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How the pandemic has accelerated Australia’s contact centre revolution

Alok Kulkarni, CEO & Co-Founder, Cyara

Across the globe, Covid related lockdown restrictions have forced consumers to abandon the brick-and-mortar experience in favour of digital channels. From grocery shopping to banking, when those physical doors closed, new digital ones opened.

Australia is no exception to this – with digital disruption accelerating throughout 2020 and well into 2021. For example, more than 1.3 million households shopped online last year, eclipsing all previous years in terms of digital shopping habits. In fact, data from Australia Post revealed eCommerce locked in three years’ worth of growth in 2021, driving a digital revolution that we were simply not quite ready for.

The shift towards digital doesn’t end with retail. Government agencies such as Centrelink, experienced record numbers of Australians seeking help with issues from welfare payments to healthcare queries.

The lack of in-person engagement resulted in contact centres receiving unprecedented call volumes, coming from various channels including online chat. This is not surprising given contact centres now operate on the front-line of crisis to offer guidance and support to consumers.

At the same time, however, contact centres themselves have been grappling with international lockdowns and challenges such as remote work. These issues triggered widespread contact centre failures, resulting in seemingly endless wait times and disgruntled customers.

Enabling remote agents and enhancing customer service via the cloud

Before the pandemic, many organisations placed their digital transformation initiatives, such as cloud migrations, on a multi-year timeline. However, in the face of the pandemic, these projects had to speed up to ensure people and operations were kept online during a period of chaos.

Contact centres were part of this revolution. They recognised a need to become more agile in their operations and more flexible with their technical infrastructures. As a result, the cloud-based contact centre market is growing, promising greater levels of availability, productivity and reliability to businesses while allowing teams to better serve customers. For example, by giving agents access to the tools they need to perform their job anytime, anywhere. This enables customer service teams to continue operating regardless of local lockdown measures or work-from-home mandates.

But this is only the beginning.

What this means for the future of customer service and experiences

If cloud-hosted operations promise to provide better workforce flexibility (resulting in increased agent productivity), then customer experience (CX) has the chance to evolve and improve. Let’s not forget, those businesses that can support their customers with a quality CX program have a lot to gain in terms of customer loyalty.

With happier contact centre agents, operating remotely, organisations will be able to replicate positive in-store experiences in a digital environment. This, in turn, improves the customer experience which can positively impact everything from customer retention and staff morale to increasing profits.

Contact centres and the future of work

The pandemic has highlighted to companies that they no longer need to offshore customer service agents. In fact, we are starting to see more Australian companies onshore (or re-shore) their contact centre agents. The notion being, if agents can work remotely in low-cost locations (such as at home), they can be even more productive than before. Many companies plan to permanently keep their call centre agents working from home and are prioritising security and consistency for remote workers.

This is aligned with recent industry research, which has found 61 per cent of Australians believe a hybrid working model is the most productive, and 47 per cent of employers are open to retaining working from home as part of their culture.

So, where does this leave us now?

There’s no doubt Covid has made customer service teams re-evaluate and pivot their digital transformation initiatives and business operations.

Cloud-based contact centre solutions have shown themselves to be part of the revolution. They have quickly demonstrated the value they hold to the industry; enabling teams to remain operational and supportive regardless of the circumstances.

But Australia’s contact centre digitalisation journey has only just begun. Who will come out on top? The jury’s still out on that. What we do know is, businesses that are best prepared to provide exceptional CX, anytime, anyplace and any situation, have the most potential.

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