Helping customers to feel connected isn’t easy. Most of the time they don’t want to speak to you at all.

When it’s all going fine they don’t want to talk. But when something goes wrong, when they’re stuck or unhappy with some aspect of your service, then they want you to sort it out. And they want you to do it now.

Today’s customers are mostly tech savvy, and they expect to get to you and the products they want, whenever it suits them. Along with these raised expectations comes a loosening of loyalty. If you don’t deliver what they want, or you make them wait too long before they get it, they’ll walk.

So, what does it take to ease the pressure while revolutionising customer and employee experience in your contact centre? How have some retailers used this opportunity to deliver real value to their business?

The right technology is part of the picture, but it’s how you approach the issue that really influences your success.

The perfect contact centre storm

The contact centre landscape has been in the middle of a perfect storm. Pre-pandemic a contact centre with multiple siloed systems from different suppliers worked OK, but it needed everything and everyone to be on the premises with a team of people on hand to support it. But that’s not the case anymore, and a fragmented collection of contact centre systems and workarounds are a significant weight on efficiency.  It’s impossible to get a 360 degree view of your data when you have slices of information stored in many different places. And without that real view of what’s going on, you can’t react appropriately.


Agents under stress

Agents are the shop front of your business, your voice speaking directly to customers.  And if stress levels are high amongst your customers, it’s the agents who have to deal with that, hour after hour, day after day. 

Kantar surveyed consumers across thousands of different brands and found that people don’t stick around if they’re unhappy. The survey also uncovered the fact that customers are prepared to pay for a better quality of service. People want their questions answered swifty, in whatever channel is most convenient to them. If you can provide that service to the right people at the right time and in the right channel, the investment pays dividends. Customers go where their needs are met, and the market is ripe for disruptors.

Ultimately customers are really just searching for answers to their questions, and fast. Whether through chat, SMS or chatbot, 50% of customers now look for digital interactions first and building in the ability to flip between traditional voice and digital channels smooths the way for everyone.

So what’s the solution? It’s time to look again at your customer journey, and for the places in the journey where you can take the pressure off agents. A successful retail journey today uses multiple channels and automation to help take the pressure off agents and voice channels.

4 steps to designing a contact centre that works

1. Technical landscape

Where are you now? Take a close look at the technology and infrastructure you’re working with. What are you plugged into? What are your roadmaps? When technology is driving the decisions you’re making, you need to start looking at what you’re working with first. 

An understanding of what’s going on with multiple siloed systems running on legacy architecture is a good place to start. Once you’ve got a clear picture of all of the different elements of play then you can identify the areas where you can start to make improvements.


2. The customer

What kind of customer experience are you delivering now? What happens when customers try to get in touch with you? How do the interactions go? What do you want to happen and, crucially, what is your customer telling you? 75% of people hang up waiting in a queue. What are your wait times like?


of people hang up waiting in a queue. What are your wait times like?

3. Your employees

Your employees are the most important people in this process. They’re the ones that need to provide swift answers to customers’ questions. Your people need the right environment to power your customer experience.

Often decisions about contact centre tech tend to be taken by IT, with a view on delivering what the external customer wants. It’s really useful to turn the lens back into the internal customer too. Involve them in the decision making, and make sure you’re equipping them with the tools they need to deliver the experience your customer wants. 

4. Define success

The fourth step in the process is to be explicit about what success means to you. Which services and kit do you need to bring this to life so that your businesses can focus on the journey and the experience that they want to deliver?

And while the conversation is around how you’re going to reconfigure your contact centre, it’s not a technical conversation. The conversation you want to have is ‘what experience are we delivering and what is the outcome?’’ How do we increase margins?’ ‘How do we increase sales?’ ‘How do we reduce the number of calls that we’re losing so we can drive better sales through the pipeline? How do we increase loyalty? How do we make ourselves more efficient and impact our bottom line? That’s a conversation that you want to have.

What happens when you put employees at the heart of your contact centre design?

Clarks Shoes is a traditional retail organisation who knew it needed to shift the way it operated. Like many retailers, its customer service technology had evolved in a piecemeal fashion over decades of trading, and its customer service employees weren’t happy. In order to answer a customer query or deal with a transaction they needed to use 14 different systems. Response times were slow, engagement levels were low, frustration levels were high. 

The pandemic provided the push the business needed to simplify operations. Employees working from home needed a light-touch system. Creating a one pane single view of the customer means they can help much faster and with more ease; no more jumping from one system to another. A web bot that allows customers to find answers to queries without phoning at all has relieved pressure on call staff. Allowing the tech to do some of the heavy lifting frees up the staff to deal with the queries that need the human touch. And to do it successfully. Which means higher staff engagement, as well as an upturn in customer service levels. A further big benefit to this already win-win situation is the fact that staff retention levels have improved, and the spend on training has dropped. Reducing employee churn has led to a team with more experience – a team that’s equipped to deliver the rich level of customer service that the business needs.

So, if you want to dial down the customer service frustration, like Clarks, focus on the needs of your internal team first. Make it easy for them to deliver great customer service, and see them thrive. With a motivated team who have the tools and resources to really help customers with their queries, your service levels will rise. The contact centre is in the midst of a revolution that will sort the innovators from the stay-the-samers.

Now’s your chance to transform your customer experience into something that keeps your customers close and your agents even closer.