The future of customer engagement

The future of great customer engagement will be built by empowered software teams


  • tim richter
    Tim Richter
  • Feb 28, 2020
TLDR

With the advent of application platforms, software teams are more empowered than ever to collaborate with business teams to innovate customer experience.

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Empowered development teams are discovering new ways to differentiate their customer engagement practices with software, thanks to application platforms. A thriving developer community has more flexible tools than ever before, including increasingly functional APIs –– those that support configuration changes, data in, and even allow orchestration of events and bi-directionality –– visual workflow builders, and standardized frameworks, like React.

It hasn’t always been this way. Until recently, enterprise software has been largely defined by hard-coded software applications with fixed functionality and minimal extensibility. Legacy technology was feature-rich and driven by customer demand, but in many cases, only a fraction of features were actually utilized by most customers—meaning companies would bear the cost and pain of maintaining the entire solution and funding ongoing current development with expensive maintenance contracts.

Limited extensibility meant companies had to shoehorn their existing enterprise apps and processes around new software. Innovation largely rested in the hands of these software vendors, who defined and controlled the roadmaps based on their industry expertise. But in today’s market, the pendulum of innovation has swung from vendors to end customers. 

Developers will take customer engagement to new heights.

With the newest software development tools, infrastructure, and communities at their disposal, companies are increasingly taking the reins of innovation and deciding for themselves what innovation should look like, instead of waiting for a big software vendor to tell them. 

Even before the availability of modern application platforms, many companies were attempting to build their own contact center solutions that fit their exact needs, given the inflexibility of off-the-shelf solutions. But, since this often required building many elements from scratch, we now see developers and IT teams leveraging existing foundational services—such as APIs, routing engines, front-end UI design frameworks, visual workflow builders for interactive voice response, and more. And with the resulting time-savings, IT is able to focus on specific integrations with other internal applications that improve agent workflows. 

Companies define new customer experiences by bringing together relevant aspects of their various enterprise applications––some proprietary and home-grown, others procured from other vendors––for better customer outcomes. That could look like a company providing agents direct access to the inventory management system and billing systems to quickly disposition common customer issues—or, enabling automation for the company’s most requested issues.

Here are 5 questions to ask when evaluating a contact center solution

Developers and business teams will collaborate more tightly.

One of the main benefits of building great customer engagement experiences internally is the ability to deeply integrate the contact center solution within existing systems and processes. Then, iterate to stay ahead of changing customer expectations. Collaboration begins early in the development cycle by getting the right people into a room and whiteboarding ideas about how to engage customers differently from the competition, unhindered by technology limitations, and working within their existing set of enterprise applications. Design brainstorming will exclude technology considerations at first, and will only focus on creating ideal workflows for channels, routing, integrations, self-service, and agent interface design. I’ve seen the eyes of contact center operations personnel light up when their developer counterparts say, “Yeah, we can do that.”

After designing ideal workflows, then, and only then, will the build commence. Critically, the build does not become static ‘set-it-and-forget-it.’ Instead, companies are adopting continuous delivery models through constant iteration to stay ahead of changing customer expectations.

This iteration is made possible only through close collaboration between the business and operations types and developers. Contact center supervisors and managers share what’s working and what’s not with their engineering and development colleagues. And the collaboration doesn’t stop there. Agents can finally engage in the design and iteration process, as they have perhaps better perspectives on customers’ needs than anyone else in the company.

Engaging contact center agents will become the secret sauce.

Contact center agents often have better insights into customers’ needs than anyone else in the company. The role of the agent is rapidly changing from generalist to specialist, as routine inquiries are picked up by self-service, chatbots, or better websites and apps. Only the more complex issues land on agents desks, giving them better insights into customer pain points.

For too long, contact centers have ignored agents’ input on how to improve customer experiences. It’s not that management has been negligent or uncaring. It’s because management has not had the right tools to effectively act on the feedback and effect change. Contrary to the common belief that building solutions require extended development time, we’ve seen Lyft build in just three-and-half months and Shopify in four. In fact, average build times are less than six months for most Flex customers to date.

Application platforms allow you to build engagement strategies beyond the contact center

The future of enterprise software, where empowered development teams build deeply customized applications to differentiate their business, is here. Unlike packaged CCaaS predecessors, application platforms allow developers and partners to more deeply integrate their contact center operations with the rest of the business. This means that silos between the contact center and the rest of the business dissolve and customer service excels. Software is redefining the landscape of modern business––and it’s not coming from pre-packaged apps.

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tim richter

Tim Richter

Tim Richter is Senior Product Marketing Manager for Twilio Flex. He has over 15 years of experience in the communications industry in product management and product marketing roles. As a frequent speaker and content contributor for the contact center market in particular, Tim places emphasis on deeply understanding evolving customer needs first and then tailoring solutions that fit. You can reach him at trichter [at] twilio.com.