As we approach the start of another decade, we take a look into the future and try to predict what contact centres will look like in the year 2020.
If you caught our webinar covering this topic, we promised to share further predictions for customer support teams in 2020. If you missed it, not to worry, you can watch it again below.We'll start by looking at the strategic areas of Contact Centres including the role of the Contact Centre, business objectives, services delivered, channels, customer experience and policies. There have been three main drivers of change in recent years;
- reducing cost,
- improving the customer experience and
- keeping up with competitors.
When we look at heavily used terminology, we see that ‘digital transformation’ and ‘customer experience’ are right up there. But what do they mean? What's changed? How will they continue to change next year and in future years?
Digital transformation has resulted in some organisations completely changing the way in which they operate. Much smoother processes mean greater knowledge sharing, efficient workflow, intelligent support and a level of automation in customer engagement.
The technology available has fantastic potential with Artificial Intelligence supporting chat bots, self service portals, cloud-based services etc. It's fully expected that these technologies will continue to improve.
Of course, many of these advancements in technology have been used to improve the customer experience. In many cases improving the customer experience commences with mapping the customer journey in both a current and desired state.
The question for many observers is, what do customers want and do the advancements in technology actually improve their experience?
There are undoubtedly some areas of real positive change. Integrating systems is simpler now than it has been. Cloud based services and hosted solutions have changed the cost model for systems and automation has made life easier when undertaking simple tasks.
But for customers the answer is perhaps simpler. When automation and AI is appropriate and it works for them then great but when it doesn’t there's a need for an alternative, they want to speak to somebody!
Customers want to have a choice of how they connect. The term ‘channel shift’ was used to describe how organisations forced customers to use different channels, often because it was perceived as being a lower cost to serve. This has had some success, but the real picture has not been exactly as expected.
Customers who do not have a simple transaction have become locked into automated processes. Organisations have realised that shifting voice calls to other channels such as live chat or via an online form can be more expensive to deliver than voice.
Customers want to have an outcome from their contact. They want to have simple transactions that deliver what they need. They want a greater focus on quality.
Automation and self service are now the norm and an expected customer experience but that expectation results in a service that is taken for granted. When contacts are more complex then intervention is often the only answer. This intervention is normally best served by a person who can guide customers through the terminology of their service or product.
Customers have a number of aspirations:
They want to have a choice of access channels that deliver the integrated service they require. They want to be able to interact via mobile devices with a real focus on achieving the outcome they desire. They want their data to be used professionally to improve the service and increase personalisation.
To deliver, the role of the contact centre needs to change.
Many observers see technology and automation as being a threat to the contact centre. It is more likely that it is simply another stage in the evolution of customer serving functions. Contact centres need to change as the content of their interactions change. They will of course be from different channels but the role of the contact centre in the delivery of an end to end service will change.
Contact centres need to fulfil more enquiries. They have been measuring the number of enquiries resolved at the first point of contact inconsistently for years.
Now is the time to start delivering the service that fully resolves those enquiries. Fewer transferred cases, reduced call-backs. Service delivered right first time.
Service and the workforce will become more agile. Cloud based services will enable virtual working and the ability for people to work effectively from different locations at different times. This will provide greater flexibility to deal with peaks in customer demand.
Operationally there will also be changes which were the subject of a recent webinar which you can listen to here.
What are the main operational changes for 2020?
The main operational changes are likely to be around people, the role that they play and the way in which they are managed. The Contact Centre agent of the future will become more of a solutions designer. Technology will mean that they deliver less transactional work but that will leave the more complex items. This will require a different skill set with greater emphasis on communication, empathy, flexibility and developing the solution for the customer.
As technology becomes more widely utilised it will also create a different requirement for support. The end to end service that includes a mobile app now depends upon a huge range of mobile devices and internet connectivity. A level of technical knowledge may also be required but perhaps the most important skill will be to translate customer language to the terminology used in knowledge bases and support systems.
Managing people will also change. In addition to changing profiles for recruitment and managing retention differently, it is probable that agents will be more self-managing. The need to look at performance in terms of volume and utilisation will be replaced by measuring performance against outcomes. Agents will more likely have cases to manage themselves rather than opening cases for others. So, performance management will be replaced by Team Leaders and Managers that are enablers, facilitators and supporters.
KPI’s will also change with a greater emphasis on outcomes and quality.
Of course, speed of answer will still be measured but with a variety of different channels available to customers, it may be a subtle change to speed of response.
So, a new decade!
In summary, the changes predicted for 2020 and beyond could be quite significant and include both strategic and operational areas. For many organisations it's the opportunity to review where they are and their future direction prior to implementing change.
Technology will be a major part of the future but most important will be balancing how customers can blend the benefits of automated solutions with access to real people when they want it.
Two changes worth mentioning that I've noticed recently to illustrate this... Firstly, Amazon have a customer service telephone number for enquiries about orders etc and B&Q have closed the self-service tills in my local branch.
Organisations are listening to customers and reacting accordingly!
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