Contact Center Trends and Tech: Engagement is Omni-Channel

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala – eWEEK.

A new report illustrates the importance of not only connecting with consumers, but also engaging and retaining contact center agents.

COVID-19 accelerated a buy-from-home economy, expanding the role of the contact center beyond customer support to building customer relationships. According to a new report released by Talkdesk, the majority of customer experience (CX) professionals believe their contact center is a main driver of customer loyalty.

For this reason, companies are increasingly investing in engagement tools, strategies, and technologies designed to retain contact center agents, who have become a valuable asset.

The report, titled The Future of Customer Loyalty, is based on three online surveys conducted in 2021. The first survey was conducted among 650 CX professionals in July 2021 across 10 global markets. The second survey was fielded among 365 CX professionals in August 2021 across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

The survey participants are leaders and managers in CX, customer service, CX operations, as well as contact center agents from companies with more than 200 full-time employees. The third survey, conducted in October 2021, included 5,513 consumer interviews across 12 global markets.

Consumers are Churning Brand Loyalty at an Unprecedented Rate

Consumer expectations have grown tremendously since the start of the pandemic. Resolving customer service issues on first contact has become the number one driver of consumer loyalty, the report found. Indeed, poor customer service is a key reason why nearly half (49 percent) of the consumers surveyed in the report have stopped working with a company in the past year.

Brand loyalty is already scarce among consumers, and COVID-19 has further interrupted established relationships. At the same, the pandemic created new opportunities for brands to gain loyal customers, with 57 percent of consumers saying their loyalty has grown with companies that helped them during these challenging times.

Omni-Channel is Now Mandatory

Additionally, the rise of the buy-from-home economy has elevated the need for an omni-channel contact center, which allows customers to use the channel of their choice and then change when they want to, without losing context.

In the past year, there have been more digital interactions with contact centers via various channels than ever before. The most widely used channels:

  • Live chat, 71 percent
  • Virtual chat, 62 percent
  • Asynchronous messaging, 61 percent
  • Social media, 56 percent
  • Video chat, 42 percent

There is no longer a de facto channel for customer interactions, as there was with voice for decades. Omni-channel is the only way forward.

More than half of those surveyed believe it’s important to transition easily between digital channels during a single interaction with a contact center. Companies that value customer loyalty are tasked with implementing technologies, which enable these seamless transitions between channels.

According to the report, 43 percent of companies are investing in contact center communication and collaboration tools over the next three years.

Younger Consumers Focus on Social Issues

While loyalty heavily depends on how quickly customer issues can be resolved, younger consumers are likely to choose brands based on their position on social issues, sustainability, and diversity.

The data shows 46 percent of Gen Z consumers stopped using a company’s services or products because of its views on social issues and 40 percent have stopped due to their stance on sustainability. Meanwhile, 53 percent of Gen Z consumers have started using a company’s services or products because of diversity in their customer service.

Connections, not Interactions Drive Customer Loyalty

The report also makes several predictions based on the survey findings. First, the report predicts, customer loyalty will increasingly be driven by a consumer’s overall connection to a brand, not specific interactions.

As noted earlier, younger consumers are more likely to choose companies that have a stance on certain issues. Most (92 percent) CX professionals agree that agents are brand ambassadors for their company, who will have carried out broader social conversations with consumers in the future.

The second prediction envisions contact centers gaining influence as they become profit centers that drive loyalty and deepen customer relationships. According to 91 percent of CX professionals, their contact center is what drives customer loyalty.

As revenue grows through customer engagement, the contact center will evolve beyond a cost center. Sixty-seven percent of companies report that their contact center is either in the process of transforming or has already transformed into a profit center.

Another prediction anticipates agents becoming more strategic in creating loyal customers. As more agents become brand ambassadors for their companies, they will play an important role in proactive customer engagement. In fact, 98 percent of companies plan to implement some type of proactive customer engagement in the contact center. Overall, 87 percent of CX professionals believe that proactive customer engagement is a driver of customer satisfaction.

Employee Engagement and Retention

The last prediction centers on employee engagement and retention. As agents become strategic assets, companies will have to find ways to retain them by investing in workforce engagement management (WEM) tools. WEM includes hiring, onboarding, training, scheduling, motivating, and other activities related to increasing contact center agent engagement.

Most CX professionals want to invest in WEM tools in the contact center, with 78 percent saying it’s a priority for their company. Some of the key benefits companies expect to see by adopting WEM include:

  • Greater efficiency or productivity in the contact center, 57 percent
  • Higher customer satisfaction scores, 48 percent
  • Increased profits, 46 percent
  • Higher agent engagement levels, 43 percent
  • Reduced costs, 37 percent
  • Decreased agent attrition, 30 percent

In summary, creating loyalty inside and outside of the contact center has become a priority. Companies are recognizing the importance of not only connecting with consumers, but also engaging and retaining their contact center agents. This shift is what will drive companies to invest in engagement tools and new technologies going forward.

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.