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In the next year, it’s going to be vital for businesses to get ahead of problems before they happen.

Contact centres are in for a rocky time. With interest rates on the rise and global inflation increasing, we are already at the start of a prolonged recession. Customer service teams will be seeing increased called volumes from anxious customers worried about their finances, bringing them complicated queries and emotionally fraught conversations.

The cost of one of your staff answering a phone call has, therefore, never been higher. It’s vital to be able to use your team members where they can provide the highest return on investment – those conversations which need their knowledge and sensitivity. Freeing up trapped pockets of productivity at minimum extra cost is going to be crucial.

What’s more, with customers weighing up every purchase, the pressure is on for you to show that your organisation is really providing value.

But enough of the doom and gloom. Let’s look at what’s going to be key for successful contact centres next year.

Proactive CX

The Financial Conduct Authority says that over 40% of the population currently fall within its definition of a vulnerable customer.

Over the coming year, this figure is only likely to get higher, and this customer segment may struggle to come forward with their problems until they reach crisis point.

Getting ahead of this by reaching out in advance to check on things like their ability to keep up with monthly payments, or if you know an account issue is likely to happen, should ensure that problems are easier to resolve when caught earlier.

This should also help your staff come under less pressure, as they will have fewer conversations with customers who are right on the edge.

Automation and AI to the fore

Done right, automating workflows in your contact centre and using AI should improve your ability to get ahead of problems and set your team apart from competitors. The result would be a faster, more efficient service with staff under less pressure and able to deliver higher satisfaction scores and customer retention.

For example, Natural Language Processing (NLP) software uses AI to give machines the ability to understand text and spoken words in a similar way to human beings. This means words and phrases can be tracked in emails and webchats, or a customer’s voice pitch, tone and speech pace can be analysed to assess a situation. Even if a caller is not obviously complaining, the software identifies sentiment whether it’s upset, confused, or distressed, based on how they communicate. It may seem a bit strange to imagine machines with emotional intelligence in theory, but in practice it can massively help staff adjust their communication style or advice accordingly.

AI-driven workflow management tools can also help make sure your resources are used in the most efficient way possible.

The software can read customer emails and trigger an automated suggestion for an efficient resolution, or route callers directly to the agent best equipped to quickly answer a query. Routine queries can be routed away from skilled team members giving them time to focus on complex and sensitive conversations.

Having an omnichannel presence in place will be key to this approach working, so that your staff can reach the right customers on the right channels, depending on their query.

Time to take the initiative

According to Salesforce, a good customer service experience can lead to repeat purchases for 89% of customers. Now’s the time to look at what you can improve with your customer service. Being proactive now will be key to winning loyalty and generating higher customer lifetime value further down the line in 2023.

Please do reach out if you’d like to discuss how to start the process.