Contact centres are changing. Gone are the days of rows of agents busy on the phone dealing with customers who have used the only method they could to get in touch about their local council’s services. Today, organisations have a front line of people dealing with enquiries received across multiple channels, at any time and from anywhere. Customer service is very much led by the consumer.
As a result, the public sector has a challenge on its hands to keep up-to-date with changes in consumer behaviour, while providing excellent service and adhering with compliance. This can only be done with the right technology in place to support them; technology that goes beyond the functionality of an enterprise telephony system.
Whether a member of the public chooses webchat, SMS, email, or simply picking up the phone – organisations must ensure they are able to meet customer demands. And that includes the ability to seamlessly connect with employees that have the right expertise in the company, while still engaging with the customer. For example, a customer might have an IT-specific question that requires consultations with the technical team.
Software innovation and changing consumer behaviours
The answer for much of the public sector is to deploy a cloud-based contact centre solution, which offers multi-channel capabilities, along with other advantages like flexibility, scalability and cost-savings. However, according to Patrick Joggerst, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of Business Development for Ribbon Communications, as real-time communications services move to the cloud, one of the biggest impacts and potential for growth revenue is coming at the intersection of software innovation and changing consumer behaviours.
“After a great run for the last few decades on improving contact centre enablement software, reducing the time it takes to respond to questions, reducing the traditional costs associated with support, and reducing general frustration by improving IVR intelligence, service providers (including Business Process Outsourcing companies offering customer-service-as-a-service) are having to re-think everything. Why? Because customers today expect fast, accurate and friendly service.
“Customers are connected now more than ever before and are moving most of their personal and business conversations to messaging apps and social media. Customers on mobile apps and the web prefer self-service over having to wait to speak with a customer service representative.”
Joggerst continues by saying that customers are now looking for communications choice. “Customers want choices – while at their child’s football match, they may prefer to Tweet a question, but when they are at home trying to complete a transaction, they may prefer to speak with a live expert.”
Another key trend that Joggerst points to is cognitive computing. “This is changing the face of customer service by enabling live agents to serve customers better, serving up answers in advance based on “deep listening” to the customers’ voice, level of potential unhappiness or even anger, based on the customers’ perceived tone, and connected with the customers’ account and history of previous contacts.” It’s this sort of technology that will help organisations deliver exceptional service going forward.
Cloud communications over transformed IP networks can make collaboration between organisations and customers efficient and effective.
“There is a growing interest in virtualised messaging, voice, video and collaboration (UC) services given the dramatically improved user experience,” explains Joggerst. “Research from MobileSquared found that enterprises are expected to consolidate their collaboration and communication onto voice, video and conferencing solutions by 2020, with voice over Wi-Fi, web and video conferencing, video calls, and conference calls the favoured channels.
“According to Gartner, 75% of a company’s touch points with their customers are customer service interactions. Every industry today is being disrupted, and smart organisations are changing the way they interact with customers as they change the way they do business.”
Joggerst says this is prompting leading organisations to think differently about their contact centres – and to stop considering them as cost centres.
“Smart organisations no longer look at “contact centres” the same way, and certainly no longer view them as cost centres. These organisations see the long-term potential to improve everything they do by harnessing the data that comes out of cloud-based customer engagement software solutions.”
Data and digital marketing
According to Tim Pitts, Managing Partner at Agilisys, harnessing data is a key trend for the public sector – especially as it looks to reduce costs and, crucially, compete with the private sector for revenue generating business. Contact centre technology plays
“Given the challenges of GDPR and the time and resource that it has commanded, this area is getting a surprising amount of focus, not just in terms of improving outcomes, but also in tackling traditional challenges in new ways. The examples laid out in the last article continue to make sense.
“Councils have an ongoing need to generate more revenue, drive behavioural change and, of course, cut costs. Solutions are therefore being sought, more and more, to find technology-driven solutions to perennial problems.”
Examples of how councils are using data-drive digital marketing include:
Cost avoidance – a topical example here is Foster Carers, which is highlighted in virtually every MTFS I have looked at as an increasing cost pressure. The council is competing with the private sector to find Foster Carers, the council will typically pay double for a private sector sourced Foster Carer over one they source themselves. The private sector however is geared up to maximise the finding of potential foster carers. I’ve probably looked at 30 to 40 councils and they always sit seventh or eighth in Google search rankings, because the private sector knows how to use SEO, are investing in paid ads, and how to attract people with the right words in their website text which is used by Google.
Behavioural change – councils will start being better at using data to understand where cost savings can be made and marketing needs to be delivered. A good example is areas that aren’t recycling enough and following up with focused digital marketing campaigns to increase recycling levels and therefore cut costs from the likes of Landfill Tax.
Revenue generation – similar to the cost avoidance example, anywhere where you are competing with the private sector for business like trade waste, bulky waste, pest control etc. can and should benefit from digital marketing.
Pressure on tech
While the above highlights the potential of contact centre software technology, customer communication at this level of intensity is impossible to deliver and manage over “private lines” and equipment-heavy, clunky legacy networks and expensive, aging physical contact centres.
Joggerst says: “Well-engineered and supported over increasingly high quality and highly resilient IP network infrastructures, billions of conversations each year are helping organisations redefine themselves. Sector leaders are using the Internet and public cloud, or virtualised private networks and related virtualised services for the most secure interactions in healthcare, financial services, government and more.
“Customers today choose the channels they wish to interact with, and cloud makes channel switching easier for all,” concludes Joggerst. “We are only at the beginning of the disruption cognitive plus contact will create, so we’re excited to watch this space evolve.”