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How to improve the contact center experience

14 min read
What is the contact center experience, and why is it vital to make it work for both your agents and customers? Read on to understand the best practices for contact center experience and how it relates to your bottom line.


What is contact center experience?

The contact center experience encompasses every touchpoint your customer might have with your customer service team. Whether calling for a refund, asking for help using an item via a chatbot, or reaching out through social media direct messages to make a complaint, your contact center experience is the treatment your customers have when engaging with your brand’s customer service, and this experience can happen across every channel. From online, on the phone, chat, email, or website support.

This specific customer experience might include:

  • How long you take to answer queries and close support tickets
  • What channel options you provide for contacting your customer service team
  • What self-service solutions you offer
  • The user experience of your website, app or other platforms

Supercharge your revenue with in-depth contact center analytics

The difference between contact and call centers

A contact center is an omnichannel hub for communications between customers and the customer service team. Rather than just providing customer service over phone calls, modern contact centers offer multiple ways for customers to get in touch. Even more important given the rapid digital transformation seen in recent years.

For example, ways in which customers might reach out include:

  • Telephone calls
  • Social media
  • SMS / text
  • Chatbots
  • Mobile apps

Call center vs contact center visual

A call center might be able to handle customers reaching out directly if that’s what the customers are looking for, but it isn’t always the best way of responding, both financially and in terms of experience.  A call center for example could answer a bank balance query, however this would be far quicker, easier (and cheaper for the business) for the customer to find out via the app. An option that leaves frontline agents manning the phones free to work on priority issues.

Why does contact center experience matter for an organization?

Contact centers are truly the heart of an organization, and the experiences your customers have with your contact center agents can be the difference between a customer leaving and a positive recommendation for your brand. It’s not just about resolving problems – it’s about building and strengthening the relationships your customers have with your company. At a time when competition for share of wallet is hotting up, trust and loyalty is a powerful combination for attracting and retaining customers.

There are several ways in which focusing on contact center experience can help your business. Below are the main ones:

It improves your customer relationships

Customers are looking to resolve their queries quickly and completely. Statista reports that 27% of US customers cite lack of effectiveness and lack of speed as the most common cause of their frustration with customer service.

By focusing on the experience your customers have when getting in touch with your contact center, you can begin to streamline your customer service department. How do customers want to contact you? What do they expect from you? How do they want you to contact them? How do their experiences on your website, app etc. affect repurchases and recommendations?

thinkJAR found that it’s six to seven times more expensive to attract new customers than to retain an existing one. By meeting customer experience expectations, you’re able to improve existing relationships and lower costs.

Creating a personalized customer experience

It reduces your cost to serve

A fully joined-up contact center, with agents given the full picture – what customers want, insight into their recent interactions with you, and a customer profile that informs next steps – can help to get customers to the answers they need faster and more efficiently, and reduce their need for a repeat conversation. Insight from data can make this possible, as can tools, for example, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) enabled text, chat, and call services that direct customers to the right solutions or a live contact center agent if deemed to be necessary. It offers customers the opportunity to use self-service, reducing the cost to serve for your business and handling customer inquiries more effectively.

The ROI of customer experience

It increases the likelihood of positive feedback and recommendations

With 72% of consumers sharing a positive experience with six or more connections, and 13% of consumers telling 15 or more connections if they’re unhappy, you can’t afford to risk a negative experience. Making sure that your contact center interactions are satisfactory or better yet, memorable, can help to ensure that your current customers are talking about how brilliant your business is.

Types of contact centers and the experiences you can provide

There are several types of contact center infrastructure to choose from, but all will likely require insights into the customer experience to be effective. Here are the main types, as well as advice on customer expectations for the experience.

Inbound contact centers

When you think of “call centers”, most people are thinking about inbound call centers. In this facility, customer service is provided by telephone, with customers making phone calls into the center to resolve their queries. Call center software might include Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or an IVR system to funnel customers to the right call center agents.

In this instance, using contact center technology such as Interactive Voice Response can help to direct customers to the appropriate phone support, reducing the chance that they need to explain their problem or query multiple times to different agents. However, in terms of experience, customers would likely expect a quick process and short waiting times, with a person on the end of the line who can provide a speedy resolution.

Outbound contact centers

Outbound call centers are almost the opposite of inbound call centers. Rather than waiting for customers to reach out, businesses can proactively make outgoing calls to increase sales. This type of center might do telemarketing via cold calls, follow up with customers, upsell when completing transactions, and more.

To be successful in terms of experience, your outbound call centers should examine customer data to understand which audiences will most likely respond to outreach, as well as why and how they’d prefer to be contacted. The sales team shouldn’t be more intrusive than it needs to be – and with meticulous records on lead generation, customers won’t be bombarded with inappropriate sales calls on topics that don’t interest them.

Multichannel contact centers

Rather than relying on voice calls alone, multichannel contact centers allow customers to use whichever communication channel they’d prefer to reach out. Digital channels such as social media, apps and websites etc. provide options for customers to use at their own convenience, while the more traditional phone option is available for those who prefer it.

In terms of experience, customer behavior and feedback will indicate which channels they’d prefer to use, and customer queries can be handled across multiple channels with dedicated center reps. However, speed and efficacy in handling queries and problems will need to be standard for customer satisfaction. Multiple departments will need to manage customer data and provide personalized solutions for the best customer experience.

Omnichannel contact centers

This centralized call center option can handle any avenue on which customers interact. From chatbots to SMS, social media messages to emails and calls, omnichannel contact centers operate across multiple channels in a unified way. Businesses might use virtual contact centers or cloud-based contact centers to help connect all the potential avenues a customer might reach out.

In terms of experience for this type of contact center, a deep understanding of customer engagement will be necessary to provide a seamless experience cross-channel. Rather than assuming customers will use only one of many communication channels, a successful omnichannel approach uses customer data to meet experience expectations and respond when customers want, where they want.

Insightful quality management for your contact centers

Best practices for creating positive contact center experiences

Collect, listen and take action on customer feedback

Solicited feedback through customer surveys and unsolicited feedback through tools such as XM Discover can help you to understand what customers expect and to chart the pain points in their customer journey. Rather than assuming what customers are experiencing when they interact with your customer service representatives and your brand, you can understand the views of your customers in their own words.

However, listening to feedback is only part of the process of optimizing your contact center experience. You’ll need to take action, based on data-led insights, to ensure that your customer experience consistently meets and exceeds expectations.

Example:

Your customers are reporting that your call times for your contact center are far too long, resulting in negative feedback and customer churn. Despite adding further call center agents, the problem persists. You decide to use AI-driven contact center software to detect the main reasons customers are calling and implement a chatbot that can respond with the right answers to lower the pressure on your contact center and reduce the long wait.

Read our 11 tips for building great surveys

Track contact center performance

Your contact center performance needs to be monitored with sophisticated analytics to ensure that your team is able to detect issues and optimize your customer experience quickly and easily. By listening to every customer, and  tracking their emotion, sentiment and effort when interacting with the contact center across the customer journey, you can identify areas that are working and what areas need improvement. By adding in operational data such as call data, agent performance, sentiment analysis and more you can get an even deeper understanding of how your contact center is performing, and how to improve.

An example of using AI

Using AI to make your contact center more effective

Example

Let’s say your mobile phone upgrade experience is broken because the button is unresponsive, by tracking the emotion, effort, and sentiment of your customers, wherever they are, you can quickly understand that A) there’s an issue, B) understand the effect it is having on your customers and the potential damage it is causing.

This feedback might be direct, on social media or a review site. By collating real-time feedback, and mirroring that with additional metrics like conversion rates, purchases, page views, NPS, and CSAT, you can take action to resolve the issue swiftly.

Take center agents’ feedback into account

Your employees’ feedback can help you to get better insights into why a particular customer experience is not meeting expectations. Contact center agents are on the frontline and have daily interactions with your target audiences. They are best placed to tell you why a contact center might be seeing the results they’re experiencing, as they have the most contact with the customers you serve.

Example:

As a B2B provider of machinery, you have one client that has newly reported negative experiences with your business. Your customer service agents are able to feedback and tell you their views on why customers are less happy with your product than they were before (needing an in-office visit to resolve problems, rivals’ options look better in terms of design, the customer themselves is difficult to satisfy etc.). With customer service agent insight, you’re able to understand which action to take to help improve the customer relationship.

Focusing on customer experience and ultimate customer interactions

To provide customers with the best contact center experience that will increase your revenue and reduce customer churn, you’ll need to invest in contact center software that can pull together all the relevant data and give you actionable insights.

Customer satisfaction dashboard

Qualtrics’ contact center analytics solution is able to turn your contact center from a business-as-usual expense into a significant loyalty driver. Using AI, Natural Language Understanding and more, it identifies the key drivers of satisfaction and measures contact center performance quality and provides predictive insights into how to improve your service.

Try a demo to see how we can help you to:

  • Build customer surveys based on industry expertise
  • Understand customer emotion, sentiment and intent so you can listen to and understand what people are saying about your company, wherever they’re saying it.
  • Utilize role and channel-based dashboards to deliver real-time insights to the right teams
  • Use Predictive Issue Resolution to get ahead of problems
  • Integrate your analytics and suggested actions into 150+ business tools

Automate processes to help your contact center agents focus on customer experience

Try Qualtrics’ Contact Center Analytics