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Interactive Intelligence Highlights Five Customer Interaction Trends to Watch in 2015

February 19, 2015

A few weeks ago collaboration, communications and customer engagement solutions provider Interactive Intelligence hosted a jam-packed webinar called What’s New for Contact Centers in 2015 and Why it Matters. If you missed this event, you can still watch and listen to the archived version, and it is highly recommended to say the least.

The webinar featured Forrester Research Senior Analyst Ian Jacobs and Interactive Intelligence VP of Solutions Marketing Tim Passios. It also had a highly informative Q&A session where Sheila McGee-Smith, founder and principal analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics, and Don Van Doren, founder and president of Vanguard Communications joined in.

I had the opportunity to discuss the five top trends Passios and the industry experts see that will be shaping the broadly defined customer experience (CX) business in 2015 and beyond. What we delved into should be an inducement to spend some quality time reviewing the webinar if you were not able to participate live.

The webinar started with the high-level observation that 2015 was going to be “The Year of the Customer.”  Passios and Jacobs provided the top five trends which, while not in rank order, Passios said were pretty close. He also added two caveats. The first was that obviously there is more than a bit of overlap. The second was that while the headline says 2015, that should not be taken as a line of demarcation. Virtually all of the trends are long-term in their nature and are the drivers of an almost unprecedented transformation of the nature and function of contact centers as hubs for enhancing customer experiences.

The Big Five

What follows are not only the trends, but a few visuals to help understand “Why it Matters.”

Customer Experience: Passios actually likes the term “Customer Obsession” better in describing how organizations of all sizes have made customer-centricity a top, and in many cases, the top priority – especially if you include security as part of this. The visual, based on research done by Interactive Intelligence and validated by almost every analyst firm in the space, says it all.

Source:  Interactive Intelligence webinar, 1.27.15: What’s New for Contact Centers in 2015 and Why it Matters

Passios elaborated saying that while customer obsession has been a trend for quite some time, what is different in 2015 is that things like big data and sophisticated analytics are attracting attention across organizations. He says that what we are starting to see is not just the gathering of data from numerous touch points but, “It is more about acting on the data you have. We now have the tools to make that happen and we will see them being deployed and used in 2015.”    

Omnichannel:  “This is more than just letting customers interact with you in the way they choose,” noted Passios.  “It is about holistically tracking each interaction and enabling the context to move with the customer across any given channel. In fact, increasingly something that starts as a smartphone inquiry can transition to something like real-time screen sharing and video.”

Another thing that is likely to get traction in this area is customer choice routing. To date, organizations have been afraid to expose contextual information about agents to consumers.  However, given the frustration users have in not being connected to somebody who can help them, allowing them to select a resource based a series of parameters is predicted to be of growing interest in 2015 and a win-win. Customers will be more satisfied and contact center resources will be used more efficiently and effectively.  Again, a visual shows the trend in terms of the underlying technology transformation being used to make customer experiences more compelling.

Source:  Interactive Intelligence webinar, 1.27.15: What’s New for Contact Centers in 2015 and Why it Matters

Cloud:  As Passios pointed out in the webinar, more than 70 percent of Interactive Intelligence’s new orders were cloud-based. He makes an interesting point about the benefits of moving some or all of a company’s CX capabilities to the cloud because of, “cloud’s ability to give you risk avoidance compared to  on-premises.”  The explanation is a big reason to review the webinar, but the visual sums it up succinctly. 

Source:  Interactive Intelligence webinar, 1.27.15: What’s New for Contact Centers in 2015 and Why it Matters

Mobile: As most of us know from personal experience, smart phones are becoming our preferred communications device. While the impact of mobile is part of omnichannel on the inbound side of things, as Passios noted, the mobility of the enterprise workforce is also a consideration. In fact, he said that “In 2015 we’re going to see more mobile contact center agents, and our new PureCloud multitenant cloud-based platform will help support them with its WebRTC capabilities.”

Workforce Optimization (WFO):   Passios acknowledges that WFO has been slow to gain traction, but 2015 appears to be a year in which its value will be recognized because the tools have become mature and more integrated, and the use cases have shown demonstrable impact. 

He says there are two main elements that will drive WFO. “Real-time speech analytics is gaining a lot of attention because of the perceived value of seeing and understanding what customers are saying. The technology is finally affordable and available in the cloud. This is a major differentiator for companies that want to turn their customer service into a competitive weapon. To flag and be able to address a customer issue while it’s happening is a real game-changer.”

The second reason WFO will gain traction goes back to the value of big data and sophisticated analytics.  “WFO tools enable contact center strategic planning, which predicts how many agents it would take to achieve desired customer satisfaction metrics. WFO is all about how to obtain optimal efficiency. In conjunction with information from CRM and ERP systems, it gives contact centers a deeper understanding of where to go, how and when.”

Finally, because in many ways it is subsumed in all of the above, self-service is going to be big in 2015.  Indeed, it has been estimated that 2015 will be the year more interactions are initiated via self-service than the phone and/or email. 

It may seem like hyperbole to label any year “the year of the customer.” The reality is that ever since the advent of mass adoption of the Internet we have been in the midst of an historic and inexorable shift in power between buyers and sellers. Customers having instant access to information and a platform to voice concerns have changed everything. It is why, as the boundaries of buyer/seller relationships continue to evolve or are disrupted by technology changes, we are on the bottom of the on-ramp of the learning curve as to what really will be “next-generation customer service.” What we do know is that 2015 will be a year in which much of what has been taken for granted about enhanced customer experiences will be put to the test.