Contact centres are hugely important business systems providing the main conduit between customers and a brand. The stereotypical view of a contact centre might well be the traditional call centre. An office space with rows and rows of agents speaking to customers, resolving any number of queries, complaints or issues regardless of the complexity. Is this historical stereotype now on the decline? Have we reached a plateau in terms of the numbers of agents within contact centres within developed global markets?
It would come as a surprise to many. The number of products and services available over the last five years has only increased, and continues to increase, therefore you would assume the number of contact centres, and agents required to man them, would only increase too. This may well not be the case. The ways in which consumers can access customer services and interact with a brand have radically changed over the past few years.
Enghouse Interactive are a global leader in customer experience optimisation. They have one of the largest and most innovative portfolios when it comes to CX technologies and solutions. Their expertise and technology platforms are designed to enable their business customers to leverage maximum value from their communication with their end customers. Specialising in this area, Enghouse, are fully aware of the transformation taking place in the market when it comes to the contact centre.
UC Today spoke to Jeremy Payne, who is their Group VP for Marketing and Alliances so he could tell us more about one of the most interesting trends taking place in development of the contact centre.
“If you look at the research that is out there, it shows that we have reached an inflection point in the contact centre market, which is where the number of human agents has peaked. It doesn’t mean the number of interactions that consumers are having with organisations has dropped. What it does mean is that the number that are being conducted with humans, in the traditional way, has reached its maximum point.”
Jeremy goes onto explain why this result is becoming apparent. The number of consumer to business interactions are still increasing rapidly but the way in which we are all communicating with organisations has already changed, and is continuing to transform.
It seems that everyone within the developed world now owns a smart phone, with as much computing power as a traditional work desk top tucked away in their pocket or bag. Applications, or apps, installed on smart phones now constitute a huge proportion of customer to business interactions. The sophistication of the devices themselves and the applications mean that a huge amount of interaction can be handled through digital means. Self-service, automated service and AI enhanced bots all now relieve some of the requirement from the traditional customer contact centre. The digitisation of customer service and customer interaction is omnipresent throughout industry. Very few companies don’t now have their own app and many of the most basic tasks that would historically have required a call centre agent can now be handled with a few taps of a touch screen.
The rise of the consumer applications on smart phones is one huge factor but also the changing model of consumption is another. Jeremy explains.
“When was the last time you called Amazon for customer service? Most people will say that they have never phoned Amazon, because you don’t need to. They do a very good job of proactively keeping you up to date. Your orders been processed, your order has been shipped, your order will be delivered between 10-12 tomorrow. If you want to change the delivery date or address you can click here. You are constantly given automated options that mean that tasks don’t need to be touched by the human hand.”
Amazon are obviously one specific example but their success has led to huge swathes of retailers mimicking and replicating their model, where possible, around the globe.
“You see this concept of straight-through process or automated process where you haven’t got that human in the contact centre classically involved.”
Enghouse and Jeremy have assisted many organisations around the world to enhance their CX provision, thus gaining a great insight into various markets. Some of the most modern and innovative companies can operate with a straight through process of 99.9%, meaning that the amount of customer interactions that they need human involvement in is incredibly low.
So what does this mean for the contact centre?
The need for human interaction does not go away, completely. Even for organisations with 99.9% of their interactions handled digitally the 0.01% still remains.
“The reminder that is left, that haven’t been handled through the automated channel tend to be quite ugly, awkward, complex problems. The customer has already tried to resolve this on your website, on your forums, they have been on the app so the last resort is for them to pick up the phone and call you.”
This new breed, of ‘last resort’ customer contact, might not be suitable for the traditional contact centre or the traditional contact centre agent. For enquires that can’t be resolved digitally, a specific department, specialist member of staff or someone with particular level of authorisation may well be required.
Enghouse realise that most organisations use their customer service provision as a differentiating factor against their competitors. Ensuring that these ‘last resort’ enquiries are routed to the correct person and are handled as quickly and efficiently as possible is critical.
“What organisations have to think is who is going to be best placed to solve this problem. It is probably going to need the input in the middle back office, people maybe at higher level pay grades or the input of various different departments. So the ability to triangulate and pull in the right people with the right authority to make decisions and the right access to information is key. That’s where UC solutions like Skype for Business come in.”
The concept of the ‘connected enterprise’ is an ideology used by Enghouse to assist their customers in this process. Using unified communication tools, such as Skype for Business and Cisco UC, Enghouse help their customers connect their internal users so that routing the most complex enquires is a quick and simple process.
“You need to see who is available in your business right now, who has the skill set, authority and autonomy to be able to make the right decision to solve this kind of problem.”
Coupling UC tools with other technology solutions such as integration to CRM, Enghouse can empower their customers to identify relevant background information, to better understand issues and allow them to remedy them more quickly and efficiently.
Changing consumer demands and behaviour are forcing the diversifications of the contact centre. The traditional model is changing, all of an organisations staff may now be required to assist in resolving the most complicated ‘last resort’ interactions. The only way to do this effectively is to utilise the benefits of modern unified communications platforms to achieve in Enghouse’s words the ‘connected enterprise’.
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