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At the close of every year, industry experts look ahead to the next 12 months and make predictions about what will change and what new trends and technology will rock the boat. These predictions are especially exciting in fast moving industries or older industries undergoing major updates and transformations.
One of the fastest changing industries right now is the contact center. What used to be a physical call center filled with agents at computers with headsets is rapidly evolving into an onmichannel customer support model delivered by agents from their living rooms. What sort of technology is making this possible and where will the next year take the contact center industry? Dizzion and our partner Five9 (a leading cloud contact center software provider) made our own predictions for contact centers in 2018.
Dizzion’s VP of Product and Strategy, Brady Ranum, sat down with Wendell Black, VP of Channels at Five9, to discuss what technologies will change contact centers in 2018, how BPOs can gain a competitive advantage next year and who will play the biggest role in these changes.
Wendell Black: Contact Centers have been a focus of innovation for the 30+ years I have been in the space. Customer interaction preferences have been driving these changes over that period of time as contact center managers strive to find more efficient and effective ways to address customer needs.
The move to mobile engagement will, in my opinion, be the big driver over the next several years in the contact center. While clients have made the move to mobile with the attrition of landline phones, contact center managers haven’t been able to keep up with services that adapt easily to the new mobile paradigm. I see companies like Five9 filling those gaps in customer engagement.
Brady Ranum: Cloud has been driving business flexibility, scalability and time to revenue for many years now and this has not escaped the contact center market. Contact centers will continue to expand from DIY, expensive, non-flexible and highly capital constrained applications and infrastructure to more cloud adoption. From cloud based ACD to WFM systems and beyond – that includes cloud delivered desktops. We are even seeing contact centers being created or shifting to only using cloud based technologies. No building, no offices, no data centers or servers. 100% cloud and work at home.
WB: The titles around “Customer Experience” are likely to be the driving forces. The roles that own the relationship with end clients will be on the leading edge of these changes. Of course the execution of those plans will still be falling into the realm of IT and those members of the Customer Experience Team will have to embrace the changes that are coming their way.
BR: Multiple titles will be involved – from CISOs to Customer Experience, Human Resource Managers and even contact center coaches and managers – because the impact of moving to cloud solutions touches everyone in the business. CTOs and CIOs will be involved but much of the heavy lifting will move from internal to external partners. CISOs and security will also be tightly aligned to the project and capabilities of the service based on the ever growing focus on security and compliance.
WB: “Smart” contact center managers are moving steadily forward and are not complacent with their technology. Consumers expect businesses to keep up and continue to push the engagement model forward to take advantage. The enabling technology has been around for many years. For example, I deployed my first contact center chat and collaboration application back in the mid 90’s. That’s 22 years ago. Why isn’t that adoption rate with mobile technology today 100% penetrated in the market? “Smart” engagement managers are doing it and looking for more technology to improve their customer experience.
BR: Contact centers are now starting to look at not only customer satisfaction, but also the agents providing the service. Contact centers that are fully embracing technology have said goodbye to the days of having 50% of agents on performance plans. Advanced contact center platforms and cloud solutions that provide better insight and easier management and coaching abilities have allowed these centers to optimize their workforces and gain a competitive edge by getting the most out of all of their teams.
The remote working model enabled by cloud solutions is also resulting in a competitive advantage. Work at home programs can allow for broader recruitment base, faster onboarding w/ BYOD and more satisfied agents, which all present overall cost savings for contact centers. In this industry, every penny saved is a competitive advantage.
WB: Everyone wants to talk about AI, but really, the old is forever new. Find out what applications or business processes your customers want to tap into and expose them to their mobile device. You have to do the obvious, make those engagements faster and easier than they can do in a live conversation. It’s all about meeting the expectations of the consumer.
BR: Agent behavior and process is no longer a mystery. Asking agents what applications they use or how long it takes them to process a return or a complaint doesn’t have to be folklore any longer. Insight into applications, number of clicks and time spent in any one or multiple applications is now a reality. Information about how end users complete a task or a service call is now available at the click of a mouse. New tech solutions are emerging to enhance this agent tracking, and all this real time information can be used to optimize processes and make more informed business decisions. Any contact center that isn’t accessing this type of data will quickly find itself falling behind in 2018
WB: Well, based on my last comment, you might think I’m not too hot on AI. AI to me is intelligence in the workflow for completing a task or getting information easily. The only thing artificial is how you fulfill the request. But humans have to understand the objectives of their customers before you can automate anything to meet their needs. It takes smart analytical people to implement automated services to first of all understand what customers want, and then be able to translate that into a service experience that can meet their needs.
BR: Hard phones will continue to fizzle out in 2018 with the advent of a reliable soft phone and the continued reliance and advancements of Voice over IP. The shackles of a physical phone have not only become unnecessary but is seen as outdated. Many were waiting to move based on the use of VDI or a Citrix type deployment but those hurdles have been cleared with new high performance deployments which can handle not only voice and softphones but high-def video as well.
WB: I think they are going to be excited about the customer service experiences they can deliver and the customer satisfaction score improvement they earn when they listen to clients and give them what they want! But, and it is a big but, you have to listen and design your engagement to meet their needs. And it isn’t always hard stuff. One of my favorite examples is when I fly. My airline figured out that they can reduce my calls to reservations by sending me text updates. That is a win on so many levels for the airlines. Cost of service and my customer experience! They also know when I call them that most of the time it is to find out about my flight. And before I have to ask, they tell me all about my flight. That makes me happy and saves me and them time and cost. The “smart” contact centers are going to be excited about finding things like this that make me happy and save them money. That’s a win/win for all of us.
BR: Going 100% remote! The dissolving of the brick and mortar contact center will open opportunities for not just agents but managers, C- levels and even IT staff.
Many of these early adopters have been through the work at home “game” before but technology such as high speed bandwidth availability, poor performing virtual desktop environments as well as workforce management tools didn’t allow for an easy nor successful deployment. That’s all changed. This round of early adopters may be fearful at first but as they see how the technology has improved, their excitement will return based on the multitude of benefits it enables.
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