The New Normal Of Contact Centre And Customer Relationships



The way we interact with service providers, purchase and consume things as a customer has dramatically changed over the past decade, with COVID-19 accelerating the pace of change in certain areas.
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The evolution fromContact CentretoCustomer Relationship Centre

Have you ever found yourself stuck on a never-ending call with a contact centre, or waiting for an OTP text to approve your online transactions, perhaps even stuck in an online chatroom whenmaking a purchase?

So do we have less patience?

The way we interact with service providers, purchase and consume things as a customer has dramatically changed over the past decade, with COVID-19 accelerating the pace of change in certain areas. A key priority which remains consistent as the consumer landscape continues to shift, is that customers are looking for actions that are convenient and immediate in order to make life that bit easier.

This article begins by sharing the trends we are seeing in the customer experience space. We explore the evolution from Contact Centre to Customer Relationship Centre and the discuss the main challenges we are seeing the Customer Relationship Centres facing.

"Anytime, Anywhere, Any Device" is the new paradigm of individual behaviour

Technology has been a driving force in changing customer expectations of having access to 24/7 connectivity with service providers. Consumers seek for more and more autonomy and expect to find answers at the tip of their fingers on smartphones or tablets wherever they are. As a result, consumer expectations have highly evolved, as people look for digital innovation, instantaneity and the options to choose how they want to be contacted.

Consequently, new trends are arising:

  • Channel explosion: the uplift of new channels and platforms (e.g. social media, visio, instant chat box messaging) enrich the digital experience to meet customer expectations. On average, the number of channels has been multiplied by 3 over the last 5 years.
  • Optimised self-service: customers expect to get answer as soon as possible, anytime of the day. This leads to the implementation of new self-care means (e.g. chat bot, voice bot, AI and IVR) to meet their needs in terms of 24/7 availability, while increasing the operational excellence.
  • Limited customer input: people want a seamless experience, with high expectations in terms of handling time, simplicity and rapidity.
  • Customer centric: People want personalised offers and experiences tailored to their needs and background

Post Pandemic:Customer services practices under the spotlight

The pandemic placed significant pressure on contact centres and threw customer service practices under the spotlight. The industry initially faced challenges in adapting to the 'new normal' of remote working with virtual connectivity being the primary means of communication, but quickly accelerated digital transformation in this sector. As the dust settles from focusing on the pandemic, companies have moved from the survival mode state to prepare for the future, by adjusting to changes and trends left by the footprints of the post-Covid world. Primary trends to consider are thehyper digitisation of the consumerand its consequential impact on the working style of contact centres, and how they are updating customer service and communication efforts through the use of technology.

During the pandemic in 2020, more than60% of customers attempted a new channel of contactto reach their customer service providers, with two thirds keeping this means of communication. Around 40% of customers opened a new account on social media and utilised instant messaging apps communicate to others during the lockdown.

The most significant change can be noted in the text messaging area: flows increased by 10% on social media, 15% in text/SMS output, and WhatsApp witnessed the most dramatic increase of +110% in customer usage.

This has strengthened customers' expectations on channel diversification, with a focus on instant messaging now being a preferred option.

As customerschange, so doContact Centres and their role in the customer relationship value chain

The rapid increase in channels, the broad use of internet and connected things provide customers with a wide choice of virtual contact options. This diversity of channels and usage make it crucial to have a comprehensive approach when managing the communication channels.

Multi-channel, cross-channel, omni-channel should all be considered as strategic steps in terms of customer experience and connectivity.


Multi-channelallows customers touse one or more different contact points, offered by theorganisationthroughout the customer journey

Thenext leveliscross-channel,whichproposes channels that are complementary throughout the different stages of the customer journey. Each channel iscarefullydeployed in connection with other channels, withconsideration oftheir specific use and intent, to provide a smooth customer experience

Afurtherstepisomni-channel. Thepurposeis to offer even greater consistency betweenchannels,so thecustomer can useanychanneltheywantandat the same timenavigate seamlessly from onecommunication interfaceto another.

Today, companies must develop a cross-channel strategy, at the very minimum and consider a journey towards an omni-channel strategy, which is the preferred option for mature organisation

Although cross-channel and omni-channel approaches are key in maintaining customer relationships, improving the customer experience is not the only consideration needed when implementing an omnichannel approach.The Symmetry of Attention between Customer and Agent is critical, in essence the agent experience has a direct impact on the customer experience. This refers to the fundamental principle that the quality of the relationship between a firm and its customers is symmetrical to that of the relationship between a firm and its employees.To provide the best customer experience, a seamless agent experience is needed.Therefore, companies must invest in their agent's experience when delivering the service and implement efficient solutions from the added value of employee feedback to deliver the ideal customer experience.

An upgradefrom Contact Centres to Customer Relationship Centres

As our expectations and ways of communicating evolve, Contact Centres need to meet customer demands of greater agility and flexibility, which go hand in hand with changing social norms.

Initially call centres mainly focused on phone call interactions with the main objective being to avoid client unsatisfaction, limiting value provided through the service lines.As contact channels diversified, call centres upgraded to multi-channel Contact Centres. Although voice remains a major component, contact centres handle customer interactions through email, forms, messaging services and other outlets. Business development practices can leverage the knowledge and experiences shared in Contact centres through recorded outbound call scenarios.

However, today we are witnessing the Next Generation of Contact Centre: Customer Relationship Centre. Customer Relationship Centres (CRC) embody the omnichannel approach at a contact centre level.It plays a key role in the customer relationship and is now considered a key stakeholder in a company distribution strategy. Combined with an efficient CRM and innovation (IA, semantic analysis and feeling analysis), it provides a 360-customer overview, a full understanding of customers, background and needs, and offers an optimised workplace experience for operators, now called "customer relationship officers", empowered to build and develop the customer relationship. In this configuration, social media is under the CRC scope and is where the corporate image is built.CRC are key players in the customer relationship value chain and the guardian of the company e-reputation.

Therefore, we witness a new transformation in the Contact Centres sectors, upgrading now to Customer Relationship Centres.

The 4Main challengesCustomer Relationship Centresare facing

Customer Relationship Centres must tackle new behaviours, expectations and technology to succeed and are faced with the following challenges:

  1. Increase operational efficiency and reduce costs. This can be accomplished by implementing request processing circuits, developing self-service workflows, automating and off-loading manual processes conducted by humans
  2. Improve services and customer satisfaction: The key areas to consider is to improve the request qualification, have a greater understanding of customers and customise the interactions and customer's touchpoint and of course, measure and track satisfaction
  3. Improve agents experience and develop their skills: develop agent roles and focus on high value-added activities, retain agents by managing remote work
  4. Develop business activities: turn CRC centre into a revenue centre, put in place systematic commercial rebound, exploit every interaction, and create new interactions in a proactive approach

Final Piece of Advice

Customer Relationship Centres continually transformto keep up with societal and technological advances and address the new challenges they are confronted to.

Technological advancement, KPIs monitoring and comprehensive overview of customers are key drivers in the Customer Relationship Centres and customer service transformation.

Wavestone supports our clients across various sectors and locations. We help our clients the digital transformation of Customer Relationship Centres and services, from the initial design of the strategy tailored to the needs of each business, identifying the best-in-class practices, and implementing solutions.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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