Trends of Tomorrow’s Contact Center

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Are you engaged? The contact centers of tomorrow will engage customers in ways that today are rarely experienced. This differentiation will separate lagers from leaders. Below we’ll introduce six trends that the top contact centers are embracing, driving greater customer satisfaction.

Mobile-First Focus

The ability to provide mobile customer service is a priority.  Gartner predicts that through 2018, the lack of support in mobile applications will lower customer satisfaction rates by 5% (Fonolo, 2015). If you don’t have mobile services (not only a strategy), you’re losing customers.

According to the Pew Internet Project’s research related to mobile technology, 64% of American adults own a smartphone (even higher among young adults). Below are some interesting 2014 report about who has a cell phone today.

  • 93% of men, 88% of woman
  • 90% white, 90% African-American, and 92% Hispanic
  • 18-29 years 98%, 30-49 years 97%, 50-64 years 88%, and even among 65+ 74% have cell phones

By 2016, the number of smartphone users in the United States is estimated to reach 198.5 million (Pew Research Center, 2014). Using and adopting mobile technologies for consumer engagement is no longer a future capability, it’s required for business today. Gartner predicts that by 2020, the customer will manage 85% of the relationship with an enterprise without even interacting with a human.  Mobility and mobile access to your existing core services have become the table stakes of 2015. Additionally, by adopting a multinational presence the customer experience can be virtually around-the-clock extending access to mobile services virtually 24×7.

The Trend: Go mobile, or go home

 

Agents Becoming Innovators

“If the rate of change outside your organization is faster than the rate of innovation inside, disruption lies ahead.” – Robert B. Tucker

That quote is very powerful, read it again. The staggering statistic, “in 10 years of the Fortune 500 will no longer be here” was first published in Toby Elwin’s, February 2010 blog post, “The cost of culture, a 50% turnover of the Fortune 500.” This was later picked up by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in June 2012, which really launched this thinking into the mainstream media. One of the most interesting quotes in this 2012 research report was towards the end,

“None of this denies the important role of new and young and growing companies, of course. Most of the Fortune 500 companies began as small firms. Part of the reason for rising turnover is undoubtedly related to the greater role that younger companies have played in the U.S. economy over the past three decades, challenging incumbent firms (Stangler & Arbesman, 2012, p. 25, 26).”

It’s no longer ‘good enough’ to have a large organization and believe you’re safe. Playing it safe, is no longer safe.  By innovation we’re really talking about differentiation. Differentiation is a challenging topic not only for contact centers. The laptop product offering differences among Dell, Toshiba, HP, Apple, Acer are subtle. The same is true when looking at mid-size cars, when various manufacturer models are painted with the same colors; the differences are difficult to identify. It’s not surprising that when exploring contact center performance, we have a similar differentiation challenge. There are five best practices of the innovation vanguard, they start changing normal, and begin the process of providing different results:

  1. Make innovation a strategic imperative
  2. Implement idea management systems
  3. Collaborate with customers and partners
  4. Cultivate Risk-taking cultures
  5. Involve everyone in the enterprise

 

The Trend: Agents will lead innovation inside the contact center, changing the customer conversation.

 

Start Inside Not Outside

Transformation starts inside. It’s interesting to note that most companies, who have the presence of mind to know that change is required, don’t look inside their organizations they look outside. Only a select few improvements for call center performance can be 100% ‘fixed’ from the outside (solely by vendors or partners). The greatest impact to consumers satisfaction is the culture a company presents, to their customers.  

“Culture refers to the values, unspoken rules and subtle cues that guide people’s behavior and suggests how they should act within your environment to be effective. Culture is heavily influenced by an organization’s leadership (Innovation Resource, 2015).”

Who effects change as we innovate? It involves everyone in the organization, however, it starts with the organization’s leaders.

[bctt tweet=”Who effects change as we #innovate? It involves everyone in the organization, however, it starts with the organization’s leaders. #CIO #innovation #MITCIO #lead”]

Begin my looking inside and identifying the top 5-8 leadership roles that are critical.  Then conduct an honest 3rd-party evaluation, to determine if those people are setting the model expect from the entire organization.  If not, the change your organization searches for, starts here. Transformational change starts with the right leadership.

The Trend: Change starts by honestly assessing your leadership, responsible for leading the change.

New Era of Metrics

Gone are AHT, CSAT and FCR that were juggled by the contact vendor in the background, that took one measure per call — customer satisfaction is now measured throughout the call, multiple times.  Script compliance will fully dissolve and be replaced by community and loyalty. This shift will move focus from daily metrics to holistic customer metrics concentrated around reducing employee turn and absences.

We expect different results from our contact centers, yet we manage them the same way we did 20 years ago.  Multinational cloud-based contact centers will be the norm; if you’re not using one, you’ll be obsolete in a year. This new framework tilts classic ownership models of software and hardware assets and fully embraces companies to rent bundles of equipment and software. This new low overhead model will collapse contracted cycles from 3-5 years to 1-2 years and free up vendor partners to gather insights customized by customer driven analytic reports (Call Centre Helper, 2010).

Customer service is your brand and the contact center is the epicenter.

[bctt tweet=”Customer service is your #brand and the contact center is the epicenter. #CIO #brand #marketing #customerexperience #omnichannel #multichannel #onechannel”]

The Trend: Cloud contact center technology will make more companies more competitive and others obsolete

 

Generalists Are Now Specialists

Is Omni-channel dead? One could argue that because no one effectively has integrated phone, email, chat, live chat or social media that it never existed. As channels widen and new channels are created self-service will replace the need for generalists. This means that companies need to invest more not less in training and employee engagement.  Employers will segment agents into specializations to serve customers more deeply.  Customer’s expectations are not changing, they have already changed. As customers become comfortable with live chat, they will expect not a simple conversation but an immediate resolution to their issues. These new agents will be experienced to handle these types of discussions.  Retention of high quality agent talent, will be the hidden game changer.

How you treat your employees is how they will treat your customers. Conventional views of a small caged room with 100 agents, will brighten into colorful rooms where movement, exercise and meditation is encouraged.  Healthy snacks, free coffee and a digital atmosphere starting from the cafeteria will build inertia for culture change. This change will redefine success as a ‘delightful customer experience.’ Customer relationships management (CRM) systems will gain popularity as companies search for products that organize the consumer’s end-to-end experience.

[bctt tweet=”Customer relationships management (CRM) systems will gain popularity as companies search for products that organize the consumer’s end-to-end experience. #customer #CRM #IOT #IOE #bitcoin #newage #CIO”]

 

The Trend: The number of live calls will decline, while complexity of phone interactions will increase

Thinking About Customers, not KPIs

Your contact center experience determines if your company delivers a true multi-channel experience. All customer journeys lead to the contact center and your company’s digital strategy is in the middle of this conversation. Complicated technologies such as unified Communications (US) offer new opportunities introducing ‘device of choice’ options for agents to accelerate performance. As devices multiply, adding to call complexity by means of device differentiation, remote support will become increasingly difficult. Live video calling will grow in demand and increase in popularity as personalization with context becomes standard for high performance contact centers.  In order to provide relevant context, security and privacy quickly rise as priorities. 

Previous high-volume calls to reset passwords, will evolve to multi-factor authentication methods increasing security, decreasing complexity and lowering call volume. For example, you’ll enter a standard password into the company interface (website, portal, mobile) and then a text message will be sent asking you to enter the “345-454” for a final verification. Office 365 and Apple already do this, requiring a password that you know and a text message to your phone (SMS capable phone number) to access services. This process builds positive customer interactions, enabled though faster services delivery.

The Trend: Live video support will be demanded to meet the immediacy of customer demands

Leaders Align to Evolving Markets

In summary, contact centers are going through a significant transformation. Ask yourself honestly if your contact center has the integrated customer strategy in place, to position you better tomorrow than you’re sitting today.  The mobile market is evolving quickly and expect agents to be innovators anticipating their needs not only responding to daily problems. This need for innovators requires leadership that starts from inside the company and then expands, challenging vendors and partners to accept a new era of metrics.  These human metrics require specialists not generalist to transform the consumer experience. Retaining and attracting experienced agents is the new talent challenge. As leadership sets the stage these agents will shape an integrated Omni-channel experience, thinking about customers not KPIs.

Your company’s digital strategy is at the heart of this transformation. Who from your organization have you included in this discussion? Are you ready for tomorrow?

 

 

References

Call Centre Helper. (2010). 2020 vision: What will the call centre look like in ten years’ time. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from http://www.callcentrehelper.com/2020-a-vision-of-the-future-call-centre-13947.htm

 

Croft, T. (2015). Heartland Capital Strategies (online image). Retrieved November 9, 2015, from http://www.heartlandnetwork.org/

 

Elwin, T. (2010). 50% turnover of Fortune 500, the cost of culture. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from http://tobyelwin.com/the-cost-of-culture-a-50-turnover-of-the-fortune-500/

 

Fonolo. (2015). Whitepaper: 10 Growing Customer Service Trends for 2015. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from https://fonolo.com/blog/2015/02/whitepaper-10-growing-customer-service-trends-for-2015/

 

Innovation Resource. (2015). Six Essentials to Cultivating an Innovation Culture. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from http://www.innovationresource.com/six-essentials-to-cultivating-an-innovation-culture/

 

Pew Research Center. (2014). Mobile Technology Fact Sheet | Pew Research Center. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/mobile-technology-fact-sheet/

 

Stangler, D., & Arbesman, S. (2012). What Does Fortune 500 Turnover Mean? Retrieved from http://www.kauffman.org/~/media/kauffman_org/research%20reports%20and%20covers/2012/06/fortune_500_turnover.pdf

 

 

 

Peter Nichol, empowers organizations to think different for different results. You can follow Peter on Twitter or on his blog. Peter can be reached at pnichol [dot] spamarrest.com.

 

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Peter is a healthcare business and technology executive, recognized for Digital Innovation by CIO 100, MIT Sloan, Computerworld, and the Project Management Institute. As Managing Director at OROCA Innovations, Peter leads the CXO advisory services practice driving digital strategies.

Peter was honored as an MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award Finalist in 2015 and is a regular contributor to CIO.com on innovation. As Head of Information Technology, Peter was responsible for Connecticut’s Health Insurance Exchange’s (HIX) industry-leading digital platform transforming consumerism and retail oriented services for the health insurance industry. Peter championed the Connecticut marketplace digital implementation with a transformational cloud-based SaaS platform and mobile application recognized as a 2014 PMI Project of the Year Award finalist, CIO 100, and awards for best digital services, API, and platform. He also received a lifetime achievement award for leadership and digital transformation, honored as a 2016 Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader.

Peter has a B.S. in C.I.S from Bentley University and an MBA from Quinnipiac University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. He earned his PMP® in 2001 and is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP) and Certified Scrum Master. As a Commercial Rated Aviation Pilot and Master Scuba Diver, Peter understands first hand, how to anticipate change and lead boldly.