Paul LangJuly 14, 2020

The Essential Role of a Modern Contact Center for Meeting New Standards

Successful organizations understand the criticality of contact center innovation. They realize that the contact center is just one part of the end-to-end customer journey. They recognize the importance of multiexperience (customer relationships and user journeys based on effortless experience designed across all touchpoints and interaction types, versus channels and channel-focused teams). They understand that you can’t have a connected customer experience without a connected employee experience. They have a sharp focus on technology that allows them to improve the way people feel. All of these things define the modern contact center, and successful organizations know they need to address them to meet changing expectations and enterprise requirements.

As a leader in contact center innovation - most recently identified for Contact Center Performance and Strategy for the second year in a row in the Aragon Research Globe for Intelligent Contact Centers - Avaya is moving on several focus areas to drive continual innovation for experiences that matter:

The contact center is just one part of the overall journey

The contact center--albeit important--is just one part of the end-to-end customer journey and user experience. It’s no longer about how an agent handles a single customer inquiry within the contact center. It’s about how customers can move seamlessly throughout the entire user journey--beyond the contact center, across all departments and lines of business using a broad range of touchpoints and interaction types. Because of this, there are many tools, capabilities and best practices used in the contact center that can (and should) be leveraged elsewhere in the customer journey. For example, conversational intelligence--an AI solution that automatically transcribes voice interactions into actionable outcomes--can be used in sales or finance to better understand the types of experiences customers are having across the entire journey.

Multiexperience (MX)

We don’t need to justify why organizations have a customer experience strategy--the business case is there. The question is: what defines the experience? What are customers looking for? The answer is everything, and it’s constantly moving and changing. Sometimes customers want to serve themselves, other times they want to interact with a human when it suits them. Sometimes they want businesses to use information they have on them to personalize their service and be proactive, but they also want their privacy to be respected. Sometimes they want to interact via Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger, other times they want traditional phone calls.

The same goes for employees. There are high expectations and infinite possibilities for the way that agents can interact with a business. They’re using a broad number of digital touchpoints (web, mobile, IVR, chatbot) and interaction types (touch, voice, vision, face-to-face), and they expect a frictionless experience every time. The link between employee experience and customer experience is evident everywhere. The experience for both agents and customers must flow through a unified and effortless user experience.

In a world of choice, freedom and flexibility, we have completely evolved past traditional channels and channel-focused teams. This is what MX is all about it. It prioritizes experience at each touchpoint throughout the journey versus the channel. It focuses on the Experience Economy across every single modality, persona and touchpoint. It reimagines customer and employee relationships and user journeys based on effortless experience designed across all digital touchpoints and interaction types.

Changing nature of work

We are witnessing nothing short of the redefinition of work as we know it. Agents need to be able to handle the more complex questions, dynamic processes, and emotionally charged interactions that are coming their way. It can’t be denied that customers still prefer to call the contact center (research from Accenture shows that 58% more customers prefer to solve urgent or complex issues by calling for support rather than using other modes of interaction). In this way, the contact center as we once knew it is dead. Agents are becoming more strategic, long-term investments that provide higher value services compared to the contact center of old filled with college students and other short-term workers.  Employees have journeys and feelings that translate into the value delivered to the customer experience.

Perhaps most importantly, every employee across the organization is now an extension of the contact center, working together to enable an effortless and unified customer journey. It’s no longer about an agent sitting in a cubicle reading from a script. We’re seeing seamless multi-media collaboration between agents, customers, and subject matter experts across the organization. For example, an agent being able to view the presence of a product specialist or billing manager and quickly ping them or even bring them into the customer conversation, regardless of where they’re located (on-site or remote) or what device(s) they’re using. The contact center of today represents the whole business as opposed to being a discrete function in the organization.

This is something I discussed in a recent conversation with industry analyst Zeus Kerravala, who said the following: 

“Customer experience now goes beyond having polite, well trained agents. It requires a complete understanding of the customer journey across the organization. This includes contact center, sales, marketing and every other person that interacts with the customer. This will give agents and other customer-facing people the right information to deliver highly personalized, timely information to provide unprecedented levels of customer service.”

Breaking physical boundaries

The global COVID-19 pandemic has proven that contact centers can successfully adopt flexible new ways of working, confirming that the notion of the old contact center is dead. In fact, Avaya has enabled more than 2 million agents (and counting) to work remotely in response. Agents are no longer contained to four walls with a desk phone in hand. They’re just like any other employee in the organization--connecting via video with sharing, chat and tasks, brainstorming, aligning plans, delivering updates--working from anywhere over any device. If we’ve learned anything from the current global crisis, it’s that customer support reps are frontline workers whose jobs must be taken seriously. Many organizations will see this event as a catalyst for improving the contact center and ensuring future resiliency. Regardless of what the future holds, we’ll be seeing big changes happening in this area.

When you look at what has happened with customer experience over the years and how organizations are shaping themselves, it’s clear that the way the contact center operates and impacts the customer journey has radically changed. Kerravala agreed, telling me that “customer experience has grown steadily in importance over the past decade to become the top brand differentiator outweighing price, product quality and every other factor. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has taken CX to the next level, causing organizations to rethink how the interact with customers.”

How brands engage with customers--the experience they provide during every interaction across every modality, regardless of who is serving them, where and how--has changed for good. The contact center as we knew it is dead, and that only means better things for your business’ future. Learn more about how Avaya’s award-winning intelligent contact center solutions enable success by driving continual innovation.

The Essential Role of a Modern Contact Center for Meeting New Standards

Paul Lang

Paul leads Contact Center Marketing for Avaya. His career spans 25 years in the Contact Center market with leading roles in Product Marketing and Product Management. Paul focuses on the marketing of the full range of Avaya's Contact Center Portfolio to drive adoption with new and existing customers.

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