Over the past few years, doing business in Russia has been most seriously influenced by rising inflation and gross domestic product (GDP). These two factors naturally triggered a chain reaction: the rising cost of materials used in production requires greater investment in business development; this, in turn, generates demand for new solutions that would optimize costs.
Contact centers, which are generally considered to be centers of cost rather than profit, would have been sacrificed in the current economic situation. At the same time, companies realize that in these conditions, poor service or non-existent customer liaison would only make things worse.
That is why the contact center industry is vigorously trying out innovations that could simultaneously optimize costs, improve customer service and increase brand loyalty. New technologies are gradually penetrating customer service; the market also dictates the rules of the game, shaping the trends in customer service: one business implements a novelty; its rivals follow suit to remain competitive, but do so in their own way. The way contact centers are organized is changing; new standards of service and information security are emerging.
How will customer service change in the near future, and what are companies doing now to give greater value to their consumers?
Improving personal data security
Improving customer service involves more than solutions that will increase customer satisfaction. According to a PwC study, 69% of consumers are concerned about companies not being able to provide adequate protection for their data. In 2018 alone, about 2 mio leaks were recorded that compromised personal data.
So customers should be increasingly informed about the management of their data; they should be warned about potential dangers and advised on how to protect themselves. It is important to provide customers with information on how their personal data is used, processed and stored.
Such requirements are included, for example, in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that took effect in the EU last year. In Russia, secure personal data processing is stipulated by Federal Law 153-FZ.
This year, the demand for technical solutions for secure data transmission and encryption will increase. These solutions include those that integrate call centers with processing centers and the company’s business units that allow IVR (Interactive Voice Response) payments. Customers can provide their credit card data without the help of a call center operator. The solutions are often used, for example, by airline companies and retailers so that customers could pay for their purchases while on the phone.
Moreover, companies will be more responsible and strict about regulating operation of their call centers. According to an Infowatch research, 40% leaks occur through the fault of company employees. Call center operators must not have any tools to write down, record or copy any information (paper, pens, electronic devices and other potential data carriers).
There will also be a higher demand for automatic systems that monitor call center employees’ activity on the computer programs that they work with. For example, here at Teleperformance we use our own monitoring solution, TP Observer. The system detects suspicious or atypical activity, automatically starts recording an employee’s screen and alerts the security that will, on its part, organize an inquiry and register the violation.
Self-service as a must have for companies
Younger generations are more prone to searching for answers to their questions online. According to a CX Lab survey, 29% of respondents in Russia did not contact a call center because they handled the issue independently. They found answers on the respective company website, elsewhere on the internet, on YouTube or asked around.
Many companies are already implementing self-service – for example, by posting FAQs or knowledge bases on their websites and by starting community forums where users can help each other. Ride-hailing services install their kiosks at cafes, bars or airports, while some air carriers have fully switched to self-service check-in kiosks and machines. Can you recall when you waited in a line at McDonald’s instead of making a fast order via a self-order kiosk? Such solutions provide a greater freedom for customers, reduce costs, and optimize staff’s workload allowing them to engage in solving more complicated tasks.
Switching to digital
A major trend is active introduction of online channels for customer support, such as online chats, social networking sites, and messengers. According to a research by Teleperformance CX Lab, last year almost half of Russians chose online communication channels to address a company’s contact center. If given an option to pick one channel, 25% of the respondents would use email or contact the company via the website. Others would prefer online chats (8%), messengers (4%), social media websites (3%), chat bots (1%), and mobile apps (1%).
Companies that seek to keep their clients loyal should meet their expectations, such as through providing preferable communication channels. Yet, traditional channels are still incomparably more popular among customers. The latest research by Teleperformance CX Lab has revealed that 54% of customers chose to call the contact center.
Clients believe that the quality of customer service often depends on customer support personnel’s professionalism. Its lack was reported as reason for dissatisfaction with the work of a company’s contact center by 21% of Russian customers. Introducing a technology is not enough; efforts should also be taken to teach staff members to properly use it.
Both programs and approaches to the training of customer service personnel will change. According to iKS Consulting, employees aged between 20 and 24 comprise approximately a third of all call center operators.
Companies that strive to provide efficient training programs for such employees will change their approaches to training. For instance, they will continue to introduce online training with elements of gamification.
Moving on despite mistakes
It is important to understand that following trends does not always benefit the brand image. One of such anti-trends is the introduction of the interactive voice response (IVR) system that often confuses the caller. It is not a secret that sometimes it is impossible for the caller to reach the operator, which causes a negative customer experience and slows down the necessary communication for the business.
According to a survey conducted by iDVP PF in 2018, 45% of IT and business leaders say that their companies are on the very early stage of the development of digital business: they either collect information or only begin to form their digital strategy. However, often the advantages of new communication channels are overestimated: for instance, shifting responsibility to communicate with clients onto chatbots is not appreciated by customers. According to СХ Lab, 68% Russian consumers prefer to talk to a real person.
It can be safely assumed that customer support is currently making its first steps on the way to digitalization. Naturally, each company strives to develop and improve customer service by testing new ways of communication. However, the growth rate still depends not so much on technology itself but on the company’s readiness to employ it. It is not enough to just introduce a new channel; a series of internal changes must be done to all business processes and a strategy must be developed to meet customers’ needs.
By Yekaterina Osina, General Director of Teleperformance Russia Group