The early-2000s call center was cramped, bustling with voices and dial tones. Ten years later, the call center becomes the contact center. The clatter of keystrokes joins the ambience, as agents service more digital channels. Another ten years later however, the lights are off and the office is empty.
The world of work has fundamentally transformed over the last few years, and the contact center along with it. This has given rise to new terms such as the ‘virtual contact center’ and the ‘virtual agent’. But what do these terms mean? Are they essential CX vocabulary of the future, or meaningless buzzwords? This blog explores the virtual contact center in detail, highlighting what it means for your CX.
What is the virtual contact center?
The virtual contact center is a customer engagement hub that can be accessed by your agents from anywhere through the browser, on any device, letting them work from geographically dispersed locations. The virtual contact center, by definition, is not tied to any on-prem infrastructure. It is based in the cloud and can be updated at the click of a button. Changes to systems can be rolled out instantly, meaning the virtual content center will always be kept at the cutting-edge of CX advancements.
CX benefit or buzzword?
The virtual contact center is more than a buzzword. Rather, it’s the core of a CX revolution. Like it or not, distributed working is here to stay. The experience of working flexibly has revolutionized employee expectations. As businesses around the world struggle to attract and maintain talent, meeting these expectations is more essential than ever. Despite what you may think, meeting the expectation of flexible working is not to your disadvantage. The virtual contact center focuses on making the most of the advantages of distributed working.
Around the world, businesses are facing a huge shortage of qualified workers. In the contact center, the agent attrition crisis continues to advance with no end in sight. Great CX, and all the associated bottom-line advantages, depends on keeping your agents engaged. Businesses lose $1.8 trillion annually to unengaged employees.1 Anything that boosts the well-being and engagement of your workforce will correspondingly boost your bottom line.
The ability to offer flexible work to prospective applicants is a significant draw: 68% of millennial job seekers say that flexible working is very important when searching for a job. For many, flexible working is more than just a convenience. It is a productivity booster: 75% of people say that they prefer to work from home, to be free of distractions.2
Flexible working offers benefits to businesses as well as employees. Beyond savings on heating and lighting large offices, flexible working drives up both productivity and retention. Companies that permit flexible working have a 25% lower turnover rate and hire 33% faster.3 Employees report being 66% more productive when working from home. When the challenge of the daily commute is eliminated, 86% of employees report reduced stress and are 52% less likely to be off sick.4
In summary, the benefits of flexible working are manifold. The virtual contact center, however, does more than just support flexible working. Rather, it offers a host of powerful, cutting-edge tools to both optimize your workforce and empower your agents. These tools are based in the cloud. No longer reliant on hardware, keeping the virtual contact center up-to-date is easier than ever before.
Meeting the virtual agent
Your agents work better when they work flexibly. When building your virtual contact center, the agent interface is your single most essential component. To make the most of your agent’s skills, you need to equip them with powerful and intuitive tools.
An agent’s most important tool is their interface. This should be a tool without limits; every customer contact, every piece of data, and every contact channel should be displayed here. Your agent interface should be fluid, allowing agents to move seamlessly between channels without having to switch applications.
This interface should also allow for peer-to-peer communication. The social atmosphere of the contact center is often lost during the transition to remote working. The relationships of support that form between agents often break down, leaving them struggling to find answers when problems arise. Your agent interface should allow instant communication throughout every level of your business, maintaining the culture of the office, online.
By giving agents seamless access to customer data in this interface, you can empower them to create personalized interactions. Agents should also be equipped with access to your organization’s knowledge base so that they can find answers for customers quickly.
Your agent interface should be secure, no matter how distributed your workforce. With two-factor authentication and a secure payment environment, you can ensure that your CX is secure, even when not supervised in person.
Supervision in the virtual contact center
Your agents are your most important asset, but they need guidance to thrive. Supervisors need contact center insights that enable them to get the best from their agents.
The first of these tools is real-time reporting. Supervisors need up-to-date CX insights into the metrics that matter to them. Whether they need a high-level overview, or to drill down into the specifics of agent performance, your reporting tool should be flexible enough to adapt to your supervisors’ needs. Data should be easily transferable into custom reports that can be shared with the click of a button.
Broad-level oversight is crucial, but effective supervision requires individual feedback. The virtual contact center requires screen recording, transcription, and analytics that allow supervisors to provide feedback to individual agents.
Keeping up with demand is a constant challenge. Your supervisors need ways to predict customer demand and schedule agents accordingly, factoring in agent preferences. The virtual contact center necessitates a WFM solution that allows for intelligent forecasting and automated scheduling. Indeed, intelligent automation is essential to many aspects of the virtual contact center.
The virtual contact center and automation
AI is set to save trillions of dollars through automation.5 When simpler tasks can be handled by a chatbot, human agents are free to focus only on the most complex interactions.
For most customers, your online presence is their first point of contact with your business. Customers expect instant responses, tailored to their needs – often faster than what a traditional contact center can provide. Customers have become accustomed to seeing automated chatbots that can give immediate answers, without the need to contact a human agent at all. The virtual contact center makes chatbots a central part of your CX ecosystem. Chatbot conversations should be displayed in the agent interface, allowing a human agent to take over an interaction at any time.
Beyond front-line contact, the virtual contact center should employ predictive AI to make scheduling and routing decisions. With intelligent scheduling, customers can be directed to the best available agent automatically, to dramatically boost the likelihood of first contact resolution. In addition, chatbots can be allocated accordingly depending on forecast demand. Through intelligent automation, the virtual contact center flexes to meet any challenge.
Automation is guided by data. Chatbots with AI intelligence require information to make decisions – information about customers that can power routing decisions, or be used to create personalized experiences. The virtual contact center, then, is defined by the centralization of data in the cloud. All systems of record are linked together so that data is never trapped in siloes. This data can be brought into customer interactions, allowing chatbots to greet each customer individually.
Build your virtual contact center with storm®.
storm DTA® is a flexible, intuitive interface that grants access to every function of the virtual contact center. Agents can initiate and respond to contacts from any channel, traditional and digital, without having to change applications. Customer data can be presented alongside each contact, allowing for personalized experiences and easy first contact resolution.
Supervisors can get real-time contact center insights, down to the level of the individual agent, with storm VIEW™. This intuitive reporting tool can be used to create custom reports, either historical or accurate-to-the-second, to be shared easily. With storm WFM™, the supervisor can use AI-backed forecasting and intelligent scheduling to coordinate agents to meet demand.
Finally, the brain® AI toolkit provides everything you need to get started with automation. From automated, AI-driven chatbots called Machine Agents™, to intelligent routing and scheduling, brain will revolutionize your CX.
Every aspect of the storm suite works seamlessly together and integrates with any existing infrastructure and systems of record. storm stands ready to support your move to flexible working. The virtual contact center is no buzzword. Rather, the cloud is already in the process of transforming the CX landscape. Content Guru makes that transformation easy.