I have had the privilege of working on the Unified Comms industry for over 15 years, a lot has changed within this space, especially with the abundance of Contact Centre options that have graced the technical market in recent years. Gone are the days where rows and rows of agents sit in out-of-town business parks answering a flood of inbound calls. With changing market dynamics and customer preferences, the move away from Voice Only and towards Digital Channels such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Live Chat are well underway. According to Aspect’s Customer Experience Survey, 70% of Millennials enjoyed handling a problem without having to talk to a customer service agent. This was more than the previous generations surveyed.

Adopting to a Microsoft First approach 

Many vendors, old and new, have looked to build upon the Microsoft Ecosystem to ensure they can hit the mark where most of the end user market resides, in Microsoft Teams.  With this comes its challenges no doubt, but overall, with the already integrated systems, under the digital transformation framework many have adopted, it makes sense to continue to adopt a Microsoft First approach.

Contact Centre’s are no different of course, the baseline technology is already adopted and deployed to the end users and/or agents and these fundamentals are the new digital age of working. The traditional goal of company is usually to look at bringing in the newest and greatest tools available to ensure the productivity of the agents is where it needs to be. Getting the right enquiry to the right person down the phone, text, social media platform is key – getting it where it needs to be as fast and efficiently as possible.

There are generally two types of focus areas when relating to contact centres, internal and external.

Internal Facing

These departments usually focus on the internal staff of a company, typically and IT Helpdesk or HR function. Dependent on size of the company they can act as a process driven area to support the staff as efficiently as possible, this in turn can also benefit from being switched a CCaaS environment. By doing so it means staff can be allowed to feel as important and well served as it would be to an external customer. By dealing with their queries efficiently they spend less time away from their primary role, which in turn will give staff more time to focus on customer satisfaction.

Another benefit of having internal departments use this technology is allowing them to feedback on technology and potential new approaches before rolling out the service to a wider audience. No one knows better what’s required than the staff or agents themselves. Enabling staff to interact with support functions in a manner and at a time which suits them is also extremely important.

Offering a basic voice hunt group which is staffed 9-5 for a company with a 24/5 shift pattern just isn’t an option as it can leave later working staff feeling alienated. By allowing those staff to ask questions to a Digital Agent outside core hours, and deflecting their enquiry to a well populated FAQ page can enable that query to be answered in near real-time, meaning the late working user isn’t left feeling unsupported by the team in question, while also deflecting the query away from a costly human agent.

External Customer Facing

This is the primary source for most of inbound calling including potential new customers, returning customers potentially discussing renewals or upselling, and queries which must be pro-actively dealt with.

Having these routes into the business for queries very close to one another allows the architecture and design of solutions to be simplified, which in turn can bring economies of scale and other additional benefits – in this case, productivity.

This takes us down to the workload of the agent, new age Contact Centre’s have bought in good and bad relationships with the end users, namely an issue where the expectation for dialogue management are to be handled from multiple channels at one time, technology has adapted to allow this to happen but not all welcomed, this is where productivity can be knocked with no fault to the agent themselves – multiple popups from Live Chat, Email and WhatsApp messages can leave agents feeling overwhelmed. Just because you have the ability to route 5+ live chats into a single agent, doesn’t mean that you should….

With recent advances in AI, Large Language Models and the supporting frameworks, the old style of simple and direct “keyword” to “response” relationships in Chat Bots has advanced to intent recognition and deflection control  (read more on this in the next blog).

These advances allow customers to communicate using natural language to describe their issue or query, and not having to blindly rely on keyword matching to trigger the correct response.

Using Google DialogFlow or the Azure Language services, triaging inbound enquiries you no longer need customers to be as proscriptive as using the words “Opening Hours” for example to trigger a text message with the local store opening hours to be sent to the mobile number which the customer is calling from.

Having this new level of understanding available to companies can help increase productivity for agents by lessening the number of basic queries which they’re expected to deal with, which allows dialogue management to become more fluid and easier to deal with for all parties.

Ben Dobson

Contact Centre Principal Architect