The Problem: IT Faces Competing Priorities
As an IT leader, you’re always looking for ways to consolidate or integrate systems to reduce expenses, remove technology debt, and create efficiencies. One area where there’s a real opportunity to reduce expenses is the contact center - a high-cost operation that has grown even more expensive recently.
The opportunity is a welcome one for IT executives too, as contact centers typically require multiple platforms and systems to effectively operate, and platforms and tools continue to be added in support of new, necessary digital channels. The cost of these platforms is a pain point on the operations side, where cost control is a major focus. In fact, nearly half of companies view customer service as an expense, which puts pressure on IT to reduce costs.
Meanwhile, the proliferation of platforms has led to other struggles. According to CCW Digital, over half of customer service leaders cite disconnected or fragmented contact center systems as their biggest operational pain point. How can IT leaders solve these problems? Can you really consolidate platforms to reduce IT-related customer service expenses and maintain - or even improve - your customer service?
How Can IT Leaders Impact Rising Customer Service Costs?
One way to approach the problem is to unify your conversational customer service channels - phone/voice, webchat, and messaging - onto a single, AI-powered platform that leverages intelligent virtual agents (IVAs). A unified platform can provide consistent service across channels, not only reducing costs but also improving the customer and agent experience. We work in this area with large, customer-focused enterprises, though, so should every business do this?
To answer this question, you need to take a step back and consider your customers, your size, your employees, your contact volume, your technology stack, and what customer service channels you currently utilize to make an informed decision.
Here are how those factors weigh into that decision and tie in with the pros and cons of consolidating your customer service platforms.
Pros of Consolidating Customer Service Platforms
If you’re a large, customer-focused business, then the pros of consolidating your customer service channels are plentiful. Let’s start with the obvious - and what operations is demanding from IT: financial benefits.
Think of the TCO of your current disparate customer service channels. By unifying channels, you’re moving from three (or more) separate platforms to one. That in turn reduces the TCO, including the costs of maintaining, updating, and optimizing the platform, with a single team - potentially with a wider skillset, meaning you still need a highly capable team - able to manage it instead of multiple groups.
Furthermore, there are savings in just how the channels are used. For many companies, simply authenticating callers can take a minute or more, costing a minimum of $1 for every call. When you consider that large businesses have millions of calls a year, that’s millions of dollars spent on a task that can be easily automated across multiple channels with an IVA layer on an AI platform. The cost of simple calls goes from dollars to pennies.
The opportunity to find IT efficiencies extends beyond the initial changes too. By consolidating your customer service channels, you’re able to bring together previously disparate data, unlocking a greater understanding of your individual customers and general trends. While this can obviously help you improve your customer service, it can also provide insights that extend across the business.
Finally, your customers - as well as your operations team - are demanding a better customer experience, as shown by 88% of customer service leaders that responded to a Hubspot survey saying customers have higher expectations than ever before. It may not seem like IT’s most pressing priority, but consolidating your platforms helps you provide better customer service. Not only does it make consistent cross-channel customer service easier, but by using AI, you open up self-service opportunities.
This is a significant advantage for companies because not only do they provide their customers with the chance to be served whenever they need, but it also puts them ahead of the market. According to CCW Digital, 40% of companies don’t feel prepared to meet increased demand for self service, and only 47% feel prepared to meet increased demand for agent-led digital engagement.
So, if you’re a company that meets some, if not all, of the following criteria, consolidating your customer service channels is likely to be your best option:
- You have a high customer contact volume
- Your company prioritizes customer service
- You’re paying for several customer service platforms
- You have several teams managing customer service platforms
- You have the skills in-house - or are confident of hiring the right people - to manage a modern, unified platform
- You have a lot of customer data, but you’re not able to fully or effectively utilize it
Cons of Consolidating Customer Service Channels
The financial aspect of consolidating your customer service channels can be a pro. However, for smaller businesses, it can also be a con.
You’re going to have to pay upfront to consolidate your customer service channels, and that may not be the most pressing use of funds for all businesses. For smaller businesses that don’t have a high contact volume, the TCO of your customer service channels may not even be that high to begin with, meaning it wouldn’t be worthwhile to pay to bring conversational channels onto a single platform. Furthermore, if your customers usually don’t have to go on hold, the additional efficiencies likely aren’t worth the cost.
By moving yourself onto a single platform, you are also tying yourself to a single technology. This isn’t inherently a bad thing - after all, managing and paying for one platform is better than three - but it does limit your options. You are going to need to have the skills to maintain and optimize it, and you need to utilize a technology that will fit with your stack. This isn’t necessarily easy with limited options in the market for a single customer service platform.
Finally, you need to think about your customers. The stats above show that many want to leverage self service - and AI-powered IVAs are perfect to do this - but not every customer will want to talk to a robot. According to research from Coveo, while 40% of Generation Z members will abandon a brand if they can’t resolve an issue on their own, more than 52% of Baby Boomers will do the same if they can’t speak to a human.
We have spoken with several companies where unifying their customer service platforms isn’t the best move for them. If you meet the following criteria, it likely isn’t right for you either:
- Your customers spend minimal time on hold
- You only need one or two customer service channels
- Your have a limited IT budget
- Your customers want to speak to a real person every time they contact you
Our Unified Conversational Customer Service Platform
If consolidating your customer service channels may be right for your business, read more about our Unified Conversational Customer Service Platform and please feel free to reach out to learn more.