Q: What is on the horizon for multi-channel contact centres?
A: The debate about whether businesses should adopt a digital by design or digital by default operational model will move up the agenda as organisations simultaneously recognise the benefits and significant cost savings a well-designed digital engagement strategy can deliver.
Yet many will continue to grapple with the necessary trade-off between on the one hand digitally-empowered consumers who can and will self-serve given the right tools and on the other hand, customers with more complex enquiries who are looking to have them resolved by engaging on a one-to-one basis with an organisation’s customer-facing staff.
This trade-off raises a number of financial and cultural questions for businesses. Typically, they will need to ask themselves – should we just pocket all the money we’re saving by using self-service or should we re-invest in other channels and processes and skills to solve complex queries.
Moreover, they will need to raise the question – if we try and solve more complex queries through the existing contact centre how do we up-skill staff in real time; how do we reach out and connect middle and back office functions into the customer service mix – and what does this mean for the culture of our business?
Some of the key technologies and approaches we expect to see impacting multichannel contact centres in the near future include:
- Leveraging user forums and social platforms to create empowered social communities that facilitate peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and problem resolution and provide a powerful alternative customer service channel. Even some of the largest enterprises today are able to operate with very small customer service teams because they are able to harness the power of user engagement in forums to answer customer queries in the most effective manner possible;
- Speech based self-service tools – These are likely to work in much the same way as Google works on a user’s smartphone today when verbally asked to search for a certain topic. The range of applications businesses deploy that leverage voice-based command will increase significantly in complexity over the next few years;
- Real time speech and business analytics – It is likely that the use of analytics to optimise interactions and predict and create optimised outcomes will increase. Indeed, we expect the combination of speech analytics and tighter integration between knowledge management repositories to allow real time up skilling of employees and customers to drive better self-service.
Q: What is over the horizon for multichannel contact centres?
- Auto agents already exist today and we are seeing them increasingly used in the contact centre. However, we expect the line between human and machine intervention to become blurred as the ability of computers to solve more complex queries increases. This will drive greater volumes of machine-to-machine communication and associated problem resolution. This capability will be increasingly enabled by the Internet of Things and the power of smart devices to provide real-time streams of data, coupled with the enhanced abilities of the machines they are streaming to pinpoint potential issues and ‘nip them in the bud.’
- The use of presence and location-based information will also play a larger part in certain customer service environments. We are already seeing companies using location-based capabilities on smartphones to push suitable offers in real time. Equally, emergency services can use GPS codes on phones to locate callers automatically and breakdown companies can use similar technology to pinpoint stranded vehicles.
- The way people buy extended warranties will change and this will impact on outbound customer service operations. Instead of effectively buying an insurance policy, consumers will increasingly purchase a subscription service that monitors their device or appliance and manages it for them. In the future, boilers, for example, will invariably be integrated with the IoT – effectively connected to the manufacturer’s server, which will continuously poll readings about performance and efficiency; identify when servicing is required and schedule an appointment with an engineer.
The automotive sector is already doing this to an extent. Remote monitors are able to provide active servicing, effectively alerting consumers when their car is in need of a service – intelligence which is typically not based on mileage but rather on a blend of live performance feeds and analytics.
This will drive a more proactive approach to sales and marketing where businesses monitor the ‘health’ of gadgets and appliances, provide estimates of repair costs and then make promotional offers – perhaps including the option to switch to a subscription-based service plan – that drive customer loyalty and recurring revenues.
- The rise of the virtual personal assistant will mean menial tasks like waiting in call queues on hold will disappear over the long-term. Consumers will be able to have their own virtual PAs that they dictate commands to via their smart phones; that carry out tasks for them during the day and only refer back to their ‘owners’ as and when required.