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This is what happens when you finally break free of the limitations of traditional contact centre technology.

November 13, 2020 By Matt Sanders and Richard Johnson
Article
By Matt Sanders and Richard Johnson

After 20 years of running contact centres for Australia’s biggest brands, we got frustrated by the limitations of traditional contact centre solutions, which were becoming more and more of a barrier to delivering the experience both our clients and their customers expected.

So we did something about it.

Things were done differently in the past (5 years ago!)

The type of big brands that TSA Group (TSA) works with would usually partner with Business Process Outsourcers (BPOs) primarily to get things done that they didn’t want to do themselves and, preferably, do it cheaper. They would look to their partners to offer access to economies of scale, so large BPOs would spread the costs of staff, business processes, office space, and technology over multiple clients. While different clients and projects would of course have their own unique needs, it was the BPO’s job to make the most of the commonalities to keep costs down. This naturally drove BPOs to invest in generic, big-name vendor, multi-tenant technology platforms that could be repurposed for all of their clients.

We no longer live in that world. Today, brands big and small understand the power of exceptional and differentiated customer experience, and of a personalised, omnichannel approach to individual customers. Delivering this requires a fundamentally different and more flexible approach to outsourcing and technology. These days we actually prefer to talk about Customer Experience as a Service (CXaaS) rather than as outsourcing, as it’s a much better description of the outcomes that organisations are looking for.

The limitations of traditional contact centre technology

TSA has been in the business of delivering contact centre services for over 23 years. And in the late 90s the cloud was still a new concept. Contact centre software had to be installed on every PC and its use often protected with a dongle. If you were cutting edge, you used a host server in your data centre (often just a fan-cooled room in your own building) and terminal services on the client desktops. With the advent of the cloud taking off in the mid-2000s, this overall picture did not change much; many contact centres still run this kind of legacy technology, even if they now use proper data centres or private cloud services to deliver them.

Here are the four specific limitations that this kind of outdated technology and system architecture places on an organisation and that prevents them from delivering a modern customer and agent experience:

Inflexible – Both from a commercial and technical perspective, traditional contact centre technology is unable to adjust rapidly to meet consumer and business requirements. Upfront investments and long lead times for adapted functionality is common.

Limited, Disparate Channels – Many platforms offer limited omnichannel capability, with voice, email and messaging delivered in a highly segregated manner.

Hard to Integrate – Typical contact centre platforms are closed systems where the ability to integrate into other systems is limited or costly (or both!). Duplication of data entry and storage is common.

Barrier to Innovation – The net effect is a reduced ability to innovate and improve the customer and agent experience. Businesses are forced to adapt customer experiences, customer journeys, agent workflows and business processes to platform limitations, as opposed to adapting the platform to deliver the required outcomes.

Operating a contact centre means walking a fine line between the level of service and the cost of providing that service. If your centre suffers from the limitations just mentioned then the results are going to be a sub-optimal customer experience and below-par agent productivity. It means you are unable to optimise either side of the value vs cost equation, so profitability will be lower than it otherwise could. What’s more, you will have limited functionality, flexibility, and scalability. So it becomes very difficult, for example, to deploy a work-from-home model when you need to, to implement intelligently routed customer journeys across different channels, and to add call recording, QA or analytics in a way that isn’t just bolted on. For companies in a growth phase, or planning for one, you don’t have the ability to add capacity easily. Even worse, if you have to downsize, you are left paying the bill for past upfront commitments.

The challenges don’t end there. Whatever legacy technology platform you’re using, the chances are that it is poorly supported, infrequently updated, and even less frequently extended with new functionality. As the software is not made specifically for you, it’s a good bet that you need to rely on your vendor’s development teams and their roadmap if you want to get it to do anything outside of the user manual. This historical vendor relationship just doesn’t cut it today, where businesses need to rapidly adapt and innovate their customer experience and contact centre environment.

Breaking through the technology barriers

As there was no off-the-shelf solution that did everything we needed, we rolled up our sleeves, partnered with some of the biggest technology companies in the world, looked for best-in-class solutions for the different functionalities, and built our own Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) cloud platform.

To provide the backbone of the platform we teamed up with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and are now one of the leading partners for Amazon’s CX service portfolio. Around this, we have built a capability suite, which includes Amazon Connect (an easy to use omnichannel cloud contact center that helps companies provide superior customer service at a lower cost) for cloud telephony and messaging capabilities, but also extends into in-housed developed telephony extensions, which has given us great flexibility to deliver highly functional corporate phone and mobile workforce solutions.

Built into the platform is a range of Machine Learning (ML) tools that enable automated transcription, personalisation via next best action recommendations, sentiment and keyword matching for conversational analytics, and automation of chat or voice interactions through natural language processing (NLP). The beauty of the platform is it’s easy to plug in these capabilities on a pay-per-use basis, meaning there’s no upfront commitment to make when you want to experiment. In addition, we can easily connect third party modules, including our partners’ CRM tools such as Salesforce , payment processing solutions, marketing automation platforms such as Hubspot, and knowledge bases, depending on each partner’s needs.

TSA’s own Innovation Lab has also built a host of proprietary tools for use with the platform, these include a next generation predictive dialler, self-service analytics and reporting capability and customer journey management. Rather than per-agent or per-user licensing agreements clients can access the capability suite on a cost per minute basis so they truly only pay for what they use, giving them freedom to scale perfectly to meet demand from their customers.

The most powerful element of our journey though, is that we are now a technology partner, not just a vendor. We aren’t tied to a single piece of technology, nor are we only a technology implementer. We are a customer experience business, born from a contact centre operator. That makes us a very different proposition to what is traditionally in market.

TSA CX Capability Suite

The business benefits we and our clients are seeing

In Australia, we‘ve recently seen huge brands almost entirely rebuild their contact centres on the type of cloud-based, modular infrastructure outlined above. The reaction of our own clients to the new capabilities, efficiencies, and customer outcomes we can deliver for them is also telling. The opportunities the platform brings include:

  • Consolidate networks and systems and remove the provisioning and maintenance overhead of running a separate telephony stack.
  • Deliver significant operating efficiencies through:
    • More efficient pricing models that align to the dynamic nature of business – e.g. removal of annual licensing.
    • Reduce development costs and provide a more flexible tech operating model to better support users and customers.
  • Leverage cloud technologies to:
    • Reduce need to support multiple systems internally.
    • Improve stability and redundancy of contact centre operating technology.
    • Access best in class security and compliance solutions.
    • Leverage the innovations being made by major cloud providers.
  • Integrate with third party systems – built with modern APIs to easily integrate into new solutions and partners.
  • Enable seamless omnichannel customer experiences – including the ability for ops to configure customer journeys and add new customer experience channels and solutions.
  • Improve the agent experience – agents interact with a single interface that can provide additional capabilities and information all from one screen.
  • Make use of your data to:
    • Get real time metrics as events happen to give immediate performance feedback.
    • Simplify data management and reporting by using prebuilt integrations.
    • Enable self-service reporting for technology and operating team purposes.

It’s a brave new normal

Whatever the world ends up looking like post-pandemic, we can be sure that certain truths are going to hold. One of these is going to be the need for businesses to do new things, reach more customers, and create more value for those customers, all while continually trying to reduce the cost of doing so.

If you look at the history of technology, and how technology develops and gets used, it is entirely driven by the need to do more with less. In the technology world each successive generation gets bigger, better, faster, more useful, and at the same time cheaper.

For organisations that need to create customer value and deliver differentiated customer experience in order to thrive, working with a CXaaS partner and migrating to a CCaaS platform in the cloud delivers in spades.

 

TSA are Australia’s leading specialists in CX consultancy and services. We are passionate about revolutionising the way brands connect with Australians. How? By combining our local expertise with the most sophisticated customer experience technology on earth, and delivering with a team of people who know exactly how to help brands do amazing things for their customers

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