Walroux Engelbrecht, Telviva Field and Professional Services Executive

How new contact centre tech is enabling improved customer experiences

The broader acceptance of cloud by local contact centres not only allows for integration with existing business systems, which enables remote or hybrid working, but also brings about the functionality to synchronise multiple communications channels in a single platform. This data-rich environment delights the customer through more personalised service and also ensures that the needs of agents, their supervisors and contact managers are fulfilled.

It is no surprise that a growing number of businesses in South Africa are waking up to the fact that they need to provide a great customer experience if they are to stand out in a highly competitive market. They need to offer their clients the ability to engage on a platform that they are the most comfortable with using, be it social media, instant messaging, email or even through the plain old telephone. 

As an added benefit, turning to cloud-based contact centre solutions also means that operators are better equipped to mitigate against recurring challenges such as load shedding and pandemic-enforced lockdowns, which has a crippling effect on on-premise operations, and can even begin to embrace remote or hybrid working models.

So where do organisations looking to transform their contact centre operations even begin? It’s crucial to start with the organisation’s digital strategy, and then their business processes, before looking at how technology can be used to bring about enhancements. Unlike developed markets, where everyone is looking for the complete experience, contact centre operators in South Africa are looking to address their specific requirements, and this needs to be looked at on a case by case basis. 

Personalised engagements at scale

As an example, many organisations have embraced WhatsApp to engage with customers in huge volumes; going further, today’s youngsters are more technically inclined, and are demanding for more self-service options. But, all of these communications mediums need to work in unison if the organisation is to provide personalised, transparent and consistent customer service.

And, they need to be able to securely integrate their contact centre platform with third-party applications, such as customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems so that relevant information can be extracted and presented to the service agent in a single view; it’s highly unlikely that agents will be able to provide a high level of customer service if they are continually clicking through multiple browser tabs or windows in order to service the client.

With the initial building blocks in place, they can look at a disaster recovery / continuity plan – a far easier prospect now that they are in the cloud – setting up reporting to suit their needs, quality assurance monitoring and management, and most importantly, user training. It helps to keep in mind that while the technology may change, people don’t – they still want a personalised experience, and the tech just helps organisations to deliver that at scale.

Of course, beyond just the technology, it also means that contact centre agents have to be well-trained and knowledgeable about the company and its products and services, as well as the customer and their past interactions with the organisation (including past conversations, past purchases and accounts or payments history), which helps provide context and leads to a more personalised interaction.

Best-of-breed approach to contact centre

Telviva currently offers three contact centre offerings: Connect offers inbound, outbound and blended call handling; Reach creates targeted outbound calling campaigns with automatic or predictive dialling; and Omni, which enables businesses to manage multiple channel customer communication – such as voice, email, webchat and social media – and have it accessible on a single portal.

These cloud-based tools not only enable contact centre agents to work seamlessly from remote locations, but also provide supervisors and managers with agent monitoring as well as the advanced analytics. It also brings to an end the days of manually writing reports that just look at what happened over the period in question. Instead, contact centre managers are looking for actionable insights that explore both the good and the bad, so that they can duplicate the positive experiences predictably and mitigate against the negative ones.

In many cases, Telviva provides the base layer for interactions, and then continually looks to the local and international market for the best-of-breed technologies that can add further value to the solution stack by enabling new features or better functionality. This includes, but is not limited to regulatory compliant call recording, automation, natural language processing (NLP), voice biometrics and much more. This, together with our extensive industry experience and high levels of customer support and service, are a winning combination for local contact centre customers.

Automating menial tasks

Telviva works closely with its clients in order to understand the customer journey and to identify where automation can be brought into the communications mix, helping improve productivity for the client and providing a better service or experience for that organisation’s end customer. Leaving machines to do more menial tasks leaves human agents free to better serve the customer in a more personalised manner.

As an example, organisations would be able to address more issues proactively, such as sending out automated messages in case of certain scenarios, such as system downtime, connectivity disruptions, flight delays and more. These messages can even include an embedded link that allows the recipient to speak to a contact centre agent if they wanted to, but more often than not, these preventative strategies can help contact centres reduce the number of call ins.

AI and the future

Artificial intelligence is also being used to make chatbots more efficient: rather than just working around a set of predetermined questions and answers, integration with third-party systems means that bots can go further than just answer questions. By being linked with the organisation’s finance systems, customers can easily ask the bot for their latest invoice or even to pay their bills through agent-less interactions

Through NLP, organisations can take advantage of native languages (bringing their products or services to a much wider audience without the hindrance of the language barrier), voice authentication (instead of being asked to confirm their identity through a series of personal questions) and even voice heuristics, which identifies the mood of the customer based on their voice patterns and then informs the agent if they are in the right frame of mind to be sold to. 

Looking to the future, this could even extend to analysing buying patterns to automatically send customers specials of products they are more likely to buy, and on the days they are more likely to buy.

Intelligent communications

Ultimately, it comes down to engaging in intelligent communication – being able to synchronise your business communications across multiple channels, with your own business systems in order to enable better quality conversations and to drive better customer experiences. We have seen the shift locally, with all of the past five big contact centre projects we have engaged in being multichannel.

However, organisations should keep in mind that the more we leave to technology, the higher chance of it making us complacent. It’s crucial that the human aspect is not ignored or discarded. As such, as much as you can provide customers with multiple means of communication, they should always have the option to be directed to a service agent if need be.

Only humans have the ability to sympathise with fellow humans, and understand complex requests (for now at least), and quite often customers are looking for exactly that – someone to hear them out, understand their query (using identity and context) and help them resolve their situation as soon as possible.

Feel free to reach out to our specialist Contact Centre team should you have any further questions.

By Walroux Engelbrecht, Professional Services Executive at Telviva