Blog: Is voice being silenced in the contact centre?

Speaking with our customers it’s clear omnichannel communication is getting ever more popular. Most have well-formed digital road maps and intend to make greater use of channels like webchat, email, social media, bots, and messaging. And those plans have gathered pace with lockdowns and remote working. So, is the primary purpose of a call centre going out of fashion? And, whether or not that’s true, how can we help customers make better choices?

Designing the right digital experience

Financial services are a good example. Customers expect their provider to be digitally advanced. Yet, they’re often left disappointed. As firms are quickly discovering, digital transformation shouldn’t be designed around internal processes. Putting customers firmly at the heart of your strategy is far more likely to deliver successful outcomes.

One of our clients, a leading online travel company, tackled this by analysing customer contact modes using a Boston matrix as shown here.



By inventing automations to deal with frequent requests most valued by callers, and yet most complex for human agents, delighted travel executives had much happier customers.

Learning the quick wins

The race to omnichannel shows no signs of slowing. Frost & Sullivan found only 60% of inbound contact centre traffic was voice calls, compared to 86% email, 70% social media and 84% websites, forums, FAQs, and web chat. That was two years ago. It explains why the industry talks less about contact centres and more about personalised digital experience.

Supporting this, when I ask clients what they most want to get from digital CX the conversation often turns to things like:

  • Greater flexibility: Digital channels allow their customers to get in touch even when agents are unavailable. This ability to extend working hours and contact centre capacity may be particularly important in the UK as the country faces a growing labour shortage.
  • Lower cost: They also enable higher self-service and automation levels, mostly through AI and machine learning. One US company found every 1% of enquiries resolved without human intervention (automated resolution rate) saw around £70,000 in annual savings.
  • Higher acceptance: And many consumers prefer to engage via online platforms such as websites and social media apps. When they can’t they get frustrated and are tempted to defect. But most retail executives don’t understand this, said Forbes.

All those thoughts make good CX sense and with today’s technology, applied cleverly, can put higher customer service and sales easily within reach.

There’ll always be a niche for voice

However, despite the quickening pace of digital CX, it’s unlikely voice communications will be replaced anytime soon. We know not all callers are yet onboard with digital communications. Some older or disadvantaged customers might find it hard to grapple with messaging, chat, or email, for instance. And while the UK has high levels of digital literacy, as of last year 4% of households still lacked internet access.

Second, not all contacts will be suited to digital. If you have an urgent or unusual query, for example, you won’t want to get into a lengthy conversation via WhatsApp, webchat, or email. Similarly, while digital channels might be good for technical support queries, it would be unwise for undertakers or high-net-worth financial services providers to push customers into a voicebot or IVR channel. A friendly, understanding voice at the end of the phone will always be required in certain circumstances.

Adopt a blended approach

One of the biggest problems our customers have is staffing for voice in real-time situations during sudden spikes. For example, in the case of the travel company mentioned earlier, what if an airport suddenly closed or all flights were suspended? That challenge might be multiplied many times over when serving diverse markets in different languages.

A possible solution we are seeing, particularly in the retail sector, is companies deflecting voice to social channels. For example, sending customers a text with a link they can click on to resolve their issues faster online. There are many similar digital stories. They all substitute voice traffic with more immediate and convenient media.

So, back to our original question: how can we help customers make better choices? The way forward is a blended approach. Combining carefully chosen digital and voice channels is the best way to optimise customer satisfaction. Getting this balance right isn’t easy although you can stack the odds in your favour by:

  1. Incorporating omnichannel CX into your contact centre design and management.
  2. Using contextual information to customise customer journeys across multiple channels.
  3. Offering access to human agents, when and where it’s most needed.
  4. Making it easy for customers to access aids like knowledge bases and service assistants.
  5. Communicating proactively to prevent one-way traffic on digital channels.
  6. Engaging with customers on social media to raise awareness of digital options.

Finally, from strategic and technical points of view there are many ways to maximise the success of shifting traffic from voice to omnichannel. Give agents omnichannel desktops so they can provide fast answers and serve customers as efficiently as possible. Ride the wave as AI just keeps on getting cleverer. Keep a weather eye on competitors. But reserve a premium spot for voice when it’s clearly the best way to stay in the game.

As ever, it’s a matter of knowing your customer. So, study and evaluate your data. And always keep your best analytical pieces in play.

More about the author
Axel Ericsson

Axel Ericsson is a senior business development manager at Foehn Ltd.– specialists in cloud contact centre technologies. Axel has close to 10 years’ experience working in the tech industry at both large technology companies including Intel and start-ups such as Rebtel - a VoIP Platform as a Service company. Axel is passionate about AI and deep learning and have MSc degrees in both business and engineering together with hands-on experience implementing machine learning algorithms at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the largest genomic institute in the world. Always keen to help companies making the most out of their technology investments by implement high impact digital transformation projects.