Contact Center’s Current & Future Trends
This year, several key trends are making a significant impact on contact centers around the globe. Some of these have transitioned from being “nice-to-haves” to being essential, while others are brand new and expected to play a substantial role.
Successful brands are taking advantage of the opportunity to shape customer experiences by investing in the new technologies and upskilling their human agents.
We are in a time where the customer experience will make or break a company or provider.
Improving the customer experience could mean offering new channels of communication like in-app support or even video conferences and screen sharing with agents
First Call Resolution (FCR) is one of the most commonly watched call center metrics. FCR has become undeniably the most important metric for contact centers and absolutely will help obtain the objective of a world-class customer experience. Moving forward, the number one aspect your contact center should focus on isn’t first call resolution (although that will still be important), but instead it will be providing the best customer experience possible.
How would you feel if 45% of your customers switched to a competitor who charged more for an equivalent product, simply because of a better customer service experience? It’s a scary thought, however it’s the reality these days. Customers place a premium on great experiences and 63% of them would pay more for a better experience. Companies have come to realize that the customer experience has a direct effect on loyalty and, accordingly, the trend is expected to continue in and beyond 2018.
The idea is that regardless of the channel (web chat, video, email, etc.) the experience – and the information conveyed – is the same. If you don’t ensure consistency across multiple customer service channels, then the overall experience will be negative, which potentially negates your investment in multi-channel.
There is now increased pressure to showcase real ROI Customer service leaders tend to use a combination of KPIs to track performance, with NPS (Net Promoter Score) and CSat (Customer Satisfaction) being the most common. The inability of companies to measure successful ROI against a customer service initiative is a huge issue.
Understanding how heathy the business is from a workforce standpoint is also the key to success. Job dissatisfaction among agents propagates a high turnover rate in customer care centers. It is estimated that the overall turnover rate for the call center industry is between 30 – 45%, and each individual turnover can cost a company upwards of $6,440. Not only does the increased turn-over rate inflate labor costs — recruitment can be costly and agents need to be trained from scratch — it impacts the consistency of the service itself. Brands need to identify and prioritize ways to properly incentivize agents using gamification to drive metrics and revenue.
2018 is shaping up to be the year of strategic thinking: better analytics, more intentional social media conversations and innovative ways to involve artificial intelligence.
Gone are the days of relying on supervisor skill and know-how to get the most out of a contact center agent. Now, even smaller businesses are taking advantage of sophisticated analytics to turn data – like call and screen recordings, chats, SMS messages and more – into truly useful feedback for their agents.
Unifying customer communications across channels gives businesses better context for their customers, helps resolve issues more quickly and helps sales agents identify better opportunities for future sales.
Customer satisfaction sends huge signals to companies about where and how their businesses could improve. Businesses approach customer satisfaction measurement in different ways, but slick all-in-one measure seem to be holding steady.
More omni-channel call centers are starting to rely heavily on analytics programs to build dashboards with the statistics that affect their businesses. We’re also seeing more and more businesses display this kind of statistical dashboards on user interfaces, so call agents and managers get real-time updates on customer experiences.
Advanced data analytics tools can help businesses uncover business-critical insights and gain a competitive edge. A sophisticated data analytics tool is able to make predictions, or generate recommendations based on information gathered, giving call center agents and bots more background and context on each individual customer they are servicing.
By highlighting user demographics and preferences, advanced data analytics can help brands to reach their target users by narrowing in on relevant information— everything from geography, history and public interests across all interactions with businesses, including customer service.
Investment in Advanced Data Analytics is a precursor to customer satisfaction and will be big talk for 2018. The current economic climate is driven by data, so it makes sense that more and more brands are developing long-term strategies to manage and analyze relevant consumer data.
In general, we expect more advancements in analytics as companies continue implementing more unified communications platforms and strategies.
Contact centers should always be looking for new ways to engage customers, and new ways for customers to interact with support. The real goal is to go where the customers already are — that’s why we’ve embraced social media channels, because customers and clients are already there.
Social media is the support channel of choice for customers under 35, which is a clear indication that all brands should be utilizing it. And yet, 29.3% of businesses are still without social media channels.
Expect to see a growth in social media support teams, and a growing investment in training and new social media management tools.
Video support is a unique solution that could completely transform a customers experience. Specifically, once an agent is able to take a request, the user will receive a video pop-up of that agent. From here, agents can take control of the user’s device. Whatever the case may be, contact centers will be able to take advantage of this seamless video experience to offer completely new methods of support.
AI & Chat Bots
Contact Centers are a particularly great candidate for AI as well, for a number of different reasons. Whether your contact center smartens up its routing process with AI, or utilizes machine learning to help dig deep into all that data the center is collecting, AI will grace the shores of your contact center in some way.
When a customer needs support, they have to stop what they’re doing and pick up the phone or initiate a chat. The agent that assists them has no idea who they are, what they are doing, or what their problem is. The customer needs to explain all of that to the agent.
What if the agent already knew who you were, and exactly what you were doing when the problem occurred?
The reality is that the mobile devices and even standard websites we use collect a lot of information about us. Contact centers need to embrace and utilize this information, like what webpage the customer was looking at, or what product they were shopping for in the app, to provide a seamless experience.
AI and chatbot technologies are dominating the conversation as one of the more interesting disruptors at play. And yet only 36% of contact centers are currently able to track a customer journey that spans multiple channels, and a mere 17% can locate problem hot spots that negatively impact the customer experience. This is a major concern for most call centers, as customer churn rapidly increases.
Chatbots, some of which have become iconic for their brands, are now part of the cultural narrative and are becoming even more sophisticated. It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t had an interaction with a chatbot or Virtual Assistant, Whether voice or text activated, bots will be able to help users find products and answers 24×7, on any device or channel faster than ever before.
Autodesk, AVA (or Autodesk Virtual Agent) has been a cutting-edge game changer. With the cognitive ability to not only respond to questions posed in natural, everyday language, but also answer questions as fast as the customer can feasibly type, AVA is redefining customer service.
The successful implementation of bots into the workforce is a classic example of the mantra, “working smarter not harder”; it saves time and money. Expect research to continue to push bot technology further.
Chatbots can actually be considered a form of self-service support
the idea is to equip your business with a new front-line defense, one that allows customers to receive the help they need as simply and quickly as possible. If a more complex issue comes up, on too complicated for a bot, well then that’s when your human agents come in to save the day.
In fact, offering self service options is a win-win solution for both the contact center as well as customers. Most people would prefer to handle their issues themselves, on their own time and at their own pace — it’s a much more pleasant experience than having to contact support most of the time. This helps improve customer satisfaction and resolution time, and of course lowers the number of inquiries to agents, allowing them to handle the real complex cases.
We expect to see self service options for customer support not only grow, but to even become a new standard for customer service. By 2020, the phone will be used only as a back-up when all self-service channels fail.
Beyond customer satisfaction, self-service reduces company spending, often drastically, making it a space to watch in 2018.
Although AI has advanced dramatically, it is not as complex as the consumer. There is still a margin for error, confusion and, therefore, customer dissatisfaction in a purely bot-managed customer care channel.
Tying everything together, vendors that offer applications with open APIs provide new levels of customization and integration to help deliver a truly seamless customer experience.
Seamless integrations are here, and have been around for quite some time. The idea is that we can connect multiple applications and solutions through the power of integrations and APIs.
This idea will continue to grow, and contact center tools will become deeply integrated platforms, combining the different tools agents use together, including CRMs, internal and external communications, internal knowledge bases, chatbots, personal assistants and more. These bots will study the information directly inside their conversation with a customer, gaining insight into the customer’s buying habits
Contact Center should always be searching for new ways to improve agent efficiency, productivity, and in the end, the customer experience.
Simply focusing on the customer experience and recognizing this should be a key priority for your business can go a long way in improving the overall bottom line: happier, more efficient agents, and happier, more satisfied customers. Because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about: ensure clients receive the help they need in as little time as possible, with as little friction as possible, so that they keep coming back.
How does your customer service stack up? Are you thinking about integrating social media, video support, AI, analytics and chatbots into your customer support channels?