20 predictions for the contact centre of the future
We have crowd-sourced 20 fascinating predictions for what the contact centre could look like in ten years’ time.
First, we asked two experts in the field for their predictions.
1. Easy is the new loyalty
In the last three years, we have witnessed a decline in customer loyalty, with 50% of UK residents now claiming that loyalty is a thing of the past. However, 74% of people say they will do repeat business with a company if the experience is easy.
In reaction to this, the NetEasy Score has been developed. This new scoring system will allow companies to measure how easy customers are finding their services, and in turn how likely they are to do repeat business with them.
NetEasy data is gathered by asking customers to rate the ease of their experience on a scale of 1-7. Analysis of these scores can be used to re-evaluate your business processes and ensure that the customer experience is as easy as possible. Addressing areas of difficulty can be well worth your while, too, as BT have found that customers who find their services easy are 40% less likely to switch.
In the contact centre environment, it is important that you make your processes as simple as possible to minimise customer effort. If you find that you are getting consistently low NetEasy scores, ask yourself: Are your agents knowledgeable? Is it easy to get through to the right department? Is your process time-consuming? All of these factors will determine the ease of your customers’ experience, and you can’t afford to make it complicated.
2. Omnichannel contact will accelerate
The use of traditional channels, such as phone and email, will decrease, with email being commonly thought of as a slow-moving (and largely inefficient) game of tennis. Meanwhile, newer channels, including webchat, Twitter and video conferencing, will increase in popularity.
With 1 in 2 customers saying they constantly change the way they deal with organisations, it is no surprise that we are moving towards an age of omnichannel contact. The challenge is how to handle these channels effectively to ensure that customers don’t have to repeat their problem every time they switch channel.
3. Webchat, not social media, will be the biggest growing channel
Given that 9 in 10 consumers want support whilst online, and that webchat grants them access to this help without them having to come away from their device, this prediction seems highly probable.
The success of this channel is evident in the fact that 82% of customers have rated their experience of webchat as good or very good, whilst 26% of customers currently use webchat as their preferred contact channel.
Yet the benefits of webchat extend far beyond keeping the customer happy, as BT have noted a 60-70% increase in cross-sell/up-sell success whilst using this channel.
In addition, 88% of advisors rate webchat as good or very good. This is because it allows them to discuss problems with other advisors without putting the customer on hold, and removes the need for small talk.
4. Smartphones will fundamentally change behaviours
In the UK, 62% of people own a smartphone which grants them instant access to the internet. This increased level of accessibility has created a new generation of customer – dubbed “monster customers” – who expect a 24/7 customer service experience, whilst having the power to Tweet (and cause a PR nightmare) should their demands not be met.
It seems inevitable that as the smartphone generation ages, the way that customers interact with businesses will continue to change and grow.
5. The contact centre model will change
A survey has revealed that 49% of customers now only call a contact centre when they have a complex question. Yet the contact centre model wasn’t designed for complexity and needs to adapt if it is to survive.
The strain on the current contact centre model is evident in the fact that 85% of consumers say they have been put on hold because employees don’t know what to say, whilst an alarming 58% of consumers have reported that they have received better help from other customers than from employees.
It is possible that companies will handle this new level of complexity through the concept of “the networked expert in action”. This ideas stems from the fact that experts can be anyone anywhere – as the cloud has enabled anyone to access a browser from any location. It is also likely that we will witness a merger of the back and front office, as back-office expertise will become increasingly in demand.
6. Contact centres will move into the cloud
It is very difficult to keep a contact centre simple (and running smoothly) given the sheer number of customers and amount of technology involved. In the past, attempts to get all of these systems to co-ordinate has let us down badly.
My vision for the future is for an integrated cloud-based software system, which will enable the contact centre and back-office team to work together, and for promises to customers to be fulfilled regardless of which agent makes them.
Through the use of unified communications – the integration of real-time communication services such as instant messaging with non-real-time communication services such as email – and business process automation internal processes can be organised and simplified, to everyone’s benefit.
7. There will be an increase in mobile supervisors
Advances in technology are making it increasingly easy for contact centres to operate outside the confines of an office.
I predict that through the use of a single management system (accessible as an app on a smartphone or tablet), supervisors will be able to monitor their agents via real-time stats (i.e. average call handling time, agent availability, etc…) without being limited by geographical location.
8. A single view of the customer will be achieved
This one has long been on the wish list for contact centres managers.
In the future, there will be a customer information depository within the contact centre, which will hold a complete record of every interaction the individual has had with the business. This will include everything from call recordings and email correspondence to the time spent on the website and the number of orders made. This is currently difficult to achieve as it requires integration of both synchronous and asynchronous information.
However, this information will be incredibly useful in the future. It will allow agents to form a better understanding of the customer in the moments before they answer the call. In addition, it will enable trends in customer behaviour to be identified and give managers an indication of when customers may be about to switch providers.
9. Mobile customer care will become standard practice
The customer service sections of smartphone apps are currently a bit of an anticlimax, as the majority suggest that you either phone or email the contact centre.
I think we will see a revolution in the way that mobile apps and the contact centre interact. The smartphones of the future will support online and video chat, as well as provide a “click to call” service and enable customers to make call-back requests.
10. The introduction of transparent contact centres
This is a revolutionary concept which will grant customers access to real-time information on ratings and availability and subsequently allow customers to pick the agent that they want to connect to.
For example, Mr. Customer has bought an expensive camera but has noticed that it isn’t showing all the pixels on the screen. He looks online at the transparent contact centre and sees that John Doe has a 5* rating for fixing problems with his exact model of camera. He then chooses to click through to John Doe to resolve his problem.
The customer will also be able to opt out of the selection process and choose to speak to the next available agent.
11. Avatars will become more prominent
Avatars will become more prominent, although actual video conferencing with agents is unlikely.
There will also be a growth in Virtual-Assistants or Chat-Bots.
12. Everyone will become experts
We will make our customers the experts and they will be able to answer each other’s queries.
There will also be less scripting within contact teams and more focus on developing their EQ – Emotional Quotient – skills. This will help agents to achieve ‘balance’ with irate and unhappy customers, achieve better resolutions and minimise escalations.
13. A large proportion of the contact centre will work from home
A large proportion of the contact centre will work directly from home.
In particular, home-workers will be used to support peak periods in the contact centre.
14. Technology will monitor how our agents are feeling
We will use technology to monitor how our front-line agents are feeling. This will allow managers to actively improve staff well-being.
I believe the old saying ‘happy team = happy customers’ will always be relevant.
15. The use of data modelling will become common practice
Segmenting prospects and customers using data modelling to change customer journeys will become common practice.
16. Using a smartphone will become second nature to everyone
The ‘old person’ in relation to technology will cease to exist.
This will likely drive down the need for phone calls, as everyone will be comfortable using online chat (and similar services) to make enquires.
17. Facebook will become over-commercialised and useless
Facebook won’t be the channel of choice in 2020 for people to engage with businesses, as it will become over-commercialised and have far too many adverts.
18. Speech analytics will help agents interact with customers
Call centres will use predictive speech analytics; the customer’s speech and emotional state will be automatically analysed online, and the agent will constantly receive hints from the system during the conversation.
This will help contact centres to provide excellent service, whilst increasing cross-selling and up-selling and decreasing churn rates and the need to put customers on hold.
19. Biometrics will transform customer verification
Biometrics will transform customer verification.
20. Everyone will be able to log in and respond to questions
There will be unofficial agents: everyone will be able to log in and respond to questions – official agents will only be administrators.