I have always had a fascination with history, particularly 20th century wartime and the 18th to 19th century European industrial revolution. Remember the dramatization of the change during the London 2012 Olympic games opening ceremony? Both periods of history saw unprecedented change with the lives people knew before vanished to their memories. With this in mind, I cannot help but wonder what the historians of the future will write about the 2020 worldwide pandemic and how it (hopefully) changed our society for the better.
Essential Communication – The Good & The Bad
What is vastly different between the history I am fascinated with, and today’s crisis is the abundance of information at our fingertips and the numerous ways in which we can communicate. My 7 year-old daughter has not been evacuated to the countryside. Rather, she is at home using Alexa to “drop in” on Nana with a video call to check she is okay. My 10 year-old son is not waiting for a letter from Dad. He just had breakfast with his dad and has plans to later join a video call with his classmates. My husband and I are communicating with friends via facebook and messaging apps. I have lost count of the number of Google Meet video conferences I have joined, but enjoying the regular human interaction with many different people. This real-time communication across a variety of devices and channels is quite frankly a modern miracle that I cherish.
On the flip side, resolving a simple plumbing leak at a flat we rent out to an NHS front line employee has been both frustrating and challenging to resolve. The companies we need to work with only communicate by phone and email – when they respond at all. The tennant’s web form submission was ignored for days. If it wasn’t for my husband’s sheer persistence and tenacity, the plumber would not be booked.
Just yesterday, my mobile operator sent me a text message asking me not to call their 0345 number because their call center is overwhelmed. If I need assistance, they recommend I try self-service via the FAQs and help sections of their website. I was shocked! Given the widespread use of Facebook Messenger, X, formerly Twitter DMs and WhatsApp, shouldn’t they have other means to communicate with their customers?
Reflecting on these recent customer service experiences, brings me to a statement our CEO Ragy Thomas recently made:
“The choice is not between systems or platforms. The choice is between regressing to the past or embracing the future. The choice is between staying traditional or making the leap to modern. The choice is ending up on the wrong side of history — or being on the right side.”
In today’s world, the ability to care for customers – truly care for customers – requires the ability to connect across modern channels. This includes messaging, video conferencing and social media. These communication choices are an essential fabric of society and completely natural for the vast majority of the UK population. With this in mind, why are so many companies still relying on telephone calls, email and web content to help customers?
I don’t believe that companies are resisting the transition, there are far too many examples of organizations moving forward to embrace this change. Instead, I believe that the barrier lies with the diversification and scale of communication needs. Twenty years ago an article I wrote was published in a call center magazine centered on the importance of unified communication across voicemail, email and telephone calls. Unifying 3 channels back then was seen as innovative – groundbreaking even. Today’s society is asking brands to manage customer communication from numerous platforms and channels, with an immediate response time, and even higher consumer expectations than ever before.
The answer to the decentralization of call centers and the management of numerous modern customer service channels does not lie in agents solely answering calls from home. Nor does it rely on the self-service text on a website or adopting twenty or more narrow end-point siloed tools. Rather, it’s the brand’s ability to embrace unity and visibility across customer communications: In other words having the resources to respond quickly to customers across all social media channels and messaging apps; incorporating voice, text and media. This requires AI to recognize sentiment and scale, plus an intercompany connection that activates the right resources quickly. This change to a unified approach will enable brands to serve customers wherever they are, and quickly – not stress them out further by forcing them to wait in a two hour call waiting queue.
To learn more about embracing and overcoming the current communication challenges your company is facing, read our blog, Please Hold… All Representatives are Busy. Finally, please do let us know how we can help you reimagine your call center to satisfy today’s 21st-century customer.