Are phones a thing of the past for contact centres?

The role of phones in the contact centre is changing thanks to the rise in artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), but does this mean that they are dying out as a method of communication? Let’s explore the importance of thinking like your customers to give them the support they need, when they need it, with or without phones.

Not all customers are the same. Some prefer to email, some prefer to call and some prefer to self-serve. Your customer experience must be dynamic enough to accommodate this variety with a combination of traditional and modern methods of communication.

New technologies are making both people and companies less dependent on relatively traditional means of contact like phone calls. The likes of artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) have been sparking debates for years about whether they will one day entirely replace human interactions in customer experience (CX).

The 2019 Customer Experience Trends Report from Zendesk illustrates the growing demand of self-service solutions like help centres – 40% of customers now prefer to use them before making contact with support – but that doesn’t mean that phones are becoming obsolete.

They have simply undertaken new positions in customer journeys (and, what’s more, those positions are different in almost every industry).

Let’s take a closer look at the role of the phone in today’s customer experiences to see why it still matters to businesses in the UK:

The human touch still matters

AI and VR are well and truly on the rise as far as CX is concerned. The likes of voice search via handheld or home-based devices alone has changed the way customers engage with businesses.

However, this obviously does not mean that phones are no longer relevant. In many ways, the human touch is still a critical part of the entire customer journey.

A recent global survey by Microsoft found that a third of people in the UK (33%) think the most frustrating aspect of a poor customer experience is not being able to get through to a real person to solve their issue (p11). This makes it painfully clear that some companies are still not delivering smooth transitions between different methods of contact for their customers.

It is precisely the interdependency between these technologies that makes for a channel-less, painless experience for a customer. Your customers care about how easy it is to contact you in the first instance – and many will still opt for the phone for that very reason – but they care more about how easy it is to find a resolution to their problem.

This means that it is more important than ever to make the transitions between the methods of contacting you as smooth as possible.

Creating seamless connections between you and your customers

If a customer first contacts you via a chatbot (AKA a conversational agent) and it can’t find a suitable answer for them, the phone is going to play a significant part in keeping that customer in your funnel.

Firstly, there is the promise of achieving what the chatbot couldn’t do on this occasion: finding an answer. Secondly, there is the ability to talk directly to a human being who can have a better understanding of the idiosyncrasies of the customer’s query, which is especially important if the customer’s enquiry is loaded with emotion.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, there is the transition between the two means of contact. If it is not seamless, the connection between you and the customer may be lost (perhaps, in some cases, forever). Given the option, they will go elsewhere to find the answers they want and they might never come back.

If it is seamless, though, the connection between you and the consumer could well be stronger than it was before and you may even have created a brand advocate after a memorable customer experience.

The role of phones and the importance of thinking like your customers

You can see the critical role that phones still play in the contact centre – they will do for many years to come thanks to the vast range of customer requirements across every industry and, indeed, the speed at which they change.

Some customers in the near future, for instance, might be more efficiently served by a callbot rather than a chatbot, which means solutions will be found via an AI voice solution for the phone channel instead of a text-based chat solution that relies on the typing speed of the customer.



Neil Titcomb is Managing Director at Odigo UKI

Odigo helps large organisations connect with individuals through world-class, cloud-based contact centre solutions. Its cutting-edge proprietary technologies enable a seamless and efficient omnichannel experience for its customers, and a satisfying and engaging experience for service agents. Odigo serves more than 400,000 agents and business users globally. With a 35-year history of industry firsts, Odigo has more than 250 clients around the world.

For additional information on Odigo view their Company Profile

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