Changes in customer behaviour and emerging technologies are reshaping the customer experience. Are you keeping up?
The face of the contact centre has changed dramatically over the past few years and continues to change at an exciting and rapid pace. This is the result of new technologies, ever-changing customer behaviours and a fundamental shift from focusing on traditional customer satisfaction measures to creating a customer experience.
How do you keep pace with your customers while creating quality customer experiences? With contact centre technology.
The following five contact centre trends — which span emerging technologies, changing customer behaviours and customer experiences — are must-knows to help you stay competitive.
- Contact centres are shifting from cost centres to revenue generators.
Contact centres have historically been treated as cost centres. The company’s profit margins financed the contact centre—which might have only indirectly contributed to profits.
However, as contact centre concept has evolved and matured, we’ve realized that contact centres are more responsible for generating revenue than we ever knew. For example, an inbound customer support team does not directly drive company profits. But if that team delivers poor customer service experiences, the resulting negative social media and bad press could lead to a significant decline in sales.
To realize their contact centre as a revenue generator as opposed to a cost centre, businesses must ensure their operations are cost effective—that queues and trunks are well-occupied, that they have the right number of agents answering calls and that calls are being handled efficiently. Businesses also need to verify the performance of their telecom systems, who agents are speaking with and whether money is being well spent. With the right contact centre tools, businesses can do just that.
Accurate forecasting, scheduling and reporting tools ensure resources are effectively deployed at all times. Real-time alarms inform supervisors of performance issues and inefficiencies so they can act immediately to maintain service levels and control costs. With the right reporting metrics, contact centre supervisors can easily compare Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) like average handle time, service level or cost per call. Then, they can analyse these KPIs in the context of new sales, customer retention and customer satisfaction. These measures can prove how a contact centre can be a profit centre.
- A new generation of customers is changing the way enterprises do business.
Generation Y-ers, also known as the Millennials, were the first to grow up with computers in their homes, and they are by far the most tech-savvy generation yet. Within the next 10 years, Millennials will represent the majority of the workforce.
This generation is success-driven, goal-oriented, determined, confident and highly technology dependent. These are all exciting qualities, but they also make this generation highly demanding as consumers. They expect quality service, they expect it now, and they like things short and sweet because they’re excellent at multitasking.
This has led to a fundamental shift in the way enterprises do business—rather than nurturing long-term brand loyalty, they need to be able to serve the desire for instant gratification.
So, how can businesses better serve Millennials?
- Provide robust information. Millennials are not afraid to do their research, and they know where to find the answers they need. As a result, information needs to be readily available to them, easy to find and highly educational or entertaining.
- Be available. Millennials are online day and night, and in this 24/7 world, they expect businesses to be the same. They want to be able to access your business when they want to—and through the channel of their choosing.
- Be social. Millennials are not afraid to share the things they like (or dislike). They live on social media, and will reach you through social media platforms. Be present and be part of their conversations.
- Contact centres are updating and enhancing outbound technology and resources for maximum productivity.
The contact centre industry has always been focused on handling incoming calls and contacts. And historically, contact centre solutions were designed to channel, monitor and improve the performance of agents as they dealt with increasing inbound volumes.
With the growth of contact centres has come the rise of the outbound contact centre. Previously, inbound and outbound contact centres served two unique customer bases. Inbound contact centres managed incoming sales and support inquiries, whereas outbound contact centres were typically limited to collections and telemarketing. However, as contact centre solutions became more robust and feature-rich, businesses saw the value of the blended contact centre.
In the blended contact centre, agents can both make and receive calls and multimedia contacts by combining Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) for incoming calls with predictive dialling for outbound calls. This optimizes agent productivity by ensuring that agents do not sit idle between calls. Increasingly, inbound agents are being used to notify customers of changes to their accounts, payments due or appointment reminders. Customers can choose to receive these notifications by voice telephone calls, SMS text or email, which results in a reduction of inbound call volume, a boost in customer satisfaction, and ultimately, lower operating costs.
- Businesses are benefiting from the efficiencies of unified call centre software suites.
In the past, contact centre solution providers have focused on one core solution—whether it was ACD, outbound dialling, multimedia handling or workforce management and optimization.
However, over time, the demand for unified suites has grown, and software vendors have responded to that demand. This optimizes efficiencies at all levels, from the contact centre agent to the IT administrator.
With a suite, agents can take advantage of a unified desktop experience for all key contact centre applications. Supervisors benefit from a unified reporting interface for all mediums and contact centre tools, from agent KPIs, to outbound campaigns, to IVR call flow use, to inbound and outbound multimedia contacts. With a unified suite of contact centre solutions, businesses use one vendor instead of many and can lower their total cost of ownership (TCO) while maximizing their return on investment.
- Businesses are adopting cloud-based contact centres to lower TCO and increase ROI.
A 2012 survey revealed that 34 percent of businesses were using cloud-based contact centre software.* This number is on the rise, with an additional 28 percent indicating they had plans to deploy a cloud-based contact centre solution. This means that by the end of 2013, six out of 10 contact centres will be based in the cloud. Because of their lower upfront costs and easy scalability, cloud based contact centres are ideally suited for “pop-up” or seasonal contact centres—for example, a contact centre that is designed to handle inquiries during tax season.
Cloud-based contact centres have seen dramatic growth in recent years because they are flexible, affordable, dynamic and efficient. With a cloud-based contact centre, businesses gain the flexibility to quickly deploy key contact centre applications and provision adds, changes and removals to key devices programmed on the system, often without ever having to have an IT administrator or installer on site. Cloud contact centre applications are also highly affordable, because a large capital investment is not required for initial IT and telecom infrastructure. This lowers the TCO of a contact centre solution and ultimately provides a much more rapid return on investment ROI.
Cloud-based contact centres are also dynamic—giving users the ability to quickly scale up or down in size to tailor to their ever-changing business needs. Finally, cloud contact centres are highly efficient, as businesses only pay for the services they use. This is another key factor in lowering TCO and maximizing ROI.
But a 100-percent cloud-based contact centre isn’t always the best option for businesses. You need to consider:
- How much money will actually be saved with a cloud-based solution
- How complicated your hardware and software infrastructure is
- Legal issues related to software licensing
- Your organization’s comfort level with storing secure data in the cloud
Depending on these considerations, you may decide that an on-premises or hybrid solution is the best fit for your business.
For many of today’s businesses, a move to the cloud is just a matter of time. Choosing a phased approach with an early focus on your phone system is a smart choice, and tapping the expertise of a cloud phone service provider can make it an even smarter one.