Part 2: The Next Generation Customer Experience Landscape
Mar 14, 2014
In my last blog we discussed the death of the call center, as omnichannel customer service blazes the trail to the next generation of customer experience management. We left off with the question, what will the future “contact center” look like in this new milieu? Our research finds the new landscape will feature:
- The old fashioned telephone switchboard, reinvented. Multichannel “concierges” will answer simple questions, screen and triage contacts, and connect customers to subject matter experts with unified communications (UC) applications. Interactions will be shorter: 60 to 90 seconds at the most as compared to the traditional three minute inbound calls.
- “Consumerized” account representatives, each of whom would be responsible for set groups of customers to build relationships with them. Long proven in B2B, the account representative approach provides highly personalized service. Account representatives can be “virtual only,” in the field, or in bricks-and-mortar facilities – all connected by employee-owned wireless devices (bring your own device, or BYOD).
- Merged customer service with marketing, and incorporated into the marketing “DNA” – the notion that in the omnichannel business environment, customers’ excellent customer experience is key to marketing and sales. To illustrate, instead of forcing agents to sell, which has often proven futile, agents should be trained to provide that excellent customer experience, which is measured on customer retention and brand advocacy.
- Bricks-and-mortar staff connected to customers over each others’ mobile devices.
- No more outbound voice calling for collections and marketing. Technology has made it so easy for scammers to get around existing laws, and to misrepresent legitimate businesses and purposes that consumers now treat all calls from numbers they do not recognize as suspect. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before lawmakers, pressured by consumer advocacy groups, and by their constituents, will say “enough!” and outlaw the practice. Instead companies will have to use easier to ignore email, SMS/text, and “white mail.”
With these changes, there will be fewer contact agents, workstations, and facilities, and less demand for “traditional” automatic call distribution, interactive voice response (IVR), outbound dialing, call recording, and workforce optimization solutions. But there will be more demand for mobile, social, chat, SMS/text, virtual agents, UC, text-based proactive customer contact, analytics, remote support, enterprise quality assurance (QA), and workforce management applications.
At the same time, companies will have to step up their human resources (HR) processes to attract and retain top performing staff (we will publish a new Market Insight this spring on HR trends and issues across verticals, not just in contact centers – stay tuned).
Companies should also abandon brick-and-mortar facilities and go to a home agent model to cut costs, add flexibility, and obtain the best talent regardless of agents’ locations, or agents’ ability to commute, and also provide business continuity/disaster recovery. There is no longer a valid reason why contact center employees (or knowledge workers for that matter) must commute to employers’ places of business. The communications, computing, HR, performance management/QA, and security methods and technology have reached a point where it no longer matters where an employee like a contact center agent or supervisor is in order for them to work productively.
Finally, companies must improve their contact center technologies (such as consumer-disliked IVR systems), which, when combined with high quality customer-serving staff, are the keys to providing an excellent (and profitable) omnichannel customer experience.
Brendan Read is Senior Industry Analyst with over 25 years’ experience covering business, communications, staffing, and technology. He has worked in, prepared reports, and blogged on a wide range of topics including customer contact, CX, CRM, IoT, social media, supply chain, and BC/DR. He also has backgrounds in construction, manufacturing, materials, resource extraction, site selection, and transportation. He examines the broad economic, environmental, innovation, political, and social mega trends, and their impacts on businesses, markets, and society.