Contact centres in 2016 – the shape of things to come
Customer experience is the current buzzword and the contact centre is about to undergo a huge transformation says David Ford. The customer is now the absolute priority, and the success of the contact centres will soon be defined by their ability to resolve the increasingly complex needs of their multichannel customers. As the pressure begins to mount on brands to offer customer service that excels, agents need to be on top of their game. For this, they need the best, newest technology and flexibility – perhaps an entirely new work culture.
Here are David Ford’s ten predictions for the contact centre of 2016:
- “Channel pivot” as standard No more discussing which channels are the most beneficial to have. Finally, 2016 will be the year that companies understand the necessity of combining their contact channels for customers. The leading contact centres will give every channel equal mindshare with the emphasis on customer choice and ultimately satisfaction. Companies who buck this trend will be left behind. As well as this, every agent will have a full view of the recent interactions and queries to allow them to help the customers using all the mediums available.
- Cloud as the default Cloud will become the norm across contact centres of every size in 2016. Advances in technology and infrastructure supercharges the recent ‘charge to the cloud’, allowing companies to rent bundles of equipment and software, and stay competitive at a fraction of the cost. Until recently, larger contact centres wouldn’t have trusted or even entertained cloud solutions but this is no longer the case. Contact centres are now shifting dramatically as those 500+ agent contact centres embrace the ‘contact centre as a service’ model and finally make the switch.
- A new, remote work culture for agents in the contact centre Next year, a rapidly increasing number of contact centres will be discussing or revisiting the benefits of remote agents. . The stereotypical image of a contact centre is vastly becoming a thing of the past across the board. We are seeing a new interest and adoption of the more flexible, homeworking model amongst many of our customers. You may imagine row after row of agents as a standard contact centre, but this is no longer the case. More companies will allow agents to work anywhere and anytime, giving contact centres the opportunity to ‘flex’. Seasonal peaks can be met and this offers a better work life balance for employees.
- Instant Next Generation Call Routing Systems Intelligent call routing is already available of course, but the latest technology will ensure that customers are connected directly with a technical specialist, able to help them on the spot, with no need for further transfers. As CRM and workflow management systems develop, an complex but intricate matchmaking process will occur every time a customer calls, to ensure the right expert is on hand to solve every problem. The contact centres that don’t do this are in danger of being left behind and may lose customers as a result.
- Humans speaking to humans No one wants to speak to a human who can’t deviate from a script when they have an issue. This doesn’t have to be the case any longer. Contact centres will soon abandon the old fixed agent script in 2016 to be replaced with brand new, dynamic scripts. This will result in an interaction that is much more like a real conversation, as the result of flexible agent scripts, with smaller prompts, rather than rigid scripts presented to the agent, providing a 360-degree of the customer.
- Forget queuing! Innovative software platforms can completely transform the queuing experience for customers, meaning that they needn’t be so much of a frustration. Contact centres can now take advantage of advanced call flows that meet business priorities while providing a more streamlined customer experience. For example, virtual call queuing and call-back options mean that customers are able to hold their place without waiting on the line, or actually choose a time they’d like to be called back. Customers can also be given priority ‘VIP status’ so they don’t have to wait in a queue. This typically results in call queues that are up to 65% shorter.Call queues can also be personalised, with important, appropriate information like an estimated delivery time played to the customer. This can often answer the customer’s query meaning they no longer need to keep holding for an advisor.
- IVR: from irritating interface to customer enablement tool IVR, or interactive voice response, has previously been one of the common frustrations of calling a contact centre. However, in 2016 self-service will begin to come into its own, helping customers find the information they want when they ask for it. This will be show across functions such as handling simple transactions like taking payments and dealing with simple interactions without having to talk to a live agent.
- Agents as a last resort We will see speaking to an agent over the phone becoming even more of a last resort for complex queries, leading to the rise of the ‘super’ customer service agent, able to converse over several channels. These multichannel communicators will be experts in their field with the skills and ability to deal with the trickiest of customer issues. Making sure your agents have these skills will ensure that you can stay on top of your customer satisfaction ratings and avoid customer base depletions in 2016.
David Ford is Managing Director, Magnetic North