Categories: Customer Experience

Should Voice Fly Away from Your Contact Center?

In November 2022, one of the top 10 U.S. airlines made a significant announcement that will go down as a milestone in the history of customer service – announcing that all access to voice-based live customer service would be terminated. Contact Center

Simply stated, their “call centers” were permanently closed, and their customers will be directed to self-serve via a mobile app or website. What might have been the motivations behind this strategic decision and can we expect more announcements like this in the year ahead?

Is old news happening to new people?

A truism in contact center operations is that all perceived “innovation” winds its way back to a few common principles based on physics laws and issues surrounding supply and demand. These include random arrival patterns, offered load, retrial tables, and other mathematical realities.

On the other end of the equation is the historical cost of human capital – typically 60-70% of running a contact center… and where a decision like this may lie. The business in question was known as a “low-cost” provider and already had a spotty record for customer service.

Aren’t all contact centers tacitly doing this already?

Contact centers are constantly searching for ways to improve their cost profiles. Almost every significant innovation in the history of the contact center – Computer Telephony Integration (CTI), Interactive Voice Response (IVR), and a host of other inventions were justified by shaving mere seconds off calls – or avoiding them altogether, which accumulated into headcount reductions.

The ultimate question was whether these cost reductions came at the cost of customer attrition because poor and high-effort processes can often lead to reduced loyalty. We can be assured that this airline’s abrupt decision was not a whimsical one – serious number crunching likely occurred and a business case was undoubtedly presented to senior leadership with expected returns and risks.

Most businesses running contact centers have more deliberate versions of this strategy, particularly as effective alternatives to voice engagement exist today – chat and emerging messaging channels. They carefully look to help customers shift to lower-cost digital channels while inspecting the resulting effect on customer loyalty and attrition along the way.

This is not “new news” but an effort that has been in play in the contact center industry for years. So yes, portions of most contact centers are “flying away” to self-service and digital.

So, should your call center “fly away” in 2023 too? Be careful!

Of course, the answer depends! If the value proposition of your business is linear and prone to predictability, you likely have a deliberate strategy of reducing live assistance through messaging and self-service alternatives.

However, if your business model is prone to unpredictable events (like an airline), eliminating the human element in times of crisis (like flight cancellations, weather, etc.) may be a poor strategy. Humans are highly adaptable and inherent problem solvers, and though alternatives are becoming more efficient, they still lack the empathy and effectiveness of live assistance in crunch time.

The exceptions coming into contact centers for live assistance are often brand breakers of last resort, so plan accordingly. Fortunately, there are solutions, like Webex Contact Center, that allow you to invest in both digital and voice engagement when necessary – no need to choose one over the other.

So what, now what?

It’s 2023, and the contact center industry, once an “annual software release” market, has become one of the most dynamic software spaces in the entire enterprise. New innovations are launched every day in continuous delivery software cycles. More opportunities than ever exist to positively impact the top and bottom lines of a business through contact center operations. But where to start?

At Cisco, we have found the best possible combination is to combine an intense focus on seeking out new forms of automation and digital engagement, while concurrently optimizing the processes and tools used for live assistance.

The combination of these two approaches impacts both the cost and revenue levers in a positive way, continuing to help businesses increase levels of automation without sacrificing the personalization needed during the live exceptions that humans inevitably will need to address.

Our next blog in our “Fly Away” series will address the march of automation as it relates to improving your contact center operations in 2023.

Visit our webpage to learn more about Webex Contact Center and how it allows businesses to provide both the best of both voice and digital channels.

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Published by
Zack Taylor

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