Today, call centres do more than just answer calls. Over the past few years, their service list has extended to numerous diverse customer-focused tasks, including appointment management, live web chat, email support, social media management, order processing, virtual reception services, business process management, market research and lead generation, among others.
This broadening of scope has been made possible by technological advances, and the increasing complexity of retail supply chains introducing multi-channel options for customers. Unsurprisingly, there has been a widespread move to introduce automation and robotics into call centre operations to help deal with this proliferation of service demands.
Now, at any one time, customer information could be with the fulfillment centre team, the web team, inventory or payments. The process chain that ensures delivery to customers remains seamless can be long and complex as a result. Again, technology has done much to help bridge these operational challenges for retailers, who can now offer customers not just an omnichanell shopping experience but a single, unified, channel.
On the other hand, the events of the last year or so have also reinforced the importance of call centre agents as the primary human touchpoint for consumers interacting with brands.
Before the pandemic, most brands were investing in robotic/automation technology to help drive process efficiency. But as social distancing requirements and national lockdowns saw a rise in online and contactless shopping, customers began to want more.
It is not just when people connect that has changed – how contact centres are run has also been altered by the pandemic. Cheaper outsourced alternatives in Asia, the rise of robots and automated AI systems as well as an increase in customers using social media to interact, complain and enquire, has meant contact centres have had to work hard to survive.
People now want to engage with an actual person rather than a robot, someone who can empathise with their challenges and connect with them, as well as providing the glue between the various channels they use to go about their shopping.
As such, customer service agents are now becoming the guardians of a channel-less retail experience, not only managing escalations for customers but also being proactive in the opportunities and solutions that they can bring them.
For retailers, this means that a hybrid approach to call centres and customer services is the best route to success. They need to harness the ability of technology to predict, analyse and cater to consumer demands, but ally this to humane touchpoints which enable consumers to obtain personal responses to their queries.
Weaving these two strands together can transform contact centres into full customer experience hubs, creating interactions that delight and, in the context of complaints, turn negatives into positives at the drop of a hat. By 2025 the contact centre will have transformed into an experience hub – an entity that is essentially responsible for underpinning and driving the customer experience as well as for the interactions a company has with its customers and prospects.
That means that retailers and brand across the UK have to rethink and reimagine their contact centre offerings to continue delivering outstanding service levels. And the time to act is now.
As this report from CX Today indicates, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed contact centres forever. With current offshore contracts and partnerships becoming void due to the pandemic, and 83% of contact centre leaders revising their Business Continuity Strategies, a further 40% are planning to invest in Communications with Remote Agents and Managers in 2021.
These figures bear out evidence of ongoing change in customer service operations. While such a dramatic pivot poses challenges for retailers, who want to balance call centre affordability with quality, there are – as with any set of challenges – huge opportunities to be grasped. While there is demand for ‘native’ customer support, running a best-in-class contact centre in the UK is expensive, and retailers reeling from the effects of lockdowns and economic contractions are looking for leaner alternatives.
Luckily, retailers can obtain this best-in-class quality at affordable price points. They just need to look further than the established, traditional hubs of offshore contact centres, such as India and the Phillipines. In the past, these hubs were suitable a for a time when volume and speed were the markers of success.
Today, contact centres need to deliver on sophisticated, nuanced customer engagements that drive acquisition and retention strategies. South Africa has become a go-to option for the full customer experience hubs because the combination of its cultural alignment and offshore affordability makes it ideal for retailers looking to cut costs without compromising contact centre service quality.
Durban, a coastal city in eastern South Africa, is the most culturally aligned South African city to the UK. It boasts the largest skilled, accent-neutral workforce in the country, providing seamless conversations on par with on shore competitors. And they can do it at a fraction of the cost.
Synergy Contact Centres provide human-led customer service from South Africa that support UK retailers and customers affordably, 50-60% cheaper than UK-based contact centres. Synergy takes the time to get to know your business inside and out. They’re part of your team because they take the time to get to know you, your processes and what makes you, uniquely you.
And because great customer service is available on tap in South Africa, we provide the best contact centre solutions around, and we don’t have to charge an arm and a leg for our services, because we grow excellence on trees. Speak to an expert today to find out how Synergy can bring your best-in-class call centres at game-changing prices.