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How Contact Centers Improve Customer Experience

by Margaret Joy

Contact centers are replacing traditional call centers, but how exactly do they improve customer experience?

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that calling support (for anything) brings on a wave of dread that makes tax season seem fun. Okay, maybe we went too far there, but you get the gist. And it’s no surprise—the world of call centers isn’t exactly lacking room for improvement when it comes to customer experience (CX). Call centers haven’t really changed in decades despite the massive evolution in communications technology. The typical experience is so notoriously bad that we could fill this page with nothing but memes and tv clips and guarantee that our point would come across crystal clear—it’s that much of a running gag.

Like we said, loads of room for improvement. We could jump in here and say “That’s where contact centers come in!” but that doesn’t really address the source of the problem, does it?

Diagnosing the Trouble With Support and Customer Experience

So, why do we hate calling support? Usually the person at the other end is actually wicked nice. If it’s not the people, it must be the process. We shudder at the thought of calling support because we think of long wait times with terrible on-hold music. Of aggravating auto attendants. Of bouncing from rep to rep repeating ourselves. It’s not their fault the system didn’t sort the customer into the right area, or that there’s no unified back end system removing the need to start over with each transfer. And, most notably in the 21st century, why oh WHY is calling still the default option?

Infographic showing the most frustrating aspects of contacting customer service.
We’ve referenced this HubSpot study before and it’s worth bringing up again.

Well, that’s not exactly true, but it’s mostly accurate. Sure, you could email. But that only works if the issue isn’t pressing. Who knows how often the inbox is checked, let alone when you’ll get a reply. And yes, chat bots entered the ring a few years back. What looked like the first strong push in advancing support communications went, er, less than well. Not only do many web chat options make you start over if you accidentally click away from the original page, but those interactions often position calling as the far more desirable option. Your author could go on for days about her support chat bot interactions, but we haven’t got enough room for that much rage. The key takeaway is that simply adding a couple of new channels worked like an off-brand band-aid that falls off instantly. 

Call centers have modernized since switchboards reigned supreme, but even with the Internet and cloud versions, the same major pain points persist.

But we’re finally seeing an industry shift to better-designed technology addressing them. It’s a subset of design thinking called Service Design. Think Human-Centered Design or Privacy by Design, but for services: proactively centering employee and customer experiences in process design. 

Finally, CX is the starting point, not an afterthought, which is one trend we’re happy to extoll. By using a system designed to meet customer needs you instantly improve their experience—and your employees’ to boot. And that’s where contact centers come in. 

Contact Center & Customer Experience

Consumers have learned from experience that contacting support will likely end in wasting hours of their time and getting nowhere. Contact center technology, built right, meets customer needs: Easy navigation, quick and complete answers, and all on their terms. Added up, you provide excellent CX—which leads to better retention and brand loyalty. Let’s outline two key ways that cloud contact center software improves on the support experience.

Contact Center Automation

High-touch environments drive frustration on the consumer side, which inevitably comes back to the poor employee to whom they eventually speak. Now, let’s be clear. Implementing tech-touch (i.e. managed by software) in place of high-touch (heavier on human interaction) is not synonymous with replacing the human element. Use automation to guide customers to the answers they seek, especially for simple matters that don’t require an agent’s time. A thoughtfully designed auto attendant makes this happen, or the AI equivalent if online. Features like skill-based routing or ACD queues remove the extreme annoyance of transferring between multiple reps. Instead, the customer reaches the right person the first time. If using a web-based portal, well-designed contact center AI could direct the customer to a robust knowledgebase filled with answers pulled from a history of others with the same issue.  

In sum, automation designed to fill the gaps between sales, marketing, and support teams becomes a barely-noticeable tool—and that’s entirely the goal of design thinking.

Omnichannel Contact Center

One of the best ways to streamline customer support while focused on CX is to let the customer reach out in the way they want. Meet omnichannel preference: Where modern tech meets support infrastructure. Do offer myriad channels; don’t limit your customers to one or two types because it’s what’s always been done.

When companies jumped on the live chat trend it was to speed up the support process. Good in theory, not so good in practice. You can’t speed up a process that’s already broken. The point is to let customers come to you on their terms, and that means having a platform that caters to them. Equally important is to unify communications internally, so when a customer reaches out one way that information is recorded centrally for other teams to access, no matter which channel they typically use. 

Infographic showing how much time employees spend managing different communication tools each day.

A cloud contact center provides a unified platform, automatically improving both employee and customer experience. If you still rely on a traditional call center it’s absolutely worth checking out alternate options. After all, improved infrastructure and processes benefit business across the board. We often focus on the cybersecurity side of things, and we hope this blog provides some solid insight on how to improve your customers’ experience with your company—throughout their entire journey with you. 

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