Even if you don't follow professional football, you probably know the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl 54 earlier this year. The win received a little more hype than usual because of the remarkable fourth quarter comeback against the 49ers. Entering the fourth quarter, the Chiefs were down 20-10 but scored three unanswered touchdowns to win the game.
But here's something you might not know. The Chiefs had to come back from double digit deficits in two other post-season games leading up to their Super Bowl victory. You might say coming from behind is a competitive advantage for them.
In the business world, success often depends on having a competitive advantage over your rivals. Maybe your business is successful because you have the most innovative products and services, or perhaps your competitive advantage comes from low operational costs.
These days, delivering consistently exceptional customer experience (CX) can be a competitive advantage. Our consumer benchmark research revealed that organizations that crack the CX code can expect to reap significant benefits. In fact, an overwhelming majority of people will buy more products from companies that deliver great customer service experiences.
Many factors go into establishing and maintaining competitive advantages. Having the best contact center software is one of them.
More about competitive advantage
A competitive advantage is an attribute that puts a business in a more favorable position than its competitors, typically resulting in better financial success. A competitive advantage is the result of well-executed strategy and needs continuous focus in order to remain an advantage.
Think of competitive advantage as the secret sauce that makes some of the world's most famous brands successful. For example, Apple's competitive advantage is innovation, Uber's is disruption, Amazon's are logistics and scale, and Chick-fil-A's are quality and service.
As you can see, there are many ways to compete. Business guru Michael Porter, who literally wrote the book on competitive advantage, grouped them into two very broad groups - cost advantage and differentiation advantage.
Just as the name implies, one way to successfully compete is by having significantly lower operating costs than your competitors. This can be done with methods like automation, offshoring, and economies of scale.
A differentiation advantage is a unique characteristic that distinguishes a business from its rivals. There are several subcategories within the differentiation umbrella. Here are a few examples:
- Quality. Businesses that compete on quality have a relentless focus on products and services and the processes that produce them. Organizations with a reputation for providing high quality products can price them at a premium.
- Innovation. Highly innovative companies, like Apple, create demand for unique products no one even knew they needed or wanted. This competitive advantage can leave rivals in the dust.
- Customer experience. Per Gartner, two-thirds of businesses say they mostly compete on CX, and that amount is anticipated to increase. Consumers will reward great CX with loyalty and greater share of wallet.
Executing on competitive advantage
As with most business initiatives, achieving and maintaining a meaningful competitive advantage depend upon having the right:
- People - competent and engaged employees who will go the extra mile to ensure organizational success.
- Processes - streamlined and optimized processes designed to break down internal silos, add efficiency and innovation, and produce high quality products, services, and customer experiences.
- Technology - systems and infrastructure that use modern technology to support organizational objectives.
What does this all mean for contact centers?
Executing on competitive advantage isn't just the responsibility of marketing or product development teams. The contact center plays a significant role in execution, especially if the business is competing on CX. But even if the competitive advantage is innovation, agents need to understand and be able to help customers with new products. And businesses that compete on cost need their contact centers to be highly efficient with labor costs.
If a contact center is to be a meaningful contributor to its organization's competitive advantage, it needs to be modernized with technology that supports automation, omnichannel experiences, effective labor management, and a culture of continuous performance improvement. This means it needs to have the best contact center software.
What makes contact center software "the best?"
The best contact center software has features that allow businesses to be agile and efficient while delivering service that meets customer expectations. This is accomplished with the following capabilities and characteristics:
The best contact center software supports customer expectations for omnichannel experiences. This means allowing consumers to move seamlessly across channels within the same interaction, for example switching from a chat session to a phone call without needing to repeat the issue. Our consumer benchmark research revealed that 93% of people expect businesses to provide omnichannel experiences. This means:
- The ACD needs to be capable of omnichannel routing.
- Workforce management software needs to forecast volume for all channels and create schedules for multi-skilled agents.
- Agents need a unified desktop with a consolidated inbox.
- Reports need to include data about all channels for a holistic view of performance.
When software is "in the cloud," it essentially means it's hosted by a vendor in a software as a service (SaaS) arrangement. This means the best contact center software is more flexible and scalable than applications that are hosted on premises. For example, if a contact center has a huge seasonal volume peak, they don't need to worry about the servers reaching capacity because the cloud allows them to auto-scale up and down as needed. Additionally, a cloud model typically means adding new software modules or new digital support channels is simple and doesn’t require downloading and installing new versions of software.
Leverages artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) has already transformed contact center software, and it's just getting started. Interactive voice response (IVR) uses natural language processing (a form of AI) to allow callers to use their voice to interact with the system. Workforce management software can use AI to select the appropriate algorithm to use for forecasting, resulting in better accuracy. AI-infused analytics can comb through 100% of interactions to identify things like contact drivers and potential compliance issues. And AI-powered chatbots interact with customers to enable self-service. The best contact center software embraces artificial intelligence, which adds efficiency and accuracy to the customer service operation.
Open platform (CPaaS)
A common complaint about SaaS models is that the software can't be customized, meaning users are limited to out of the box functionality. However, the best contact center software is built on an open platform that allows for easier customizations. Open platforms also make integrations simpler, providing the contact center software with additional capabilities. For example, integrating with customer relationship management (CRM) applications allows agents to have quick access to customer context and contact details can be logged automatically in the CRM system. Easier customizations and integrations mean that organizations can hone the software to be the tool they need to support their competitive advantage.
Agents are both a contact center’s most valuable and most costly asset. Agents need to be supported, developed, and engaged and their utilization needs to be tightly managed. The workforce engagement management (WEM) capabilities found in the best contact center software can do all of this and more. These tools perform the traditional functions of forecasting, scheduling, and intraday management. Additionally, they engage agents with performance and quality management functionality that brings visibility to individual results, engages agents in dialog about performance, and motivates agents to continuously improve. The outcome should be high performing and committed agents who are ready and willing to help the business execute its strategy.
How the best contact center software can help a business exploit its competitive advantage
All the features and capabilities that make contact center software "the best" can be leveraged to assist a business with executing their competitive strategy. No matter what the specific competitive advantage is, a well-tooled contact center can play a significant role in supporting it. Here are some examples of how:
One of the primary roles of contact center software is to facilitate great CX. Sure, a lot of the customer experience depends on the quality of the agent, but enhancing key processes and giving agents effective tools are also important enablers of good CX. Here are some examples:
- Increased channel choice. Today's consumers want options for how they communicate with organizations. In fact, our consumer benchmark study shows that 90% of consumers say they are more willing to do business with a company that provides more ways to communicate. Implementing more digital channels is one way to do that. Offering self-service is another. The best contact center software can enable both.
- Better customer-agent matching. Routing a customer to the right agent is crucial for great CX. An unqualified agent might transfer the call, put the caller on hold while she consults with her supervisor, or bungle the resolution - all CX killers. Conversely, a qualified agent will be more confident, instill more trust, and be more likely to quickly and accurately resolve the customer's issue.
- Lower wait times. Talk about CX killers! Making a caller wait in a long queue will start the interaction off on the wrong foot and leave a bad lasting impression. Industry leading workforce management software can help contact centers avoid long queue times with more accurate forecasting and scheduling, and more flexible and timely intraday management adjustments.
If a company's competitive advantage is delivering exceptional customer experience, it needs to arm those on the front lines of delivering customer service with the best contact center software.
Annual agent turnover runs traditionally high in contact centers – averaging around 30%, depending on the size of the operation. This is not only costly, but exiting agents take experience and organizational knowledge out the door with them. Because a business's people are essential to leveraging and maintaining its competitive advantage, retaining competent agents through better agent experience (AX) is imperative and could give the business an edge over competitors. Here are some ways the best contact center software can improve AX:
- Unified agent desktop. We touched on the unified agent desktop earlier, but it bears further discussion because it can make an agent's life so much easier. A unified desktop can take all the applications an agent uses - email, CRM, chat system, and more - and consolidate them into a single user interface with a unified inbox. This provides single sign-on and eliminates the need to toggle repetitively through multiple systems.
- Motivational performance management. Agents who truly care about their performance will appreciate the features of world class software. This can include individual agent dashboards that allow agents to monitor their key stats and compare them to targets and team results; gamification that makes performance improvement fun and rewarding; and access to scheduling functionality that allows agents to request time off, swap shifts with peers, and receive notifications of schedule changes.
Providing better AX that empowers and motivates agents can lead to meaningful increases in agent retention.
If a business competes on low costs, the best contact center software can deliver. But really, what business doesn't like to save money? Here are ways good software solutions can help:
- Better control of labor costs. Sophisticated workforce management tools can make sure the right number of agents are hired and scheduled to meet forecasted demand. This helps avoid costly overstaffing. And if volume comes in well under plan, automated intraday management processes can quickly reforecast volume and adjust schedules in order to avoid waste.
- Self-service. Enabling customers to solve their own problems is, of course, much cheaper than agent-assisted methods. If IVRs and chatbots can deflect just 5-10% of agent-assisted contacts, the savings can really add up.
- Cloud pricing. Cloud-based software is typically priced based upon actual use, which makes it a flexible, lower cost model for organizations that need to staff up and down throughout the year. Additionally, because a vendor hosts the software, businesses can expect lower internal IT support costs and avoid capital expenditures associated with hardware upgrades.
Having a remote agent workforce could have been listed under AX, because so many agents like the arrangement, or cost control, because it can produce significant savings by reducing or eliminating facilitates costs. But it really bears having its own category and here are a couple of reasons why:
- Business continuity. The pandemic made us all painfully aware of the need for good continuity plans. Organizations with the best contact center software were able to quickly set up their agents to work from home before their facilities were locked down. This helped to significantly limit the disruption to customer service. Businesses need strong continuity plans, including transitioning to a work from home model, in order to protect their competitive advantages.
- Expanded labor pools. When agents work remotely, contact centers are no longer limited to their local labor markets. This allows them to tap into potentially more qualified labor pools or hire agents in different time zones that can more easily support 24/7 operating hours. Organizations that are creative can turn this into a meaningful advantage over other contact centers.
The data captured and analyzed by the best contact center software is invaluable to the organization because it tells a story about a critical touchpoint on the customer journey. The software can capture data about how long customers waited, whether they abandoned their calls, if their chat transcripts reflect anger or satisfaction, if they're likely to recommend the company to friends, whether they were successful at self-service, and so much more. This information is highly useful by itself, but when it's combined with other customer data the company captures, it can become a powerful competitive advantage.
Savvy businesses realize their contact centers aren't cost centers. When armed with the best contact center software, contact centers can pump up sales results to give businesses an edge over their rivals. Here are a couple examples of how this is done:
- Higher outbound connection rates. A good dialer is at the core of successful outbound sales efforts. Predictive dialers use sophisticated logic to keep outbound agents highly productive, resulting in more connections and sales. Additionally, industry leading dialers eliminate the telltale pause at the beginning of outbound calls, meaning fewer prospects hang up before agents can engage them.
- Higher quality sales processes. Contact centers who take sales calls typically have a sales process for their agents to follow, yet some agents are more successful than others. Good quality management processes, supported by effective quality management software, can identify if agents are complying with the established process and identify specific areas that need refresher training or coaching. This should result in improved conversion rates across the board.
To compete in today's economy, businesses need to be agile, customer-focused and have something that sets them apart from their rivals. This requires all internal functions to be aligned and optimized. For customer service operations to successfully contribute to competitive strategy, they need to be supported by the best contact center software.
NICE's clients rely on our software every day to give them a competitive edge. Find out more by:
- Watching the NICE CXone product demo
- Reading a customer story - With CXone, Tbaytel’s Exceptional CX is a Competitive Advantage
- Contacting us for a demo or quote