It seems like almost every part of the communication environment is in a state of flux. As customers continue to demand more from the businesses that they connect with, the contact centre is one of the spaces seeing the most evolution. Today’s companies are looking for budget-friendly, yet effective ways to provide their clients with the conversation experiences that suit them.
We caught up with Chris Marron from analysis experts MZA to discuss his thoughts on the evolving contact centre. Chris is responsible for the contact centre reporting that MZA does each year, including forecasting, competitive environment analysis, and shipment reviews.
A Growing Number of Customer Service Channels
According to Chris, the contact centre is a real and significant focus for many companies, and it’s also an industry in a constant state of transition. “There’s a lot of pressure on businesses right now as the customer experience (CX) emerges as a differentiator. Customers demand more, and that’s driving real changes in the ways that businesses and their clients communicate. Contact centres must now support a broad new range of digital interactions.”
The rise of “omnichannel” is perhaps one of the most significant trends in the contact centre today. We’re seeing a growing number of customer service channels appear in everything from SMS and IM, to things like smart speaker assistants, VR and AR. “While some of these are in the early adopter stage, being able to connect with the customer using their preferred strategy provides additional convenience for the customer and a strong differentiator for the business.”
“It’s not just about how well you treat the customer anymore, but how easy it is for the customer to interact with you.”
Machines and AI Enter the Contact Centre
Another significant change in the contact centre environment has come with the introduction of artificial intelligence, chatbots and machine learning. “Some of the AI that’s appearing in the contact centre right now is about making agent lives easier. Contact centres can begin to automate some parts of the customer conversation so that agents can focus more on assisting the customer.”
Chris also noted that MZA is beginning to see a higher number of agents being empowered by the AI, in environments where the bot can suggest the right solutions for customers. For instance, companies like Google are coming in and offering solutions that summarize the knowledge base and provide agents with potential answers to issues the customer may be having.
“The machines are already in the contact centre. They’re not taking over from people, but they’re enabling agents to do their jobs better.”
“When mundane tasks are taken away, the agent has more space to offer better support to the client.”
The Increasing Demand for Cloud
In terms of the current contact centre market for 2018, Chris told me that they’re seeing a decrease in the number of agent seats being sold, but an increase in the sheer level of revenue created by contact centre solutions, and the surrounding technologies like CRM, WFO, and more.
The number of on-premises contact centre solutions is also starting to drop as more businesses make their way towards the cloud. However, there’s still a place for the on-premise contact centre technology. “Customers are still afraid to change things and risk their customer experience. However, the cloud provides businesses with a chance to break down the siloes that could be holding them back and stopping them from offering the service that customers need.”