The agent’s champion

Great customer experiences start with the right blend of technology and human interaction, according to Cirrus CEO Jason Roos who describes himself as a contact centre ‘nerd’ and dedicated ‘champion’ of agents.

Contact centre agents too often find themselves held back by technology that’s not fit for purpose. Spending hours on manual tasks instead of boosting customer engagements is an ineffective use of contact centre time and resource, which is why technology is playing a major role in transforming the contact centre space. “The traditional contact centre management structure has collapsed,” stated Roos. “Supervisors would previously have agents sitting a few metres away and could listen to conversations and assess how issues are being addressed. They could monitor a wall board with an iPad or laptop and take immediate action with people present in the office.

“But following Covid-19 and the move to home working, monitoring can no longer be achieved through proximity. The key is analytics platforms. They enable teams to monitor workflow and determine when supervisors need to act in real time. Using technology, the management structure within traditional contact centres can be reorchestrated to suit modern requirements.”

Another transformative factor is that the telephone has become a secondary contact method to messaging applications like Facebook Messenger, SMS, Twitter DMs and WhatsApp, where consumers can quickly and easily ask a question in real-time. “As a result, businesses must pivot to focus on answering this demand from consumers and put messaging first,’ added Roos. “Voice comes into the equation once the discussion becomes too complex.”

There has also been a change in customer perceptions around their expectations of agents. “For example, noise cancelling headsets were a contact centre norm,” noted Roos. “Now, businesses are letting consumers know that agents may be working from home and background noise from dogs barking to children playing may be heard on a call. Agents have been humanised more, so consumers relate to them and the potential for a positive engagement becomes more likely.”

At our core, we’re a team of contact centre nerds who really do care about our customer relationships

According to Roos, micro firms can no longer think it’s good enough to just have a telephone number and email address. “You are now competing in the same world as the large multinational corporations, and the problem these small businesses face is the cost to entry to deploy the same kind of technology,” said Roos. “It is critical for businesses like Cirrus to provide apps that allow micro business owners and their teams to access, connect and engage through multiple channels via a simple application that isn’t cost prohibitive. This segment of the market is where we’re seeing huge growth and demand.”

Another trend Roos is seeing is the emergence of chatbots and AI, and the power of a blended approach when deploying new technology. “All too often businesses will dive headfirst into the AI pool, rarely taking a moment to comprehensively plan out their approach,” he said. “AI is a valuable tool, but only when it’s used correctly.”

In the contact centre space AI is being used to analyse calls and interpret the outcome. Key questions include – was the issue resolved quickly and effectively? Is there a good chance of boosting customer loyalty? And what could have been done differently to improve the process further? Analysis is even being used to help predict customer behaviour, allowing teams to advise on how best to tackle different responses.”

Among the results of Cirrus’s survey of contact centre agents it was highlighted that AI provides them with more information on the customer to handle queries quicker, enabling them to focus on more challenging tasks. “But while AI has its uses – such as delivering deeper analysis and freeing agents to focus on boosting customer engagements – agent interaction remains at the heart of contact centre activity,” said Roos. “There is still demand for human communication when resolving more complex issues. Nothing beats human intuition when it comes to solving problems. A blended approach is the best way forwards.”

Driving customer value also means adopting a sophisticated approach. “It’s all about demonstrating skill, care and expertise to be different and standout in the noisy market,” added Roos. “Resellers who use the contact centre as a differentiator are standing out among the crowd. We continue to operate with a forward thinking mindset that is driven by the demands, needs and requirements of our customers.

“This is all built around a consultancy-first approach. At our core, we’re a team of contact centre nerds who really do care about our customer relationships. We believe in championing contact centre agents. They are the heroes of the industry so all of our efforts are channelled towards supporting them in their critical roles.”

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