While working at Apigee (an API management platform now part of Google) some years back I learned that APIs will be crucial to connect silos and improve customer experience – and today we will take a look at the impact APIs can have on contact centres specifically.
Evolving the Contact Center
Although 90% of your customers expect a consistent experience across channels, challenges around technology mean that many contact centers are still struggling to deliver truly seamless omnichannel experiences. In fact, even today only 12% of contact centres describe themselves as truly omnichannel.
But why is this? According to Dimension Data’s 2016 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking report, the challenges are both cultural and technological, with the top technology obstacles being:
- Integrating multiple tech systems (reported by 61% of respondents).
- Legacy systems inhibiting flexibility and progress (46%).
These results are an interesting contrast. On one hand, there is recognition that legacy systems are failing to keep up. But on the other hand, integrating multiple solutions is seen as a real headache. As noted by Nicolina Savelli at Customer Think:
“Consumer demands are continually evolving and so are the channels used to communicate those needs. The problem is that technology advances at a much faster pace than the contact center is able to adapt to.”
So what is the answer to this conundrum? Based on years of working with contact centers in the US and Europe, I believe plug and play solutions that can be added and removed via APIs, are the most flexible way for contact centres to iterate on their omnichannel offerings and ultimately, hit their KPIs.
How API works (and why your company is a tech company)
In the simplest terms, APIs are sets of requirements that govern how one application can talk to another. For websites and apps, APIs make it possible to integrate third-party functionality. For example, Uber uses a variety of payment, mapping, and other APIs to power its app – and has swapped these APIs in and out over time for performance or other reasons.
Every company is a tech company now. And like Uber, contact centres can leverage APIs to build their own modular technology stack suited to their own specific needs. These can be assembled, swapped in and out, and even disassembled as necessary. Kind of like Lego blocks. This gives enormous advantages in building custom solutions – the systems your support agents need to solve complex problems and focus on other value-adding activities. Furthermore, it helps minimize risk. If one part of the stack fails – or simply fails to meet expectations – it can be swapped out for something better.
Ultimately, this is good for business. According to Coleman Parkes research, enterprises with advanced API management processes see a range of benefits, including up to 47% better business results than those with basic API management, and are almost twice as likely to express confidence about differentiating themselves from competitors.
In addition, partnering with third-party APIs cuts the development cost of innovation and improves speed-to-market. This enables organizations to differentiate their offerings and seize commercial opportunities. As well as delivering exceptional customer experiences, discovering new revenue streams, and connecting employees, apps and devices to the data they require – at any time and from anywhere.
The cornerstone of success: Choose your APIs wisely
Many respondents to the Dimension Data report cited “integrating multiple systems” as a key reason stopping them from being truly omnichannel. For any specific task, you can likely find multiple APIs that solve your problem to some degree. However, functionality is not the only consideration when building a sustainable stack. Other key considerations include ease of integration, and how much training may be required for your staff to incorporate the functionality into customer interactions.
In addition, you will want to look at how comprehensive the documentation is, how mature the support and community around it are, and so on. These issues can be critically important. You don’t want to be awake at 3 am with the phone ringing off the hook while you look at a mystery error message.
Three examples of APIs improving KPIs
- Dutch airline KLM has a large team dedicated to social media support. Managing incoming messages across multiple platforms would be a logistical nightmare impacting KPIs such as first contact resolution and customer satisfaction. Instead, KLM uses APIs to integrate these platforms into its central CRM system. Having a central, API-enabled place to manage and respond to support queries has helped KLM’s 150 social media staff generate $25 million in annual revenue, and in many cases, agents now can almost entirely manage new client bookings via social media.
- With 17 legacy call centers across multiple markets, ING had a major challenge to bring its technology stack up to date – particularly as well-funded London and Silicon Valley startups started to muscle in on the Fintech space. Initially, the company began by automating some of its repetitive processes. But eventually, it partnered with Twilio to add API-powered building blocks such as Programmable Voice, IP Messaging, Programmable Video, and more. This has had an enormous positive impact in terms of cutting the cost of innovation and improving speed-to-market. And as ING’s chief architect Henk Kolk noted, “IT is the bank. The bank is IT.”
- Contact centers are also using Surly’s API to integrate visual collaboration via co-browsing into their customer experience. For organizations that already use customer service solutions such as Intercom, Zendesk, or Olark, contact centers only need to add a code snippet to the page they are co-browse from. And this is helping to drive real results. Using Surfly, one government support organization was able to slash call handling time by 50%, while differentiating their service and increasing customer satisfaction. By integrating the Surfly API on the website, a leading African financial group, UBA, has improved customer acquisition, cross-sell and retention, while improving customer satisfaction.
Related reading: How UBA is Innovating the Customer Experience with Co-browsing
Building your API rocket ship
The problem with many current omnichannel initiatives in the contact center is that while the customer may think they are having a single conversation across multiple channels, often each interaction is treated as a new conversation.
However, this challenge also presents an opportunity. If you are a contact center head ready to take the plunge, choosing the right set of plug and play APIs is like building a rocket ship from pre-made parts. The individual pieces don’t do much, but assembling the right pieces in the right way will give you a powerful engine to improve common contact center KPIs, such as agent efficiency, call times, first contact resolution, customer satisfaction, and so on, in similar ways to KLM, ING, and UBA.
Are you interested in learning about how visual collaboration may help you improve your customer service KPIs? Check out how it works here: https://www.surfly.com/cobrowsing-api or sign up for a (free) test drive here: https://surfly.com/register/ And if you have any other good examples of how APIs can drive KPIs, please share in the comments!
“In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.” – Jeff Bezos