December 2, 2020

Contact Centers Are at Breaking Point – How Cloud PBX Meets Rising Demand

By David Nall

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COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on every aspect of life, including how people shop. As more and more spending takes place online as people stay at home to avoid stores, customer contact centers are experiencing huge spikes in call volumes – and with the holiday shopping season almost in full swing, volumes are only set to increase even further. 

Huge Call Volumes Impact Contact Center KPIs 

Recent research from GEP reveals that contact centers have witnessed an increase of 300% more calls than usual during the pandemic, significantly impacting contact center KPIs. Average handle times (AHTs) have increased from an average of 3-6 minutes for most contact centers to 10+ minutes, leading to higher call abandonment rates (ARs). “As a result, target abandonment rates are likely to rise from 2-5% to over 10%,” the report says. “Average queue/hold times are also expected to increase, leading to a rise in transfer rates, which is a typical cascading effect of longer average hold times.”

As the holiday shopping season gets underway, businesses face huge pressures to get their contact center strategies right – particularly as retailers adjust their strategies to place new emphasis on ecommerce. New figures cited in Digital Commerce 360 reveal that for the first ten days of the season this year, US consumers spent $21.7 billion online – a 21% year-over-year jump. The report notes that this likely stems from the fact that almost two-thirds of consumers (63%) are avoiding stores and buying more online. As such, Adobe Analytics forecasts that online shopping will set huge new records this year. 

(Image source: adobe.com)

This sudden boom in ecommerce – not just in holiday shopping, but also in essentials such as groceries – means retailers have to respond. Consumers have demands, and are relying more than ever on clear communication with the stores and brands they buy from. 

According to a survey of 2,000 US consumers by Qudini, shoppers are more likely to purchase from a retailer that employs omnichannel services, such as in-store appointments, curbside pickup and virtual appointments. These options would make the respondents more likely to feel safer and happier (54%), think better of the retailer (54%), return to the retailer (53%), visit the retailer (50%), choose that brand over the competition for future purchases (48%), buy something online (47%) and buy something in a store (45%) – but they all increase customer contact demands. 

(Image source: qudini.com)

Using Cloud Contact Center Solutions to Rapidly Adjust Capacity and Meet Customer Demands 

As customers demand new solutions to shop safely from home, customer service calls surge – and when call volume is high, wait times increase and customer satisfaction drops. 

The solution to managing rising call volume effectively and keeping customers happy, well-served and satisfied is found in cloud contact center solutions with integrated unified communications functionality. 

Cloud PBX contact center solutions allow for the rapid expansion of a business’s capacity to handle surges in demand. With cloud PBX, you can easily add or remove lines without hassle or additional investment. In addition, as 90% of contact center agents are working remotely as a result of social distancing mandates, firms that use a cloud contact center solution can equip their expanding teams to work from home instantly, as agents can simply plug handsets in at home, or otherwise use their personal devices (computers, smartphones, etc.) to handle calls. 

Cloud-based unified communications platforms also allow businesses to instantly add new customer service channels. Live chat, for example, is an extremely valuable tool for contact center teams, allowing agents to work on numerous chats simultaneously and solve multiple problems at once. Not only does implementing live chat ease the stress on the business’s phone lines, it also helps customers get quick answers to their queries. 

And live chat isn’t the only alternative to phone support that a unified communications solution offers. Business text messaging and video conferencing also become available, opening up completely new lines of communication with customers. By providing more of these options to your customer base, you can reduce the number of cases you would otherwise have to handle through direct inbound calls.

Another powerful feature of cloud contact center solutions is live analytics. By analyzing your call center data, you can make better predictions about surges and trends and better deploy your workforce to deal with them. In addition, you can monitor call duration, missed calls and other performance data to help you build better strategies for reducing abandonment rates and average handle times. 

Other benefits of a cloud contact center solution include intelligent call routing, allowing calls to be routed automatically to the right agent to cut down on customer wait times, and “find me, follow me” functionality, giving agents a choice as to which device (such as desk phone or mobile phone) to answer from, increasing their mobility and availability. Meanwhile, CRM integration means that agents have all customer information along with their interaction history immediately to hand whenever a customer calls, enabling your staff to deliver fast first-call resolution to your customers. 

With an unprecedented holiday shopping season ahead, and consumers planning to keep the online shopping habits they’ve adopted during the pandemic even when the crisis is over, you need a contact center solution that can handle increasing call volumes. 

net2phone offers an advanced, cost-effective cloud-based remote call center solution, and our partnership with the Five9 cloud contact center enables your customer service and support teams to work from home with robust functionality, providing everything you need to run your customer communications successfully at scale.