customers, data about the organization and changes in product data have no influence on call flow or customer options. Updates in products, business situations and markets must be analyzed and responded to by redesigning or optimizing the contact center. As mentioned earlier, this architecture can be easily replicated in a typical CCaaS solution.
Figure 1: Channel Driven Contact Center
With CCaaS, this is not the only way to design a multichannel contact center. The interfaces that are possible with CCaaS enable the solution architect to design with a new mindset. Instead of a Channel Driven Contact Center, the system can be designed as an Information Driven Contact Center (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Information Driven Contact Center
Your organization has a valuable corporate ontology (a domain of knowledge about your organization, including terms, acronyms, products, etc. and the relationships between each of them) even if you are not using it formally. To the extent that you can organize this information, it can be leveraged in multiple ways. In the contact center, you can look at how your organization is supported by this information (How can we use our data?), and what your customers need or want from the information (What do our customers need?). Examples of how the organization uses the information include: training, looking up customer records, reporting, and agent knowledgebases. Customers also want access to parts of this data. This can include product data, account balances, schedules, order status; most people familiar with your organization can probably come up with extensive examples from memory!
When an organization commits to building customer service and employee experience around this concept (What data do we have? How can we use our data? What do our customers need?) it creates new opportunities to improve both CX and EX. With CCaaS, it can be approached incrementally by integrating data from other cloud services.
An Easy Win; Start with the User Interface
Asking the question, “What do our customers need?” is the first step in designing the user interface in an information driven contact center. Genesys Cloud CX includes tools that help facilitate this task. Genesys Intent miner analyzes chat, message, and transcripts, or recordings and creates analytics that enable administrators and contact center managers to apply data that enhances the customer experience. Even if you have no historical data from Genesys, you can format and import external data and transcripts from other sources. Commonly recurring intents allow you to identify opportunities for customer self-service. Self-service options can then be deployed in both chatbot format or interactive speech menus. There are many cases where customers prefer the convenience of self-service over waiting for a live agent. We all take it for granted that simple transactions such as checking account balances or checking an order status are usually available 27/7 as a self-service option.
We can create an even better customer experience with Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR). ASR systems must do two things; they must have both good hearing and a good understanding of what the caller is saying. It’s easy for ASR to have good hearing, but understanding is equally important. A good example is the phrase “You sold me a lemon,” which has a completely different context depending on whether the ASR system belongs to a grocery store or a car dealership! To help with good understanding, Genesys Cloud CX includes Topic miner. Like Intent miner, Topic miner can analyze the same conversational datasets and identify phrases that match topics in the context of your organization. Your speech recognition will be trained to match the corporate domain of knowledge. When the car dealership’s ASR hears “You sold me a lemon,” it will not reply with “I hope you enjoy it” and won’t offer the caller a delicious pie recipe!
Creating a Better Employee Experience
When you have identified intent and created appropriate self-service paths, it changes the dynamic of your live agent call center. You have removed the repetitive, tedious, easy-to-handle calls. Typically, the remaining calls are more complex and involve a longer talk time. How empowered employees are to handle these calls can differentiate their own employee experience (EX). If they take complex calls all day that require placing customers on hold while consulting third parties or researching issues, it can lead to employee frustration. If they can easily help customers and directly handle most of the calls, the variety of requests can make their job more interesting and satisfying.
With the Information Driven Contact Center design approach, it is once again time to look at your corporate knowledge domain and ask, “How can we use our data?” Genesys Cloud CX offers several ways to leverage data to support your agents, including its own Agent Assist application. Agent Assist will surface information based on chat content to help agents to quickly resolve issues and answer questions. Genesys also supports integration with Google CCAI’s Agent Assist for knowledgebase support from speech transcription. Agents can use Agent Assist Google CCAI to get real-time transcriptions of live calls and suggestions based on the current conversation. Administrators can easily configure and deploy a standardized implementation of the Agent Assist Google CCAI integration in the admin pages of Genesys Cloud CX.
Eliminating Boundaries with the Right CCaaS Solution
An enterprise has so many sources of information that can support both CX and EX. It is important to select a CCaaS solution that eliminates boundaries rather than creating them. Your organization should be able to leverage data across any channel, providing and advantage to both employees and customers in finding the information that they need. Genesys Cloud CX is a great option for creating a fully integrated Information Driven Contact Center in the cloud. It is an API-first platform and is scalable enough to create quick wins that support customers and agents, while being open enough to create custom functionality as your contact center evolves.
Innovation with CCaaS or “Business as Usual”
This article only provides a sample of what can be accomplished by leveraging CCaaS with the vast sources of information available in your organization. Automated business processes and personalization will create better experiences for both customers and employees. IT decision-makers have a choice as they move to CCaaS. If you choose an information driven design, you will embrace the data sources and applications that complement this design. If you see this same technology portfolio as a liability, that’s what it will become. However, there is also liability in doing “business as usual.” Evolving communication channels and sources of data are a reality. So are higher customer expectations. The decision to not pursue innovation will cost much more in the long term.