The changing face of the contact centre
Over the last 18 months the customer service industry has been turned entirely on its head. With an increased focus on online operations, organisations have been forced to recalibrate their customer service model – relying on remote interactions as opposed to in-person moments – with the contact centre at its heart.
The contact centre has had to undergo its own revolution in this period – adapting to the changing restrictions in workplaces, as well as increased demand from customers. The contact centre as we traditionally know it has had to adapt – and fast – to keep pace with a rapidly changing set of circumstances.
Here’s a look at some of the biggest changes in the contact centre industry over this period and their long-term impact.
The contact centre in the cloud
Undoubtedly, the biggest change to contact centre operations has been the move to remote working. Whilst most sectors were forced to transition to such working practices, for the contact centre this was unprecedented. Many contact centres were behind the curve in this area – with operations still underpinned by legacy, on-premise systems.
Digital transformation plans – already in motion for some contact centres pre-COVID –were accelerated to meet the immediate need of home working. Contact centres were suddenly forced to move away from geographically restricted onsite hardware to cloud-based systems that enabled agents to work from home and would, later on down the line, facilitate the introduction of more advanced technologies.
The move to the cloud therefore has been positive to both meet short-term remote working needs, as well as long-term goals. It should be seen as a much-welcomed change in the sector.
The hybrid workforce
The pandemic prompted, and in many cases forced, a move to online working across the business world. However, as the UK starts to emerge from workplace restrictions, it would seem that many workers are keen to retain some element of home working. Indeed, a recent study found that 78% of workers would prefer to only work in the office two days a week or fewer.
The contact centre is no different. According to Contact Babel, before the pandemic only 3.8% of the UK’s call centre workforce were based at home. By November 2020 homeworking was almost twice as common amongst call centre staff as amongst general workers – a trend set to continue, even as restrictions begin to ease.
The flexibility of a hybrid workforce is one that benefits all in the contact centre industry. It opens the door to potential agents who need more flexible work patterns – parents and older workers being two such examples – as well as those agents who want more of a work-life balance.
The omnichannel contact centre
As the customer journey has changed over the course of the pandemic, customers are reaching out to contact centres like never before. With consumers using multiple channels for personal communication – social messaging, video chat, text – rather than just phone, customers now expect this to be reflected in the way that they communicate with customer service teams.
With the adoption of cloud solutions, contact centres can evolve their offerings to incorporate multiple channels of communication that meet the needs of an ‘always on’ customer-base. Video chat can be the norm – even with a workforce that is largely remote – provided that agents have the right equipment.
The flexibility of new cloud-based systems will enable this change to become a reality. Though many contact centres have focused on the immediate needs of remote-working first, adopting an omni-channel strategy will be an essential next step in the evolution of the contact centre.
The contact centre – always evolving
Whilst the events of the last 18 months have thrust change upon the contact centre, in many ways it has been to its advantage – acting as a catalyst for many digital transformation programmes. As restrictions start to lift, it would be remiss to think that this is where the changes end. To stay current and to remain relevant to its customer base, the contact centre will always need to keep evolving – perhaps not at the same great speed – but changing nonetheless, with the customer front and centre.
With over 20 years’ experience in contact centres, I spent the first half of my career in operational roles across the contact centre industry, with a particular focus on technology, workforce engagement and leadership. Since then, I’ve worked with leading brands across the globe, helping them utilise the latest technology and optimising their...