According to a Customer Contact Week Digital survey, “sixty-seven percent (67%) [of contact centers surveyed] rate accuracy and consistency of communication as a “make or break” component of the customer experience.” Customers want to know what kind of experience they’re going to have before they even pick up the phone.

A new era of contact centers has arrived, with next-generation contenders like Contacto by Plivo providing customers with the key communication channels while enabling agents with all necessary information in one place. We sat down with Contacto product evangelist Mike Winslow to discuss what a next-generation contact center looks like for B2C brands.

What Is a Next-Generation Contact Center?

“A next-generation contact center is a cloud-based communications platform that gives businesses a variety of channels to interact with their customers,” says Winslow. “Contacto aggregates data from voice conversations, live and asynchronous text — like web chat and WhatsApp messaging — into one single-page application.” Winslow adds that the value is found in reducing agent swivel chair activities, hopping from multiple systems, into seamless access to the information they need to successfully assist the customer.

Next-generation contact centers also reduce operational costs and improve customer retention for businesses by enabling 24/7 self-service to help customers answer questions without involving a representative, ensuring customers can access help whenever and wherever they need it. Additionally, next-gen contact center providers often include uptime guarantees in their service-level agreements (SLAs) to prevent customer frustration due to downtime. Contacto offers a 99.99% uptime SLA, powered by Plivo’s global communications platform.

The Three Pillars of a Successful Next-Generation Contact Center

A next-generation contact center requires three things to be successful: workflow automation, easy omnichannel access, and agent skilling and training. Without any of these pillars, customers will end up frustrated and could jump ship for your competitors.

Omnichannel Made Easy

“Not all consumers want to call a customer service line, so businesses of any size need omnichannel capabilities, allowing them to meet customers where they want to be. But voice is still king and the must-have for de-escalation if inquiries via other channels get sideways,” Winslow added. Additionally, next-generation customer support must be able to switch channels at any moment, allowing a chat conversation to pivot to a phone call, or a desktop web chat customer to switch to mobile messaging, without starting the conversation from the beginning or transferring to a new agent.

Next-generation contact centers should also consider how self-service with Natural Language Understanding (NLU) chatbots or knowledge bases could enable customers to get answers to common questions without directly engaging an agent. Approximately 86 percent of customers expect a self-service option for customer support. If your business doesn’t offer one, you’re setting your customers up for frustration.

“This is a two-sided coin because customers want self-service, but if the self-service AI can’t meet their need or answer their question, you’ve got to make it easy to get in touch with a live person quickly, with minimal effort. In cases like these, context preservation is key! When the agent DOES get on the line, don’t make the customer repeat the issue!” Winslow recommends.

Workflow Automation

A next-generation contact center should include workflow automation that automatically routes customers to the right agent or help article based on their inquiry. A drag-and-drop builder that makes it easy to develop customer experiences in this way is vital for the long-term scalability of a modern contact center.

For phone conversations, this will consist of interactive voice response (IVR) or interactive voice assistant (IVA) systems that have multiple levels and conditional logic. For example, when calling an insurance company, the IVR might first ask the customer whether they’re calling about home or auto insurance before directing them to the right department. There should also be automatic call distribution to send customers to available representatives with appropriate skills as quickly as possible to reduce hold times and proper subject matter expertise.

For email, text message, and chat conversations, users may get routed based on keywords they use or by providing them with a short menu of common issue categories. Workflow automation helps connect representatives with customers efficiently to solve their issues faster, resulting in higher customer satisfaction.

Agent Skilling

The best next-generation contact centers should include agent skilling, which matches agents with callers based on their skillset. For example, a tech support agent with more experience with Apple devices would be matched with a customer needing help with their Mac. Additionally, the system uses next-best action capabilities to provide agents with proactive answers and suggestions based on client requests for faster and more accurate responses.

Further, a next-generation contact center will elevate agents by enabling coaching to improve inquiry handling and identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities. For example, with call whispering, a trainer can listen to the call and provide feedback to the representative without the customer hearing the recommendations.

Contacto’s Commitment to Personalized Touchpoints with Machine Efficiency

Contacto is a robust next-generation contact center that allows customers to get the human touch they want with the efficiency of a modern cloud platform. Customers are routed to the agents best-suited to their inquiry. System integrations with industry-leading ticketing or CRM systems enable the context and history for agent line of sight, so customers don’t have to repeat themselves or start from scratch if the call disconnects. You’ll also get standard and customizable contact center metrics on dashboards and in reporting to give your business the data-driven decision.

A next-generation contact center is the key to upgrading your customer service experience and reducing customer churn. To learn more about how Contacto’s next-generation contact center can work for your company, request a customized demo from the Contacto team.