Government contact centers need a solid technology foundation built on a secure, cloud-based platform that uses artificial intelligence, natural language processing, machine learning and data analytics, a recent report says.
An assessment of public-sector contact centers identified seven shifts that agencies are making to improve service delivery to the public using technology, including digital technologies.
“The pandemic has provided a painful wakeup call for government contact centers,” according to a January report from Deloitte. Building on what agencies learned, future contact centers need three components. One is a solid technology foundation built on a secure, cloud-based platform that uses artificial intelligence, natural language processing, machine learning and data analytics. Second is an “agent cockpit,” which is where agents work with integrated workflows that collate and provide information from all touchpoints, including voice, text and email, and third is a customer experience (CX) hub based on human-centered design that incorporates omnichannel touchpoints, self-service and tech-supported human interactions.
“The world of contact centers changed, and I hope that it changed for the better,” said Marc Mancher, a principal at Deloitte Consulting, where he founded and leads the federal, state, local and higher education contact center business.
Historically, agencies have layered capabilities onto an old infrastructure that can’t support them. Pandemic response shined a spotlight on those shortcomings.
“What was happening before the pandemic was people were buying the newest apps, the new software that they thought was getting after customer experience and solving problems, but what they hadn’t really addressed was the basic telephony and infrastructure inside the contact center, so the plumbing was leaking in there,” Mancher said. “What we need is for our government officials to start looking forward at the future and say, ‘What did we do in the pandemic, what did we learn in the pandemic and how do we apply that to the future?’”
The seven shifts the report identified are:
- Creating an experience hub, not a cost center, meaning providing options for people to interact, such as online self-service tools in addition to phone numbers and physical buildings.
- Going from call centers to contact centers, which also speaks to that omnichannel approach. It also means taking “full advantage of tools to proactively guide customers to the correct action.” For example, the Department of Motor Vehicles could send an email when a driver’s license is up for renewal.
- Providing experiences that are automated, automatic and self-service through human-centered design. Examples include the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ AI chatbot that offers services in English and Spanish and Virginia’s Vaccine Call Center’s providing of American Sign Language support for COVID-19 and vaccine information.
- Offering tech-supported interactions that use personas – fictitious individuals that represent a portion of the population – to understand how the needs of an octogenarian who primarily speaks Mandarin might differ from a young caregiver trying to navigate Medicare for the first time.
- Integrating information and workflow so that no matter how someone arrives at a human agent, all the information is available and doesn’t have to be repeated.
- Enhancing employees’ experiences because “a great employee experience is more likely to provide a great customer experience.”
- Using empathetic tech, which can use AI to sense human emotions to automatically shift customers to, say, a live agent when facial expressions or voice patterns indicate frustration with technology.
Mancher offers two steps to making these changes. The first is getting support from leaders. He points to the “Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government,” issued in December, as crucial, but he still cautions against applying “shiny objects” to a rusting infrastructure.
The second step is changing how agencies procure for contact centers. “Procurement centers across the states and across the federal government are saying, ‘Show me how you did this the last three to five years.’ Nothing drives me more nuts,” Mancher said. “They should be saying, ‘Show me using today’s technology how we want to do it into the future.’”
Experts at Zoom, Salesforce and UiPath recently echoed these shifts by describing the contact center of the future as one that has “always on” service and automation and is omnichannel, according to a Jan. 14 Protocol Enterprise newsletter. To those ends, Zoom plans to launch the Zoom Video Engagement Center later this year as the companies all vie to be contact center market leaders.
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.