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Contact Centers Are Key to Reopening After COVID-19

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photo @Chris Yarzabphoto @Chris Yarzab

While COVID-19 continues to rage across the globe with many nations on full lock down, some countries, states, and municipalities have begun the gradual process of slowly and carefully re-opening. The hope is that tools like social distancing and wearing face coverings in public will start to allow certain industries to re-open, enabling many people to return to work.

 

But while the world may soon start getting back to business, it’s likely not going to be “business as usual” for quite some time. It will take a careful balancing act as governments and businesses weigh the health of the economy with the health of their workers and citizens.

 

One of the keys to economic recovery will almost certainly involve an increased reliance on the contact center industry. Many of the face-to-face business activities that used to be conducted in person will, at least for the foreseeable future, need to be conducted virtually – on the web, over the phone, or via social messaging apps like WhatsApp.

 

One of the biggest challenges that many organizations will face is how to integrate modern communication channels – such as SMS, web chat, and social messaging apps – into aging, on-premise legacy contact center infrastructure that was originally designed primarily for telephone.

 

Typically, legacy on-premise contact center systems have been pieced together over the years, resulting in a hodgepodge of point solutions that don’t share data or talk with one another. Trying to add newer communication channels – such as SMS, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger – to these antiquated systems often proves prohibitively expensive, if not impossible.

 

Instead, what companies often end up with is a collection of disparate best-of-breed tools and technologies that all use different technologies and user interfaces, forcing contact center agents to toggle between different screens – while manually re-entering or copying customer information across systems. Worse, customers may get different responses depending on which channel they use, or which contact-center agent they speak with.

 

One obvious solution to this problem is to implement a modern, Cloud-based omnichannel contact center system like SAP Contact Center 365 that supports all communication channels using the same user interface and the same set of routing rules. This way, a customer gets the same great service whether they reach out via telephone, email, web chat, video chat, SMS, or social messaging services.

 

It is critical that businesses today provide customers with an omnichannel experience, allowing customers to choose their preferred communication channels. However, that doesn’t mean that businesses need to offer every conceivable communication channel. “Omnichannel” should not be confused with “every channel”.

 

For example, some e-commerce companies and online retailers have made the strategic decision to not offer telephone or email support, but to only provide support via web chat. On the other hand, some government and public sector agencies still support fax. The specific communication channels that you decide to choose will likely depend on factors such as your industry, customer base, and geographic location.

 

For example, while Facebook Messenger is big in North America, consumers in China use WeChat almost exclusively. Iran, Uzbekistan and Ethiopia prefer Telegram. Viber is big in the former Soviet republics. Whereas in Turkmenistan the only app allowed is called IMO. And in certain parts of Asia and Africa where communication infrastructure is limited, many companies still operate mainly via SMS. There are even some aboriginal tribes in the world that still communicate via smoke signals.

 

Your organization doesn’t have to support every communication tool and channel ever invented. You would do very well to just focus on the key channel (or channels) that your customers prefer. That might be telephone and email if you’re a regulated public utility, or perhaps just a messaging tool like WhatsApp if you’re a high-tech start-up.

 

The important thing is to ensure that your customers get a consistent, satisfying customer experience – regardless of communication channel. Get that right, and your customers probably won’t get too upset that you don’t still offer support for antiquated communication channels like ICQ, fax, telegraph, semaphore, tin-can telephone, carrier pigeon, or smoke signals.

 

Click here to learn more about a 30-day free trial of SAP Contact Center 365 cloud service.

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