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Top 6 Retail Technology Trends for 2022

The pandemic accelerated an evolution already underway in retail – digital is transforming how and where consumers shop, what they buy, and their expectations for support and experience.

Evolving consumer behaviors combined with a hybrid workforce are driving the six leading communications technology trends in retail. Here’s what’s in store…

1. Supply Chain Resiliency

Supply chain resiliency will continue to challenge retailers for the next several years. It’s not just bottlenecks and a shortage of materials crimping the chain. Consumer shopping behaviors make it more difficult for retailers to stock the right quantities of the correct goods.

Ongoing communication can help retailers and their supply chain partners minimize disruptions and keep stores and warehouses stocked with just enough of the right items. Cloud communications and collaboration tools like web chat and video conferencing keep retailers connected and on the same page with vendors worldwide. Combining data from the Internet of Things (IoT) and automation make it possible to keep real-time tabs on inventory levels so you can keep the correct number of items on the shelves.

2. Recycling Returns

“Reduce, reuse, and recycle” isn’t just about bottles and cans anymore. In the circular economy, returns are given a second life. This is a particularly compelling concept for retail for several reasons. In 2021, retail returns jumped to an average of 16.6 % compared to 10.6 % a year prior.

As a result, many retailers are putting conservation programs in place to put returns on shelves or sell them at a discount. A smooth return process is key to the success of such initiatives. Contact centers can be optimized to make it easier for consumers to reach retailers and work out the details of returns, from shipping the product back to refunds.

3. Employee Experience

Amid the “Great Resignation” and labor shortage, retailers find it challenging to hire and retain staff in both stores and call centers, where turnover has traditionally been high.

Although retailers have increased pay and offered better benefits, they still have another tool in their arsenal: employee experience. More than eight in 10 retailers say they plan to invest most heavily in employee recruitment and retention, Deloitte found in a recent survey. By investing in communications and collaboration tools that empower employees and support flexibility – including where and when employees work – retailers can elevate the employee experience.

4. Mobile-Enabled Workforce

Like other industries, retailers are also adopting hybrid and remote workforce models. For instance, many contact center agents now work from home offices. Employees are often on the move, even in brick-and-mortar retail stores and warehouses.

As the workforce becomes more mobile, retailers can leverage communications and contact center technology, AI, and machine learning to deliver a stellar customer experience. In the hybrid workplace, humans and AI assistants work together. Machine learning is used to analyze customer behavior and determine patterns. Employees can use these insights to design hyper-personalized experiences that keep customers fully engaged.

5. Omnichannel

From the start of COVID in March 2020 through March 2022, e-commerce sales increased 33 %, according to McKinsey research. Consumers have adapted to shopping online, and the trend seems poised to continue. However, they’re now also ready to shop in-store. McKinsey also found that in-store spending increased 8 % year-over-year in March 2022, up from 5 % in early 2021.

By seamlessly blending the digital and real-world experiences throughout the buying journey, retailers can reach shoppers where they are – and deliver goods however they want – at home, curbside, or in-store.

Easy access to customer information means retail staff in stores can order an item for a customer and have it shipped to their home without any fuss. In the contact center, agents can manage interactions across all channels – voice, email, SMS, web chat, social media, a website – via a single interface and deliver a consistent experience every time.

6. Faster, Frictionless Transactions

Blending the digital and real worlds has raised the bar for accessibility and ease of use. It should come as no surprise that after two years of online shopping, almost 40 % of internet users worldwide now report a preference for chatbots over virtual agents. Their usage is also predicted to grow alongside the rising demand for service during what have traditionally been non-business hours. Chatbots don’t care if it’s 2 am.

Chatbots play an essential role in creating faster, frictionless transactions. AI-powered chatbots can answer basic questions, then hand off customers to agents or in-store staff to finalize purchases.

It All Adds Up to a Stellar Experience

Retailers must deliver an exceptional experience to customers and employees to stay ahead of the competition and thrive amid modern-day challenges. The proper communications and collaboration technology makes it easy to keep your workers and customers engaged, happy, and informed. TCI and Mitel have the technology necessary for retailers to make this happen.

Modern times call for modern tech. Grow and evolve with TCI, your local technology partner. Contact TCI today at (703) 321-3030 or info@tcicomm.com.

 

Contact Centers 101… Understanding the Basics So Your Business Won’t Miss Out

The contact center world of 2022 is filled with business opportunities and the chance to better meet your diversifying customer needs. Worried you might be missing out? Don’t be. Below, we formally open the doors to the contact center world and invite you to confidently step inside.

Why Does Your Organization Need Contact Center Technology?

If your organization handles and manages daily phone calls, then you can benefit from new contact center technology that can quickly and efficiently route calls, spot calling trends, and build an effective overall team.

Call center technology can accelerate reaching customer experience goals set by the managers and decision-makers of your organization – from increasing first call resolution to honing your tracking and reporting intelligence.

What Kind of Call Center Technology is Out There?

There’s a wide spectrum of call center solutions available to help maximize your business operations. The first step in determining which technology is ideally suited for your business is determining the size and classification of your contact center.

For example, are you a small business and just getting started exploring your options, or do you already run a small but “full-fledged” contact center? Are you an enterprise-class contact center? Establishing your requirements leads to the end goal – investing in the right technology to take you there.

Today’s call center solutions can cover all of the bases – from driving productivity to streamlining operations, to simplifying tool management, to call bursting for handling sporadic high call volumes. A sampling of customized contact center solutions available include…

  • Contact Center Enterprise provides a powerful toolbox of applications to transform dated, voice-only call centers into an omnichannel customer experience.
  • Cloud-based Contact Center services offer a multi-channel interaction center for the way customers communicate today. 4 Minute Video Demo: MiContact Center Business – Customer & Agent Experience
  • Boosting your team’s performance with Workforce Optimization applications and tools. Learn more
  • Proactively reach your customers and prospects with Outbound contacts to improve loyalty and uncover new revenue opportunities.

The contact center world isn’t so scary once you take that first step inside. Take the next step with TCI. Contact us today at (703) 321-3030 or info@tcicomm.com.

 

The 9 Most Important Call Center Trends of 2022

We’ve seen a lot of changes to the call center and customer experience landscape over the years, from cloud communications and virtual agents to more strategic thinking around analytics, more flexible social media interactions, and innovative ways to involve artificial intelligence. And when the pandemic pushed businesses to modernize their business communications overnight, we’ve seen even more shifts in how businesses meet the evolving needs of both customers and their employees.

Here are nine technology trends that are helping companies deliver the best quality customer experience. See how far your business has come in building customer relationships that last — or which of these trends may need to be on this year’s to-do list.

1. Artificial Intelligence

As early adopters continue honing AI applications for call routing, we expect to see more connections forged between various media channels and streamlined call center response.

2. Digital Transformation

A forward-looking digital transformation strategy is going to be essential for business competitiveness. And it’s not just about using the right channels to interact with customers where they are; the smartest businesses are integrating technologies to provide full customer context with each interaction and leveraging system data to provide proactive service.

3. Better Contact Center Analytics

Gone are the days of relying on supervisor skills and know-how to get the most out of contact center agents. Now, even smaller businesses are taking advantage of sophisticated analytics to turn data – like call and screen recordings, chats, SMS messages, and more – into useful feedback for their agents. We expect more advancements in analytics as companies continue to implement more unified communications platforms and strategies.

4. Omnichannel Communications

More businesses are recognizing that while a customer journey may begin on one channel, valuable insight and feedback from the customer can be gained on a completely different channel. Responsive businesses are using this trend to create a superb customer experience by unifying communications across channels into one stream. This helps their customers by connecting them with an agent who knows their purchase and service history and provides valuable context. Most importantly, the two-way conversation is public on a social media platform, so other customers can see how the business solved the problem.

5. Cloud Communications

Many businesses have already adopted cloud communications as part of their communications strategies, but cloud communications have become particularly important for contact centers. The steady increase in remote call agents has made cloud communications a necessity for businesses who want to take advantage of seamless team communications and collaboration. With cloud communications, traditional office-based contact centers can take on new locations, and grow and contract workforces as market needs demand.

6. Employee Engagement

Just as customer expectations have evolved in the last few years, so have the expectations of the employees that make quality customer experience possible. And dissatisfaction in the work environment and culture has led to high agent attrition in the contact center space and beyond. Businesses that want to remain competitive will provide their employees with the culture and technology that empowers an efficient, productive, and flexible workforce.

7. Flexible Working Options

Lower overhead, time zone flexibility, and variable working hours have made remote contact center workers a stable trend in 2022. With constantly improving unified communications, remote workers have become a permanent and beneficial part of the contact center environment. By using collaboration tools, contact center agents can be mobile, with access to real-time analytics and customer context.

8. AI-Powered Self-Service Tools

The high priority on process improvement and self-service since the pandemic has addressed the issue of increasing workload for contact center agents, as well as the difficulties around achieving the desired service levels or Average Speed of Answer (ASA). Giving customers information quickly helps reduce call volumes, and easy-to-navigate FAQs help narrow down calls to those with sufficiently complex issues. Quick access to self-serve solutions also provides an emotional benefit to customers (that DIY-fix high!) and reduces overall call times.

9. SMB’s Leveraging All Employees to Support Customers

SMBs are extending traditional contact center agent desktop features to employees that work outside of the contact center to supplement customer-facing employees. Blended UC/CC solutions that bring customer and employee experiences together into a single user experience tear down the silos between traditional contact center agents and the rest of the organization.

If you need more help determining how to apply these trends to your call center, TCI’s local experts are here to help. Contact us today: (703) 321-3030 or info@tcicomm.com.

 

Live + Digital… Ready to Deliver a Seamless Customer Experience?

There’s no question that the customer experience (CX) has undergone a dramatic shift in the past few years. Consumers are online more than ever. Like the rest of daily life, CX has become a true blend of the digital and “live” worlds.

Most people channel-switch without thinking these days and consumers will only want the process to become more seamless as they return to brick-and-mortar stores. In-person shopping has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels, while smartphone purchases have undergone a 70% increase since 2019 and continue to grow.

Digital, but Make it Personal

Because so many transactions take place in the digital space first, it’s more important than ever to prioritize investment in technology that supports client engagement. Being able to deliver curated products and personalized customer support goes a long way in making your customer feel like you truly care.

CX is tied directly to Employee Experience; customers are increasingly sensitive to the person on the other end of the line and can tell when a company doesn’t prioritize staff well-being. Equipping your employees to work in hybrid or remote settings and giving them the tools to make informed decisions at any point in the customer journey makes everyone feel empowered.

Tips for Building Trust

A little investment in the CX goes a long way towards building loyalty, ensuring customers will continue to use and recommend your services. So, how can you build trust in this complicated, digital-first world?

  • Lead with digital, finish with personal: Ultimately, customers want to feel that human element. Customize their experiences and connect with them personally to keep them engaged.
  • Discover new customer journeys: Your clients will be accessing your products from multiple channels. Do you know how to meet them every step of the way?
  • Define your values and follow through: Not only do consumers want to understand your values, they also need to know that you see them through. Showing that you care about the same things as your customers will bring them back time and time again.
  • Provide excellent customer service: Employee happiness translates to customer happiness. Give your staff the technology they need to maximize CX.
  • Ensure data privacy: Customers are willing to give more of their personal data if they know it will be handled securely. This data can be used to customize interactions even more.

The Commercial Advantages of Blended CX

Consumers are willing to pay a premium for positive transactions and are increasingly tying their personal values to their purchasing decisions. If you can meet customers on their terms, speak to them on a personal level, and develop their trust, your investment will yield returns far beyond your expectations.

TCI is ready to implement technologies that help your business maximize the Customer Experience. Contact us today: (703) 321-3030 or info@tcicomm.com.

 

Surviving on Good-Enough Communications? A Guide to Upgrading Your Business Technology

Business leaders have been running in emergency mode trying to adapt to workplace limitations imposed by COVID and the mandates intended to limit its spread. Often, businesses made do with a mix of communications solutions from different vendors – with varying results.

Now is the time to re-assess and refine:

Integrate Communications

Many businesses are working with an unwieldy patchwork of solutions from different vendors, each implemented separately at different times. This Frankenstein-type framework is okay for just getting by. But compatibility and efficiency issues can hamper your capacity to grow and thrive. An integrated platform ensures a seamless experience for management, employees, and ultimately customers.

Adapt Processes to Make the Most of Communication Technology

If you find yourself spending more time on communications tools after a partial or complete migration, you may not be making the best use of them. Define optimal ways of working before you implement the tools. Will you recreate your current processes with your new cloud solutions? If so, go back to the whiteboard. Set up measurement tools before you deploy. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

Develop Flexibility and Security

Whether your employees are remote, hybrid, or in-person, they’re likely to use personal devices for work purposes. With the right solutions, you can support secure work and promote collaboration regardless of which devices your employees use.

Offer Robust Tools to Avoid “Shadow IT”

Keeping employees from using unauthorized IT isn’t easy. You’ll need to offer modern and agile tools and establish an IT infrastructure that works for everyone. One central, lean IT infrastructure with well-documented interfaces will always scale better – and be more secure – than a hodge-podge of departmental apps and databases.

Invest in Omnichannel Customer Communication

Customer experience is an essential part of any communications upgrade. Customers want flexibility when they reach out. They may start on social media, switch to email, and then give you a call. An omnichannel communications solution removes friction and helps you meet customers where they are.

Prepare for Takeoff

The pandemic accelerated many businesses’ digital transformation, but many were forced to choose between speed and strategy. If your business has been getting by with emergency quick fixes, it’s time to redefine your communications strategy and upgrade.

TCI experts are here to help. Contact us today: (703) 321-3030 or info@tcicomm.com.

 

How Contact Centers Help Drive Success in Small & Mid-Sized Businesses

Some organizations, particularly smaller ones, may still have doubts about the real value of a contact center. From the customer perspective, however, the value of a contact center could not be more real.

For example, a small online retailer is just like a big retailer that makes their profit from repeat customers. If consumers are dissatisfied and share that feeling with others or rate the service poorly on an assessment, it could have a downstream effect that hurts your best efforts to get customers back to the cash register.

Providing an optimal customer experience is at the forefront of many planning discussions in every industry and business model. In a world that lives on posting the good, bad and ugly on social media, keeping an eye on customer satisfaction is an absolute must.

Retaining clients means more profit. By having a strong contact center solution, you can:

  • Measure and analyze customer behavior and prepare the right strategies to respond when you identify service gaps.
  • Prioritize calls more effectively by providing pop-up information on repeat callers. This allows your staff to be smarter in how they answer the phone and who they may place on hold – routing the call to the beginning of the queue versus later.
  • Leverage real-time analytics to see what’s really happening at the first point-of-contact, identify staff that require more training and determine if a customer had a negative experience – before they have a chance to leave a bad review.

A robust contact center solution can improve operational efficiency and deliver a better customer experience, while keeping you apprised of what’s really happening. Your response can drive better satisfaction surveys and online ratings.

Let’s discuss how to improve your customer experience by implementing a contact center to support your business. Contact TCI today (703) 321-3030 or info@tcicomm.com.

 

3 Easy Ways to Strengthen Customer Relationships with Unified Communication Tools

Darwin’s Theory is that species must adapt to their environment in order to survive. The same is true in business, and the pandemic has been a hard lesson for many companies as they battle to stay afloat. The “fittest” have embraced (and even accelerated) digital transformation, finding new and meaningful ways to engage customers remotely. Even when social distancing restrictions relax, customers have grown accustomed to digital interactions. And for good reason: they’re faster and more convenient. But people still want to feel connected, perhaps even more so than before.

So how can you strengthen ties with customers and create a personal experience in a predominantly digital world? Unified communications technology makes it possible. Here are three specific ways to leverage digital communications tools to solidify customer relationships—and business survival.

1. Know Your Customer

We’re all in need of a little extra TLC these days, and companies that can find a way to show they care are rising to the top. What better way to do that than to demonstrate how well you know your customers? CRM integration with your communications system gives staff real-time access to information that can be used to create a memorable experience. As soon as a customer contacts your business, agents can see detailed customer data, ranging from past order history and previous communications. Agents can immediately jump into action, providing updates on recent orders and answering questions the customer may have before they even ask them.

2. Make It Omnichannel

Customers have been interacting with businesses across multiple digital channels for years now, but the pandemic has forced even the most tech-resistant customers to become more digitally savvy. Consumers will be more likely to use digital wallets or cards in the future, and the use of chat and social media has seen a huge increase.

Today, customers expect to be able to communicate with businesses via multiple social media channels, web chat, SMS messages, email and messaging apps. But it’s not enough to offer multiple means of communications. They all need to play nice together, allowing customers to seamlessly move from one channel to another. The digital customer simply expects to be able to start a conversation with a chatbot and move to a live agent via chat or phone (depending on their preference) without having to repeat any of the information they already shared. Smart bots powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) make this possible by routing customers to an agent with the right level of expertise and providing them with a full history of the interaction.

3. Personalize It

Customers may be looking for ways to avoid physical interaction with your staff, but they’re craving personalization more than ever. They want to know you understand their needs and desires, that you value their time and business and that you truly care about giving them what they need. When agents have access to a full customer history, they can personalize the interaction and make customers feel appreciated and valued.

AI technology takes personalization to a new level, with virtual agents monitoring conversations and providing human agents with relevant information to resolve issues and answer questions more quickly. Integration with other internal systems such as supply chain and logistics platforms empower agents to answer just about any question a customer may have.

Powerful unified communications technology arms your business with the right tools to outperform the competition and adapt to changing customer expectations. Contact TCI today at (703) 321-3030 or info@tcicomm.com.

 

Top Tech Trends in the Hospitality & Lodging Industry… Some May Make Sense for Your Business

Hotels, motels and other hospitality businesses once occupied a fairly simple space in people’s lives – they were a place for guests to lay their heads while away from home.

But anyone who’s spent time on the road in recent years knows that the role of technology has greatly expanded. Here are some of the top communication technology trends in hospitality today…

  1. Cloud migration – The hospitality industry is making the transition to the cloud, where opportunities abound for back office efficiency with low technology acquisition costs. Cloud technologies are simplifying operations, reducing staffing needs, and providing a better guest experience.
  2. Service automation through AI – Automation continues to be a trend that’s changing the way guests are served. With the advancements in Artificial Intelligence, hotels are interacting with guests digitally while freeing up hotel staff to work on other tasks. This also improves the travel experience as language differences can be eliminated, ensuring clear communication with travelers wherever they’re from.
  3. Integrated guest applications – Guest apps for personal mobile devices are the natural place to host everything from deal notifications to hotel services to loyalty programs. Innovative capabilities can be integrated into these hotel applications to grant guests increased ability to engage with hotel staff and other guests.
  4. Touchless interactions – The pandemic has emphasized the need to reconsider how guests interact with amenities. From digital room keys that allow guests to unlock doors using their phones to motion sensors that turn on lights, to voice-activated control of appliances, reducing contact with commonly touched interfaces allows guests to stay safe and housekeeping staff to sanitize and prepare rooms faster.
  5. Self-service meeting spaces – No longer are meeting spaces just about table and chair arrangements. Today’s meetings rely on multimedia presentations and videoconferencing to bring in remote attendees. And for marathon meetings, access to services like catering must be handled with minimal interruption. Advanced technology enablement is also becoming a must-have in ballrooms and event halls.
  6. Predictive Analytics – As more technology is added to improve the guest experience, more data is being collected about how guests interact with staff and amenities. When analyzed, the data can provide insights that can improve internal operations as well as the guest experience, resulting in your property becoming a preferred place to stay and the one that gets recommended to others.

If you see an application here that could help your business get ahead, reach out to the experts at TCI. Contact us today at (703) 321-3030 or info@tcicomm.com.

 

Digital Transformation in 2021… Keeping Up with Touchless & New Ways to Connect with Customers

Adaptation has always been a necessity for survival, but now businesses are finding that they have to adapt virtually overnight to stay afloat. Touchless technology in the form of contactless payments, expanded mobile app offerings and remote contact centers is becoming the new normal for businesses across industries.

Touchless technology is impacting the B2C world primarily in payment transactions and customer communications. For example, contactless digital payments are replacing traditional paper checks in many transactions. While the primary driver is health and safety, there are other benefits: digital payments are received faster and cost less to process, improving cash flow and reducing costs.

B2B companies, as well as organizations with call centers or large sales teams, have had to quickly figure out how to stay in touch with customers and clients via a largely remote workforce…

  • Unified communications technology keeps the lines of communication open from any device and any location.
  • Cloud-based VoIP phones enable employees to communicate and collaborate via voice, text and screen share, making it easy to assist customers even when working from home.
  • A unified communications contact center empowers businesses to communicate with customers via chat, SMS, voice, email and social media – all with a virtual workforce.

All companies should consider the impact touchless tech will have on how their business is run, and we encourage you to explore Digital Transformation and new avenues of communications with your customers.

Looking for new ways to connect that will grow your business? Contact TCI today at (703) 321-3030 or info@tcicomm.com.