Merriam Webster defines tool as something used in performing an operation or necessary in the practice of a vocation or profession. The right tools make work easier and improves efficiency and results. The right tools can even help a small business “punch above their weight” and out compete much larger competitors. To understand the impact that the right tools can make, we can consider the impact farm tractors had on US agriculture in the early to mid-20th century.
Prior to the introduction of farm tractors, draft animals like horses and mules were used on small family farms to pull agriculture implements like cultivators and harvesters. During this time, there were estimated 24 million draft animals in use. (This represented one animal for every four persons living in the US at that time!). This resulted in two problems.
First, because farm power was limited to either human or draft animals, the amount of land that could be farmed by a family was much smaller. Second, because farming has fluctuating seasonal needs, a farmer needed to maintain enough draft animals to meet peak demands and then maintain them during off-peak times. The upkeep of these horses and mules cost the farmer as much as 20% of their crops in feed. All of this changed with the introduction of farm tractors. Replacing draft animals with a new and modern tool— the tractor—allowed small farmers not only to cultivate more acreage but also to increase crop yields.
As seen from this example, using the right tools can help you do more with less.
There is a sweeping, modern-day transformation taking place in our day. A fast-moving transformation that requires a new set of tools to engage a new kind of customer -- and to do so at scale. An opportunistic transformation that can change the fortunes of a small business.
This transformation is fueled by a rising generation of consumers who want a digital customer experience as evidenced by their strong preference for social media, email, and chat over legacy voice. To draw an analogy, legacy voice is akin to our draft mule while digitally enabled communications is like our new modern tractor. Fully and properly supporting a digital customer experience will allow small businesses to do more with less.
Here are three ways using digital can help a small business contact center achieve big results on a small business budget.
Improving cashflow is just the accountant’s way of saying “saving sacksful of money”.Clearly, there will be some upfront investment and ongoing operating costs associated with delivering a digital customer experience. However, you can save money if you introduce digital the right way. Here’s how. But first, some things to know up front. To get the best financial return that digital can offer, it must be integrated right into an omnichannel ACD and agent workspace. Any other approach will only add complexity and expense. More on this a little later. However, if you are using a legacy PBX, the good news is you can also upgrade to an omnichannel ACD economically and more easily than you may think.
When making your initial investment in a digitally enabled contact center, invest in a cloud solution. When you acquire a cloud solution, you don’t buy anything. Rather, you pay a monthly subscription for the level of service you use. This will eliminate the need to purchase new hardware and software and then have IT install and maintain it. Subscribing to a contact center as a service with omnichannel ACD and digital channels will eliminate large upfront cash outlays thereby improving cashflow.
Now let’s explore some of the other ways your new digital channel tools can lower operating costs and improve cashflow even more.
Digital channels are integral part of a comprehensive omnichannel contact center. When these channels are deeply integrated into your contact center software, customer service agents can interact with customers more efficiently. This translates into time saved as measured by average speed of answer (ASA) and average handle time (AHT). The lower these KPI measures are, the more you will save. In fact, depending on the size and volume of your contact center, shaving seconds off AHT can lead to savings of thousands of dollars annually.
Digital customer experience delivers superior customer convenience
Think back a couple of years ago when you needed to contact customer service or support. Chances are one of two scenarios occurred. First, customer service was only available during business hours. So, you had to find a time and place to make a voice call. Often this was at work while on a break or during your commute. It was never convenient. Second, you were able to call after hours, but the hold times were frustratingly long. Again, never convenient. These inconveniences were caused because a voice call is a real-time, synchronous event.
When video cassette recording (VCR) devices were introduced decades ago, a new term was introduced – time shifting. VCR’s allowed someone to record a movie and then view it when it was more convenient. The presentation and viewing were no longer synchronous events.
Digital channels allow this same kind of convenient time and location shifting. Customers are now free to choose the time, and place, as well as the convenience and level of service they desire. Digital interactions are more asynchronous in nature. Using digital channels, a customer may initiate a request using email, IM, or social media post and then multi-task with other important activities.
Often, when customer convenience improves, so does customer satisfaction followed by customer lifetime value.
Digital customer experience empowers agents
We’ve discussed how digital customer service can help improve efficiency and cashflow. Efficiency and performance are often two sides of the same coin. Operating efficiencies are often accompanied by performance improvements. In our AHT example above, empowering agents to complete a call in less time resulted in lower AHT and improved cashflow. So how can integrated digital channels empower agents? By reducing complexity.
If you try and add digital channels to a contact center using a legacy PBX, it’s like pounding a square peg into a round hole. Neither were built to accommodate the other. So, when combined, they do not work well together. This adds complexity that robs agents of their productivity. Consider a few common use cases:
- An agent must support interactions across voice, email, and mobile IM chat.A legacy PBX is built for voice only.Therefore, your agents will need to work across three separate applications.This means three different queues to monitor, no consolidated customer interaction histories or management reporting.
- A customer initiates an interaction using mobile IM.The agent who responds first is not the right agent for the type of question or problem.How do they seamlessly transfer and handoff the interaction to the right agent?
- A customer initiates an interaction using a voice call but needs to switch to IM.How do you continue the thread via IM?
These three examples highlight the need to have an omnichannel ACD that accepts and routes an interaction regardless of channel and a single agent workspace that integrates all channels into a single queue with call histories and other specialized customer experience (CX) tools.
Agents deliver better service when they can focus on serving the customer using the right set of digital customer experience tools rather than fighting the complexity and limitations inherent with ad-hoc tools.
There is an unmistakable and significant customer experience transformation underway. The winners will be those who can delight their customers and engender their loyalty. To do this, you need the right transformational tools -- tools that have the potential to improve cashflow, empower agents and delight customers. Fortunately, these tools are easily accessible to all businesses -- large and small. When small business uses the right tools to offer a digital customer experience, they can achieve big results while also experiencing significant financial benefits.
Unsure of what your digital strategy should be? Try this free, interactive assessment tool to get personalized recommendations.