The contact center space has undergone a long overdue and rapid list of changes over recent years and the momentum is not expected to slow as we move into the New Year. In fact, a recent 2014 North American Call Center Survey has revealed approximately 78 percent of today’s call centers are premised-based with 70 percent considering a move to the cloud. Factor in the added complexities brought on by a multichannel world in which 52% of consumers utilize three or four channel platforms (phone, email, video, text, chat, social media) when seeking customer care and the extent of the contact center revolution taking place quickly becomes evident. But with so many possibilities what should one expect to see unfold in 2015?
Continued Implementation of Self-Service: Recent studies have shown 67% of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a live representative, which has its benefits when considering self-service interactions are 200-300% less expensive than those handled by a live agent. Grocery stores have self-check out lines, airlines offer Kiosks (have yet to figure out how to apply it to Homeland Security lines, though), restaurants use self-service reservations – the list goes on. And with 69% of customers equating a good customer experience to how quickly an inquiry is resolved, the need to adopt the latest technology facilitating their ability to do so has never been more important. But while the value of self-service is likely to drive its continued adoption in 2015, the importance of live agents is not likely to decrease as many studies have shown the true value is in the proper implementation and use of both simultaneously to properly address every customer’s needs.
Rise in Virtual Agents: Currently an estimated 3 million Americans work primarily from home, an increase of 61% since 2005 (Forrester). But with a recent Stanford University study showing at-home-agents are more productive than their contact center counterparts, spending 9% more time on calls and handling 4% more calls per minute, its hard to argue against the merits. In fact, remote agent turnover rates are 35-50% lower than in-house representatives, which can add up to huge operational cost savings. With 53% of US contact centers already using remote agents in some capacity its no wonder 70% of them expect to continue to expand the use of virtual agents in 2015. In fact, Ovum Research expects the rise in home-based customer service agents to continue to grow at a compounded growth rate of 36.4% as businesses continue to exercise the benefits of cloud, seek to expand hiring opportunities, require on-demand scalability, and look to reduce operational costs.
Continued Emphasis on Multichannel Communications: Contact channels other than phone, such as email, web self-service, chat, video, and other online techniques currently account for more than 30% of all customer service engagements. And as more customers look to begin an interaction in one channel, and finish it in another, the importance of implementing or maintaining a multichannel platform in 2015 will be key for contact centers as they strive to deliver superior customer service. In fact, research shows that businesses following a multi-channel customer care strategy achieve more than double (9.7% vs. 3.9%) year-over-year improvement in customer satisfaction. And as the emphasis on today’s customer experience continues to dwarf the value of the underlying products themselves, expect the importance of multichannel communications to continue to take center stage in the New Year.
Personalization of Interactions: According to Salesforce and Forrester Research group, “Personalizing Customer Service Interactions” is among the top key trends facing customer service organizations today. Catering each interaction to a customers’ unique communication preference, history, needs, and expectations will be a driving trend in 2015 and an opportunity for competitive differentiation amongst businesses. But with the average enterprise subscribing to 9.6 Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions by the end of 2014, the emphasis will be on the ability to integrate the various departments and platforms to create a complete and real-time view of the consumer when it matters most – at the time of the interaction. For those businesses able to take it one step further and consolidate, analyze, and convert the many client data points into actionable intelligence, the sky is the limit.
Introduction of Video and Web RTC: While WebRTC and video have yet to hit mainstream adoption, the implications for each, especially as it relates to the contact center space, can hardly be ignored. As consumers continue to demand faster response times and easier access to company representatives in instances where self-service platforms fall short, the possibilities WebRTC provides as it relates to convenience, software flexibility, and possibly video are certainly appealing. While perhaps the biggest wildcard on this list of five, the possibility of it taking root in 2015 and beyond is certainly not out of the question; something to keep an eye on.
The contact center space has seen its fair share of changes but as today’s consumer continues to drive a company’s business initiatives, 2015 promises to be an interesting extension of current trends already underway.
Robert Killory is Chief Customer Officer of 3CLogic and brings more than 25 years of experience in developing and implementing Contact Center solutions. Before joining 3CLogic, he held a leading position at contact center technology firm, Leading Edge Technology Solutions, served as Director of Development and acting CTO for TouchStar Software, where he led the development efforts of its flagship dialer, and also held the position of Vice President of Enterprise Architecture at JP Morgan Chase, contributing to the evolution of Chase's 3,100 call center seats.
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