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How to Build a Modern Contact Centre

Mon, October 30, 2023

Back in the early days of their existence, contact centres only handled voice calls and perhaps some physical mail. As we know all too well, customers were often left lingering on hold before speaking with someone, and the experience was slow and cumbersome compared to today with little choice, personalisation or flexibility.

With the advent of the internet and digital revolution, how organisations provided customer service started to change. The digital age opened new channels for customers to engage with brands. First email became popular and is still unsurpassed as an asynchronous channel.

Next came web-based chat features, often built directly into company websites. Customers could now get help without the wait times commonly associated with phone calls. Social media further revolutionised customer service as platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram evolved to become more than marketing and branding tools. This necessitated a different approach to customer service; as agents’ responses are visible to a broader audience, queries must be answered promptly and professionally.

The transformation of contact centres from voice hubs to multi-channel communication and customer experience (CX) centres reflects broader shifts in technology and consumer behaviour. As customers increasingly embrace digital channels, contact centres must adapt to deliver efficient and meaningful support and experiences across all platforms.

Today’s modern contact centre is a large, complex, and multi-faceted beast which sits at the heart of any customer-centric organisation and reaches deep into every department and business function. Deploying a contact centre these days – even a relatively modest one – requires an enormous investment in technology, processes, and people.

If you are about to embark on such a project or need to upgrade your legacy tech stack, let’s look at the leading technologies that underpin a modern contact centre.


1. Go Cloud or Go Home

Early call centres were limited to just the voice channel and usually just one physical location, as all the computers and telephony equipment were on-site. Over the last decade, cloud technologies have transformed contact centres, making them more flexible, scalable, and resilient.

With a CCaaS (Contact Centre as a Service) cloud platform, it’s simple to integrate new features, set up and manage remote work environments, and handle sudden increases in demand. Choosing the voice platform that best fits your organisation’s needs is crucial – some offer ready-made solutions that work out of the box, while others provide more customisation options.

Some of the technologies you will need to invest in are:

  • Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS): An end-to-end cloud solution that offers all contact centre functionality without needing on-premise infrastructure.
  • Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS): Combine voice, video, chat, and collaboration tools in a single cloud-based platform.
  • Cloud-Based IVR Systems: Route calls and handle basic customer queries without on-site equipment.
  • Workforce Management (WFM) Tools: Cloud-based solutions for forecasting contact volumes, scheduling agents, and real-time monitoring performance.
  • Cloud Storage Solutions: Securely store and manage vast amounts of customer data, call recordings, and interaction histories in the cloud.


2. You Must Enable an Omnichannel Experience

The introduction of email brought about a change in how contact centres operated. Suddenly, customers had another channel to send their enquiries or concerns to at any time, breaking free from the confines of working hours and the tyranny of having to wait on the phone. This shift transformed customer interactions by offering flexibility and convenience.

Customers now want to interact with brands through the digital platforms like Instagram, WhatsApp and TikTok they use daily. It is crucial to adopt an omnichannel approach to ensure a reliable experience regardless of whether they reach out via phone, chat, email, or social media.

Here are some of the technologies required to provide an omnichannel customer experience:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems: Centralise customer data from all touchpoints, providing a holistic view of each customer’s journey.
  • Social Media Management Tools: Manage and monitor customer interactions across different social media platforms from a unified dashboard.
  • Mobile App Integration: Ensure mobile interactions are seamlessly integrated into the customer journey.
  • Self-Service Portals: Customers can access information, make purchases, or resolve issues independently across different channels.
  • Content Management Systems (CMS): Ensure consistent content delivery across various platforms, such as web, mobile, and in-store displays.
  • Case Management System: Indispensable for tracking and managing customer interactions across different platforms.
  • Integration Platforms as a Service (iPaaS): Connect various cloud-based tools and systems, ensuring seamless data flow and integration.
  • Remote Agent Solutions: Tools that enable agents to work from anywhere, including softphones, virtual desktops, secure VPN access, and monitoring software.


3. Automate with AI

AI (artificial intelligence) has, of course, been around for some time, but only in the last year have chatbots and virtual assistants shown they can handle more than just basic interactions. LLM (Large Language Models), the technology behind Chat GPT, and NLP (Natural Language Processing) allow bots to interact using everyday language and understand almost any query.

However, AI technology doesn’t solely focus on automating customer interactions. Agents can be empowered by AI, too. Workflow tools that monitor interactions and customer sentiment in real-time can now make recommendations to agents, provide insight and knowledge when needed, and also reduce the time it takes to do manual tasks like data entry.

Here are some of the AI and automation technologies that a modern contact centre should be utilising:

  • Chatbots: Can now handle a wide range of queries, from answering frequently asked questions to guiding users through complex processes.
  • Virtual Assistants: More advanced than traditional chatbots, assistants like ChatGPT can understand context, handle multi-turn conversations, and provide more human-like interactions.
  • IVR Bots: Interactive Voice Response bots automate the voice channel, guiding callers through menus and even resolving common queries without human intervention.
  • Personalised Content Delivery: AI analyses customer preferences and browsing history to deliver tailored content, enhancing user engagement and relevance.
  • Predictive Search: Even before customers type out their queries, AI predicts and suggests potential questions, speeding up the information retrieval process for self-service.
  • AI-Driven Knowledge Bases: These dynamic systems help agents access information quickly. Instead of static FAQs, these knowledge bases use AI to pull the most relevant information based on the context of the customer’s query.
  • Predictive Analytics for Next Best Action: Using historical data and real-time insights, AI can suggest the ‘‘next best action’’ for agents, guiding them on the optimal path to resolve a customer’s issue or even upsell/cross-sell products.
  • Workflow Automation with AI: AI can streamline workflows by automating routine tasks, ensuring that agents focus on more complex tasks that require human intervention.


4. Data Analytics and Security

Modern contact centres are valuable treasure troves of structured and unstructured data collected about customers and their behaviour. Using AI and machine learning, data analytics helps you understand customer behaviour, preferences and pain points. This enables the delivery of personalised interactions, customised product recommendations and proactive problem-solving.

Computer vision capabilities such as OCR (optical character recognition) can also help by ‘‘reading’’ handwritten and printed documents. Given the amount of personal data handled by contact centres, ensuring information security and compliance with regulations like GDPR is a legal necessity and best practice to safeguard the company’s reputation.

Some of the data and security technologies a modern contact centre requires include:

  • Data Warehouse: It’s essential to have a centralised data warehouse that gathers information from all your organisation’s data pipelines.
  • Predictive Analytics Tools: Software to analyse historical data to predict future customer behaviours and trends.
  • Sentiment Analysis Tools: These tools gauge customer sentiment by analysing customer feedback and interactions, helping agents tailor their responses.
  • Real-Time Analytics Platforms: Tools that provide real-time data on customer interactions, allowing agents to adjust their approach on the fly based on live insights.
  • Conversational Analytics: This technology analyses customer-agent conversations in real-time or transcribes them later for analysis to provide insights to business leaders on customer behaviour and preferences.
  • Encryption Tools: It’s critical to encrypt all your data, whether it’s at rest or in transit, to ensure that sensitive information remains confidential.
  • Secure Access Service Edge (SASE): A security framework that combines network security and wide area networking capabilities in a single cloud-based service.
  • Secure Payment Solutions: Technologies such as PCI-compliant payment gateways ensure customer payment details are securely processed and stored.
  • VPN (Virtual Private Network): Secure encrypted connections to ensure data privacy during remote access.
  • GDPR Compliance Tools: Software solutions that help businesses adhere to GDPR requirements, ensuring data privacy and protection.


What Does the Future Look Like?

Looking ahead to the future of contact centres, technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) may find their place, at least in some industry sectors. Further advancements in natural language processing (NLP) and AI will enable assistants and chatbots to have more sophisticated interactions that resemble human-like conversations.

Although the digital era has brought about opportunities, it also presents challenges for contact centres. Delivering excellent service and great experiences across all channels is mission-critical and requires a huge investment of time, personnel, and technology.

The future of the contact centre will encompass many more technological advancements that we cannot yet imagine. Emerging technologies such as brain-computer interfaces (BCI) and personal shopper bots may emerge in the next decade or so to cause a new round of investments and a reassessment of the role performed by human agents.

Nevertheless, regardless of these advancements, the personal touch provided by people will always be invaluable as there are times when all customers need a genuine human connection. Our final piece of advice is not to get so lost in the technology as to lose sight of that.

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