Contact centre trends and technologies: The vendor perspectiveby
As part of our ongoing contact centre series, MyCustomer.com has looked at the current state of the industry and the IT options available, but what about those creating the technology solutions? What do they think are the biggest trends going on in the contact centre right now and how do they see it developing in the future? We caught up with a handful of vendors at this year’s Call Centre Expo in London to find out.
It was all the usual buzzwords being bandied about at this year’s event. Vendors talked of the Cloud, the role of analytics and spoke of the movement to multichannel. But the biggest trend that seemed to be on everyone’s agenda was self-service.
The proliferation of smartphones has affected nearly every aspect of customer interaction, including the call centre where it’s creating new ways for consumers to speak to brands. “As people continue getting used to exchanging via chat or email, people don't tend to need that voice connection as much as they used to,” said Miranda Hobbs from iAdvize.
Self-service is one such channel enjoying a growth spurt. As Jeremy Payne from Enghouse Interactive explained, the mobile device has given everyone the potential to self-serve in their pocket and argued that as organisations increasingly provide this option for customers, the call centre is becoming the last resort.
“If you look at the type of interactions that happen in the contact centre, they’re becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated now but if you look at the way contact centres are structured, not just in terms of the technology but also the culture, people, skillset and KPIs, in a lot of places they're all old world techniques,” he warned.
Dave Paulding from Interactive Intelligence believes that it’s all about giving customers choice. “Rather than forcing them down one particular medium of contact or interaction, it's giving that option to those customers that would prefer to self-serve,” he says.
Technology has played an important role not just in creating new channels but in changing consumers’ expectations of service within and across those channels. Dave Ogden, solutions consultant for social media at Aspect, explained, “Consumers want to be able to potentially send an email, follow up with web chat and then a phone call which results in an SMS being sent.
“Before, multichannel was ultimately about being able to service customers in a particular channel whereas now omnichannel is about being about being able to provide that seamless experience between any channel they choose to use whether they choose to use it.”
But the industry accepts that providing that consistent level of service between traditional channels and digital channels is still some way off. Mitel’s Todd Simons explained: “If you fire off an email to a company, quite often you don’t get an auto response back that they got it or that they’re going to get back to me within a certain time. Instead, it goes into a void. Consumers don' like that uncertainty, especially if it's an urgent issue or if they want to complain so they'll quite often still resort to the telephone.
Payne agreed: “Customers expect things to work in a certain way now and most companies don’t measure up to that expectation.”
And when consumers don’t receive the level of service they expect in the call centre, they spill their frustrations onto social channels.
Ogden warned that rather than being used as a service tool, social is still primarily being used by brands to blast out marketing messages, and ignoring their customers as a result. “Brands aren't listening to what customers are saying; a relationship is two-way. Brands are offering all the apps under the sun but whilst they're really clever, are they really providing a community for customer interaction?”
Social has become an incredibly important tool for brands to listen to customers’ complaints, with social media monitoring software providing the capability for organisations to track negative mentions and route to the most appropriate agent.
And using an analytics solution within the contact centre cannot just help you monitor for reputational damage but can also help you understand which customers want to use what channels and help monitor any recurring service problem.
If you understand your customer and segment them accordingly, because some will still want to use voice, some would prefer to use digital, and then make a real-time intelligent decision in terms of whose best in the organisation to deal with them. By doing this, you’ve got the customer at a point where they're interacting with someone that's going to solve their problem.
Meanwhile, Paulding was one of those heralding the role of the Cloud in contact centre operations: “In the call centre today, the overriding or overarching trend is the move towards the cloud, obtaining software as a service,” he said.
“Companies today don't want to necessarily focus on managing, maintaining and operating technology themselves but are looking for a more streamlined way of achieving the same benefits around customer service to enhance the customer experience, and doing that in a much more cost effective way.”
In terms of IT, there was also much talk of a shift from technology driving the business to a more strategy-led approach. David Everett, Divisional MD from CallScripter argued that although it’s hard to change this archaic way of running your contact centre operations, businesses should focus on making sure they’re not dictated to by IT. He added: “The biggest challenge is that there are so many legacy systems which immediately puts most of contact centre growth back into IT's hands, which is against the business trying to lead the trends.”
Each vendor may be slightly different in their vision of the future of the contact centre and consequently the technologies they’re pushing but Ogden summed up the current state of the contact centre technology industry pretty succinctly: “It’s the end consumer that’s driving the vendors, and now the vendors need to respond. We’re doing our best to keep up but it’s tough to try and pre-empt what’s going to happen next.”