The more things change, the more contact centers must adapt
Ok, I admit that the title of this blog is a blatant rip-off of an over-used catchphrase often heard when describing how particular elements of our daily lives evolve. But, in terms of contact centers, there is no question that the challenges faced today were not on anyone’s radar a decade ago. The result has been a scramble on the part of both in-house and outsourced CRM managers to best react to the changing nature of how customer interactions are done, albeit with more complex and rigorous expected outcomes. But, in the context of this discussion, it is important to consider how far the average contact center has evolved.
Let’s think back to the turn of the century; at the outset of 2000, a small but growing number of consumers were using one non-voice channel (email) as a means of interacting with firms from which they purchased goods and services. Arguably, some firms were better than other at adapting to this reality, and pressure mounted on executives to provide the resources needed to onboard the technology and people required to take on more email-based interactions. At first, this usually meant providing a general address to which customers could write, voicing questions, complaints etc… but enterprises soon adapted by force of consumer demand for specific email contacts, so as to ensure timely and accurate responses.
Since 2000, contact center managers across sectors have adapted to the realities of new communications technology, which has led to the development of CRM strategies that leverage different voice and non-voice platforms, ones that are designed to not only ensure great interactions, but also to better know the end-user. In fact, both of these facets are two of the most strategically-linked elements for enterprises. Consistently, market research shows that customer experience places among the top-three priorities, and progressive-minded enterprises have been using their contact center interactions as a means to engaging with their end-users in this regard. Probably, this has been the biggest change in the CRM mindset over the past decade in that the contact center is no longer seen as a cost of doing business; rather it is now viewed by executives as a resource that can be tapped for not only delivery first-rate end-user engagements. It is also a means of collecting value data with the aim of developing the best possible view of the individual consumer. No longer are irrelevant products / services proposed out of mid-air to frustrated consumers; with detailed profiles of their likes, dislikes, stage of life, income levels and past purchases, the ability to tailor relevant suggestions means more opportunity to increase revenues and long-term customer loyalty.
This doesn’t mean that the work is finished in terms of how best to evolve the modern contact center. What of the question around new channels, such as digital text message platforms or even the impressive growth of video-chat as a means of interacting with consumers? How best can compliance and data security be managed in an era where hacking has become more pervasive than ever? To what extent will automation increase in the contact center environment? These are questions that strategic executives need to be pondering now, as reacting to such developments will be difficult – preparation will be key to ensuring seamless evolution in 2016 and beyond.