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Customer engagement centres and cloud: a hybrid model made in heaven

Written by Richard Farrell, Chief Innovation Officer at Netcall

The last year has witnessed digital transformation like no other. Businesses across all industries have been forced to innovate to not only overcome the hurdles thrown upon them by the pandemic, but to keep up with the changing demands of today’s customers. The cloud, due to its flexible and scalable nature, has seen significant investment over lockdown. For customer engagement centres particularly, which have served as a vital lifeline between businesses and consumers, cloud infrastructures have enabled organisations to operate with agility. Not only keeping up with growing inbound and outbound customer contact, but in ensuring business continuity, even where employees have been forced to work remotely.

Now that these benefits have been realised, the direction of travel firmly points onwards. Whilst dependence on the telephone during the height of the pandemic signalled that the call centre was far from redundant, it did highlight the need for businesses to urgently digitalise. But it would be naïve to believe that this can be achieved through the cloud alone. Cloud is just one part of the jigsaw puzzle when creating a realistic picture of what the future customer engagement centre will look like.

Moving forward, Forrester predicts that a combination of cloud and low-code platforms will be essential for development projects in 2021. And this could not be truer than in a customer engagement centre setting. It has been forecasted that leading CIOs will embrace cloud-first and platform strategies to gain speed and adaptiveness as we accelerate out of the challenges that last year brought us. Meanwhile, it has been observed that in 2020, enterprises that embraced low-code platforms, digital process automation and collaborative work management have been able to react faster and more effectively than ever before. So, what exactly does this new marriage between cloud and low-code spell for the future of the customer engagement centre?

Low-code and cloud – a winning combination

For businesses that embrace the cloud alongside low-code technologies, it is predicted that new hybrid teams will emerge: teams comprised of business users and professional developers, that are empowered to build apps with low-code tools built on cloud-native platforms. Forward-thinking teams will harness the power of hybrid, pairing low-code and cloud to power continued customer engagement centre transformation by improving and automating underlying business processes, enabling businesses to not only guarantee a sustainable recovery, but keep up and thrive in a customer-first era.

Cloud-based platforms have already proven their value during the pandemic by enabling employees to access customer data securely from multiple locations. However, when these platforms are integrated with allied services such as app development, underpinned by low-code, their potential can be more potent still. The best cloud provision unifies all customer journeys and makes it easy for agents to route traffic seamlessly. Whilst improving customer service, these insights can also enable organisations to design optimised processes and workflows in response to patterns in demand. Reducing potential inefficiencies enables customer engagement centre staff to act quickly and with the right information.

By designing and producing these applications using cloud integration, organisations can collaborate and scale processes to drive greater efficiency across customer engagement centres, whilst driving down the costs associated with digital transformation and channelling value back into the enterprise.

Faster, better… and more customer-centric than ever before

According to Forrester, moving forward, ‘every process within an organisation needs to be automated in software, or else be liable to failure, and the consequences of failure’. And the cloud, when combined with intelligent automation technologies, built into processes using low-code, will be pivotal to making this a reality for businesses with varying budgets and resources. Customer engagement centre processes, underpinned by technologies such as RPA (robotic process automation), which focuses on automating repetitive and rule-based on-screen processes, not only streamline customer experience and facilitate self-service, but also helps accelerate and extend what agents can do when they have to engage on customer queries. For example, rather than putting the customer on hold whilst updating back-end systems with new details, robots can perform these tasks on agents’ behalf so that they can focus on delivering a better service, whilst reducing overall call times.

Taking this a step further, intelligent automation, which incorporates multiple process automation technologies, also adds other artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, like machine learning, natural language processing, structured data interaction and intelligent document processing. These capabilities take on mundane and time-consuming administrative tasks that would otherwise require additional resource and manpower to manage effectively. By doing so, customer engagement centre agents can spend more time on the high-value, high-worth engagements, that will be crucial to meeting – and exceeding – rising customer expectations.

For example, when COVID-19 hit in March 2020, social media became a critical communication channel for customers reaching out to brands. For Nationwide, phone lines were much busier than usual, and many customers took to social platforms for help and support to manage their financial situation. Using low-code, Nationwide built a social media manager tool to monitor social media conversations, including sentiment, enabling agents to respond quickly with a personal 1-1 service with a full audit trail.

Safeguarding innovation

Whilst the prospect of scaling these automated processes via cloud-based infrastructures is extremely promising, considerations need to made around security in this new customer engagement centre future. To ensure this, extensive security and management controls must be implemented, along with detailed audit tracking, so that cloud platforms can be securely managed from anywhere. When automation is thrown into the mix, risky behaviour, conducted remotely, can rapidly spiral out of control; therefore, guardrails will be paramount for success.

As businesses take cautious steps towards recovery, and competition hots back up across all sectors, customer engagement centres will face increasing pressure to provide additional value, streamlined digital interactions and first-class customer service. Digital transformation and innovation is a requirement to meet these challenges, but they are daunting and often unquantifiable prospects – let alone for businesses still recovering from the severe financial impacts of the pandemic. This is where a hybrid combination of low-code and the cloud will be pivotal, as it means organisations can improve processes easily, even with limited resources. Solutions that empower businesses to bring all communication channels – voice, email, SMS, Facebook messenger, chatbots – together in one feed will enable agents to deliver a truly joined-up customer experience. One that customers demand more than ever before.

Those that do so will be able to take not just steps, but leaps forward on their innovation journey. After all, an effective customer engagement centre model is crucial to not only weathering future business challenges, but in the differentiation battle for businesses as we enter the next normal. That’s where its true value lies – in adding profitability and promoting growth to businesses that are going to be starved of resources in the months to come.