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Article : The 2013 Contact Center: Seven Trends to Plan For
The 2013 Contact Center: Seven Trends to Plan For
We all know that trends come and go – whether in fashion or in the contact center world. However, it’s preparing for these trends that gives contact center managers the competitive advantage. In 2013, customer service has become a key competitive battleground. Disgruntled customers are increasingly voicing their dissatisfaction and frustration through social media that can go viral in merely minutes. The challenge for contact center managers will be how to balance the best customer service at the lowest cost.
So what can we expect over the next year? Multi-channel contact centers are again making the latest fashion statement but, this time, with a twist – social media and mobile apps have joined the "multi-channel" party. In addition to recycled trends, some emerging trends are seriously disrupting the traditional contact center model.
Trend #1: Introducing the "un-contact center"
As contact center technologies evolve to genuinely enable distributed staffing, virtual and distributed skill sets are becoming the norm. Supervisors no longer evaluate and collaborate face-to-face with all or even most of their staff. This new world is creating significant management issues. New paradigms for personal collaboration are infiltrating the enterprise. Low cost integrated video and enterprise social tools are being leveraged more and more within the contact center to drive "high touch" collaboration.
The adage that "everyone is in sales" or "everyone services customers" is here today. The walls that surround the traditional contact center are crumbling as organizational silos between formal contact center staff and knowledge workers meld into a cohesive, collaborative environment. Presence and instant messaging will help agents find the best resources regardless of where they’re located or which device they’re using. The future of the contact center will likely include a combination of the traditional, centralized location and the newer model of people sitting in their living rooms addressing questions on chat-enabled websites, for example.
Trend #2: Customers will evangelize your brand
According to Harris Interactive*, 72 percent of adults who "had a memorable product purchase, use, or service experience" said they followed up with positive action, with 57 percent communicating about their positive experience with others, and 41 percent recommending that someone make a purchase. Moving forward, unified communications will enable enterprises to find the best person to address customer issues – whether that’s inside or outside the contact center.
Customers are uniting to form communities of common interest, to support and evangelize your brand – or to destroy it. There is a dramatic disparity between what customers say to your business, and what they say about you – particularly if their sentiments are unfavorable. Your contact centers must proactively seek out positive and negative chatter about the brand you’ve worked so hard to establish.
Another example of how "the customer is the contact center" is in the area of support. More and more companies’ support functions are being offloaded to community or forum sites through articles written by super-users of the company’s products. Are your support agents in lock step with the solutions and fixes your brand advocates are writing about your products?
Trend #3: Customers want to solve their own problems
With the majority of people online doing everything from purchasing, to banking, to booking, to asking questions and obtaining support, the best way to keep customers loyal is to make it easy to contact you. Today’s consumer expects a completely seamless transition between each contact medium. They want to be able to easily transition from a Web-based chat, to a phone call, to an email. You make this happen by setting up every online interaction to leverage browser-based (webRTC) contact. Customers simply click-to-contact from a web page and tell the contact center how and when to contact you. Once the contact is established, the information about where the customer was searching and what they were doing is captured, analyzed, and passed to the agent seamlessly. Waiting in queue for an agent becomes a thing of the past.
The requirement for a seamless transition between web self-service and agent-assisted service is even more pronounced when the customer/prospect is using a smart phone or tablet to interface with you. Once they are communicating with an agent in real-time (a phone call, for example), adding multiple modes such as video, chat, email, screen sharing, file sharing, co-browsing, etc., further enhances the experience. Contact centers will need to ensure that agents can respond and utilize these new tools appropriately. They will need to be trained and coached accordingly and adapt at a very quick pace given the current adoption rate of mobile devices.
Trend #4: The renaissance agent.
Today’s agents must master multiple new media and channels of interaction. In the past, customers have been transferred around from person to person, much to their frustration. The millennial generation is making its way into the contact center workforce and customer base, mandating new interaction channels to accommodate their needs and forcing organizations to break down silos. To stay relevant, contact centers must align with this shift in technology, staffing, and training choices.
If your customer base is multi-generational, doesn’t it make sense that your agents be multi-generational? Different age groups prefer different ways to communicate – so matching a
30-something caller with a 30-something agent is imperative for taking or maintaining a competitive edge. Is your contact center routing engine sophisticated enough to do this type of caller-agent matching? It’s likely that tomorrow’s consultants and agents will come from new areas within a company, and some will service customers as only one aspect of their job, which enables them to bring new knowledge and ideas to the position.
Trend #5: The 360-degree view is imperative
Today’s customer can touch the enterprise in a number of ways - chat, phone, web collaboration, email, and even face-to-face retail establishment. Contact centers need to have a 360-degree view of the customer to accurately predict and anticipate customers’ needs. All communication streams should be captured, indexed, tagged and harvested for customer intelligence (a more effective voice-of-the-customer model). Traditional operational metrics are taking a back seat to the "gold rush" of contextual and behavioral data provided by the proliferation of new customer end points (smart phones/tablets).
Whether you are launching a new product or resolving major customer issues, take the opportunity to mine the massive data volume in your contact center to advance your goals. Many organizations are now using big data to not only understand the history but to forecast the future so that they’re proactively managing customer relationships as opposed to reacting to fire storms. Are you able to analyze your reams of customer data and proactively leverage it to improve all facets of your business?
Trend #6: Seamless DR should be priority
Your DR (Disaster Recovery) strategy needs to be seamless, with zero impact on your users and, more importantly, your customers. The days of paper-based DR plans and data centers in the same geographic region are gone. Your PR department should not have to defend a failed DR strategy. Many organizations are looking to the Cloud as the ultimate DR solution. Organizations should assess Cloud options to determine how close to zero-impact they can get. With natural disasters, epidemics, and weather disturbances on the rise, premise-based contact centers are either implementing a cloud-based overlay DR architecture, or are migrating to private and/or public clouds which have inherent disaster recovery built into the platform. Does your DR approach exploit the flexibility, security, and reliability of the Cloud?
Trend #7: Mobile apps are becoming the new channel for self service
Mobile apps have evolved from fun and games to valuable tools for buying goods, services and transacting business. The average consumer prefers self-service on the Web to talking with a live agent. With the proliferation of mobile phones in the hands of consumers, mobile apps are becoming the new channel for self-service. When customers "zero-out" to talk with a live agent while using your mobile app, they already have their mobile phone in their hand – the successful enterprise must be ready to seamlessly turn this self-service experience into an agent-assisted experience. Does "there’s an app for that" apply to your customer service?
Social media, mobility, and big data are among today’s hot technologies that require that organizations develop a cross functional team with a solid understanding of customer behavior, combined with the right toolset to amplify their support channel. In order to take advantage of these new trends, contact center managers must evolve and adopt these new contact center "fashions". As they continue to develop existing knowledge and infrastructure, today’s contact center will achieve the highest results.
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About Paul Lang:
Paul Lang is senior vice president for Siemens Enterprise Communications'' Contact Center portfolio.
Siemens AG is a German multinational engineering and electronics conglomerate company headquartered in Berlin and Munich.
Unify—formerly known as Siemens Enterprise Communications—is a large communications software and services firms. Our solutions unify multiple networks, devices and applications into one easy-to-use platform that allows teams to engage in rich and meaningful conversations. The result is a transformation of how the enterprise communicates and collaborates that amplifies collective effort, energizes the business, and dramatically improves business performance. Born out of the engineering DNA of Siemens, Unify builds on this heritage of product reliability, innovation, open standards and security to provide integrated communications solutions for 75% of the Global 500. Unify is a joint venture of the Gores Group and Siemens AG.
Published: Monday, September 23, 2013