Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

A Peek into the Contact Center of the Future

October 24, 2013

What will the contact center of the future look like? While many companies are still struggling with the call center of today (or even the call center of 10 years ago, for some less fortunate organizations), it’s important to examine where the call center is headed in the future.

The UK Web site recently sought the opinion of call center experts to uncover some of the brightest ideas about where the call center is headed, based on the needs and wants of customers that are shaping up today. Some of the most interesting include:

Forget customer loyalty…make it easy. While brand loyalty was a strong feature of the customer of the past, this is no longer the case. Our parents and grandparents were willing to cut their favorite companies some slack, but increasingly, we are not. What customers want today is “easy.” While slow and steady won the race between the tortoise and the hare, fast and easy will win customers in the contact center of tomorrow.

New channels will rule. While customers like to be able to get an answer to a question via a variety of channels and the telephone remains their favorite, older channels such as e-mail are disappearing from the customer service equation in favor of newer channels such as Web chat, Twitter, Facebook and video conferencing. Will these channels every replace the phone? It’s hard to say, but the successful contact center will have them robustly built out so the customers that want them can get speedy responses through them.

The 24/7 customer. Once upon a time, people only contacted contact centers when they were near a home or office telephone. With a majority of the public now carrying smartphones (and that number is still growing), customers can seek help from anywhere at any time: an early morning train commute, an evening meal at a restaurant or from bed after midnight. Not only are they seeking customer service at off-hours, but they expect to receive it.

Speech will play a bigger role. Speech technology has many applications in the contact center. It can help a customer use an IVR solution vocally to direct self-service queries. It can act as a virtual agent to help customers with more complex problems. It can analyze both customer and agent voices to spot problems or gauge emotion, and it can be used biometrically to authenticate customers. Wherever you find a contact center that is poised to meet tomorrow’s needs, you’ll find heavy use of voice technology.

Agents will become more high functioning. The days when you hired an agent fresh from school on Wednesday and had him on the phone solo by Friday may need to vanish. With 85 percent of customers having reported they’ve been put on hold because an agent didn’t have the answers he or she required, it seems obvious that the job of a call center agent will need to fall into better educated and trained and more professional hands, particularly as product and service complexity increases. This may mean hiring people with professional degrees or training them much more extensively…or a combination of the two.

While we know all these trends aren’t in the near future of every call center – some contact centers are still struggling with concepts of decades past like CRM and multichannel integration – it seems likely that they will be features of every high-level contact center in the future, and therefore every successful consumer-facing company.

Edited by Peter Bernstein