Why digital transformation needs to focus on more than just digital in the contact centre – Rick Kirkham, Founder and Managing Director, Customer Touch Point
One of the impacts of Covid on the customer contact operations has been the rash of articles, studies, and blogs on the importance of digital transformation. Some talk about how technology will transform the customer experience. Some talk about the importance of making contact centres more resilient. The danger of this is that contact centres begin to see digital transformation as an end in itself, rather than the means to an end.
In an article from March 2021 entitled AI and the transformation of the contact centre, the digital technology trade association TechUK argues that increasing volumes of data, the growth in sophistication of AI technology, and the rise of cloud-based applications means that “[the] contact centre is changing.” The result, argues the piece, is a near future utopia in which “omnichannel is more than a marketing term, it’s the day-to-day reality of engaging with organisations”.
As far as we’re concerned, customer experience is all about what it’s like when a customer gets in touch with you. If it isn’t that, what is it? A resilient contact centre therefore is one that is able to serve customers in the way that they want to be served, without disruption. And it’s no good deploying technology solutions to mitigate disruption if the result is to disrupt your own customer journey.
Technology is not a magic bullet
The technology available to contact centres today does indeed have the potential to be truly transformative, and to help them leverage data in real time to provide high-value customer experiences. But technology alone will not achieve this.
After all, many contact centres already use a plethora of technology solutions, to the point where their lack of connectedness has become a genuine concern for CX leaders. Adding more technology on top doesn’t solve this problem.
The other factor here is the reason for digital transformation. While I know from experience that CX decision makers have a genuine desire to improve the customer experience, in reality they also have to provide return on investment at the same time. Even where that’s not the case, CX budgets are not unlimited and contact centres must prioritise their technology spending.
Transformation can make things worse
There again, as companies upgrade or modernise their technology stack, it’s not unusual to find that the customer experience has actually grown worse as a result. A customer visits your website with a query. They don’t find the answer they need in your FAQs or other pages, so they need live support. They find your phone number and call your contact centre, only to be put into an interactive voice response (IVR) system that points them back to your website.
This is an example of a classic CX loop. Not only do these frustrate your customers, but they’re also increasing. The reason is simple. It’s because the technology has been deployed without enough focus on how this will impact the end user experience or thinking through the customer journey from a customer point of view.
Resilience is important, but what does that mean?
Along with articles and studies about digital transformation, there have also been many about how this is needed to increase the resilience of contact centres. For example, the TechUK piece I mentioned talks about how “this new kind of contact centre will be much better placed to serve customers and build resilience in the years ahead”.
Similarly, this sponsored article in CX Today talks about how “flexible remote solutions” will help to increase contact centre resilience post-Covid. This IBM blog explores how digital technology – and particularly AI – will make contact centres more resilient (as long as you use IBM’s solutions, that is).
All these articles and opinion pieces talk about resilience, but they don’t really define what it is – only that it’s important. Well, it’s true that resilience is important. It’s true that digital transformation can help to make your contact centre more resilient. However, as we’ve seen, ill-thought-out transformation can actually make you less resilient – if by resilient we mean improving the customer experience through events that are outside of our control.
Because that’s the issue at the heart of digital transformation. Will it improve your customer experience? Will it make it easier for your customers to achieve the outcome they desire? Or to resolve their issue?
If you’re not thinking about the customer journey, your transformation strategy will have gaps
Many of these articles talk about how the right technology can change contact centres into places that offer personalised customer care and attention. This is possible – but not if your new technology creates high effort, disjointed customer journeys.
The answer to this is two-fold. Contact centres need to deploy technology that helps them better understand their customers’ needs, and they need to understand the sticking points in their existing customer journeys; the vulnerabilities that lead to customer anger or customer churn.
Without understanding your customers, you can’t build an effective and resilient customer journey at all. Without uncovering the points of friction in your customer journey, you can’t smooth them out and increase your resilience. Without knowing where you need to boost your resilience, you can’t know where to focus your technology investment.
The wrong way round
Let me sum this up as succinctly as possible. Most thought leadership around this topic has it backwards. These articles argue that digital transformation will lead to more resilience. In fact, the opposite is true. Know where you are not resilient, and you will know where to focus your digital transformation efforts.
Rick Kirkham, Founder and Managing Director, Customer Touch Point
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Customer Touch Point specialises in long-term and instant impact customer experience solutions for organisations worldwide, providing the tools and support they need to deliver effortless customer experiences.
Our solutions include customer feedback software, customer journey mapping, telephony & IVR and multi-channel technology tools such as live chat, social media monitoring, visual IVR, speech analytics and dynamic FAQs.
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