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August 17, 2022

Out with the contact center, in with the customer experience center

Here are three guidelines for delivering the experience customers expect from the call center—and reaping the business benefits.

Today’s customers expect more than what they’re getting from yesterday’s contact centers. This is especially true with the increasingly prevalent role of remote customer engagement. What was once a simple “call center”—tasked with setting up business development meetings or responding to support requests—is now the primary, and sometimes the only, point of contact between a business and its customers.

As such, the call center is where much of the customer experience takes place. And when that experience meets (or exceeds) customer expectations, businesses can count on their loyalty and work on expanding their relationship with them.

But while the case for transforming the call center into a customer experience center is strong, not all companies have responded. Many still operate like the narrowly-focused call centers of the past and, as a result, are not generating the business benefits that come from a great customer experience. There’s plenty of proof that giving customers what they expect is good for business.

This lack of action is certainly not due to unavailability of technology; Amazon, Microsoft and Google continuously add new customer experience capabilities to their contact center platforms and tools. Instead, for some companies, what’s holding them back is the fear that it’s a complex undertaking, and they don’t know where to start.

Three guiding principles

McKinsey sums it up well: modern contact centers “create significant revenue opportunities” but require “the right strategy, compelling customer engagement and excellent operational execution to convert leads” and drive value.

Transformation starts by committing to the customer as the single greatest asset and then understanding that all value springs from that asset. Our clients have made this the core of their customer experience center strategy and engaged a global systems integrator (GSI) to help them find the high-value opportunities at the intersection of “compelling customer engagement” and “excellent operational execution.”

Because the leading GSIs have strong working relationships with Amazon, Microsoft and Google, they know what each provider’s platform has to offer and how to make it work for individual clients. They also bring valuable lessons learned from a portfolio of successful transformation projects, and a proven approach to quickly realizing desired outcomes.

Our approach is informed by three guiding principles that ensure every transformation project results in a cost- and performance-optimized customer experience center:

  • Adopt PaaS. Platform-as-a-service solutions eliminate the considerable costs of technology ownership. Even if the transformation starting point is an on-premises system, businesses can use the platform providers’ APIs to easily integrate new capabilities into their current environment.

  • Embrace AI. Artificial intelligence (AI) drives the “compelling customer engagement” and “excellent operational execution” that McKinsey prescribes. Over and above the insights and efficiency it brings to remote customer interactions, AI has the built-in ability to learn and adapt quickly, which translates to fast achievement of business objectives.

  • Pay only for what you use. Take advantage of the pay-per-use economics of the PaaS model and the flexibility to scale customer experience center services up or down on demand, with no waiting and no expensive surprises.

Two technology capability recommendations

Of the large assortment of technology-driven capabilities offered today, we also recommend businesses prioritize at least these two:

  • Conversational automation. Automated conversations keep getting better. These systems can help customers resolve many types of routine issues without taking live agents’ time, and do it around the clock, seven days a week. Businesses can use conversational automation to accelerate and improve the customer experience while reducing costs.

  • Real-time caller intelligence. Businesses can also use AI systems to listen for customer needs and help direct customer engagements toward the products and services that meet those needs.

For banking, financial services, insurance, healthcare and any consumer-centric business with a high-volume of customer experience center interactions, the investments in conversational automation and real-time caller intelligence are paying big dividends.

What to expect

In one recent project, we helped a leading North American financial services company transform its legacy, on-premises contact center platform with Amazon Connect. The result was a fully modernized customer experience that uses voicebots, chatbots and voice biometrics authentication, all fully integrated with the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system. Our client has realized:

  • A 20% reduction in contact center technology costs

  • A 25% increase in self-service containment

  • A 15% improvement in customer satisfaction scores

We’ve also helped a global entertainment and digital media company implement Salesforce’s Service Cloud Voice system in a way that brings Salesforce CRM and Amazon Connect together to create both an omnichannel agent and customer experience. Our client expects:

  • A 25% reduction in average handling time

  • A 10% improvement in first contact resolution rates

  • An across-the-board improvement in agent productivity

The future of the customer experience

These are interesting times for those of us working with new technology to unlock the value of the customer experience. The more established contact center as-a-service vendors now compete with Amazon, Google and Microsoft—the very companies that provide critical infrastructure for contact center as-a-service systems. And of course, Amazon, Google and Microsoft still enjoy significant revenue from that infrastructure.

But what might seem a strange relationship is likely a signal that these technologies and the customer experience industry is going through a phase en route to reinvention. Such reinvention introduces new promise and possibility for businesses and their most important asset: the customer.

Learn more about how Cognizant can help you transform your contact center into a customer experience center.

Ashwin Anand
Assoc Director, Digital Customer Experience
Digitally Cognizant author Ashwin Anand

Ashwin Anand is an Assoc Director, Digital Customer Experience Practice, at Cognizant. He has deep expertise in next-gen contact center offerings for clients in the areas of omnichannel, conversational AI, self-service & agent assist.

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