One of our most popular blog posts focuses on which contact center predictions from the past few years have come true in the world of outsourced customer service. In this post, we thought we’d take a look into the metaphorical crystal ball ourselves and try to identify some major shifts coming our way over the next five years by posing three intriguing questions about contact centers and the future of customer service trends.
As any workforce management professional will tell you, excellence in forecasting/prediction is what differentiates the leaders from the also-rans in call center operations. Projected forecasts based on insightful data and analytics are the only way workforce management can effectively and efficiently tackle any degree of call volume. Lose prediction, and you’ve lost the game – not to mention your customers.
But we’re wondering what the future holds for prediction and forecasting?
One of the potential game changers for the future of the call center is prescriptive analytics. Prescriptive analytics seeks to go beyond the prediction of future call patterns based upon previous ones – the goal is to better understand those previous call patterns in order to preemptively describe the actual content of those future calls. In short, it won’t just tell you what is the likely or typical outcome is of a certain pattern; instead, it will suggest a variety of real-time actions you can take in correlation to very specific customer behaviors.
So how does it work? With technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence, we’re predicting that big call center data will become more highly optimized than ever before. Tools like automated monitoring, conversation analytics, and Natural Language Processing IVR all have the power to transform the customer experience. By correlating particular customer behaviors with optimal outcomes, call centers will be using data to not only improve quality of service, but in the long term, may also be contributing to reducing overhead, decreasing customer attrition, and more easily discovering up-sell opportunities.
In this day and age, like it or not, as consumers, we should all pretty much expect that any consumer activity, outside of buying a pack of gum at your corner store, will automatically result in personal data being collected and shared by the companies, brands and organizations we patronize.
We’re predicting that, as consumers become increasingly informed about how their data is collected and used, there will be a corresponding increase in customer expectations. Basically, if a company already has my personal data, they should at least make the effort to understand me and personalize my customer experience if they want my loyalty. In fact, a Gartner survey found that 89% of business leaders soon expect competition to be entirely based on customer experience, compared to just 36% several years earlier.
In the contact center industry, this will be critical to how we evolve – and not just through the quality of the service experience via phone channel. We’re predicting that beautifully designed user experience combined with seamless integration between multiple channels, apps, and self-serve options will win the day for brands in the future. (We are already seeing Customer Effort as a key metric that influences the design of 360-degree customer service solutions.) This means that call centers of the future need to leverage self-service and omnichannel support; which includes engineering web- and mobile-based FAQs to deliver true knowledge management, supporting real-time, engaging social support, and operating effective virtual agents, IVR, and communities. When and if the consumer of the future does choose a voice channel and live interaction with a customer service agent, they will need the crossover to be seamless, personalized, efficient, and worth the customer effort.
It’s pretty clear that our first two projections are pretty dependent on major evolutions in call center and data mining technology. You can imagine then, that as these trends become increasingly complex, so do the expectations on your IT staff. It seems like three main issues come to light as we think about what call center technology might like in the future: security, scalability, and efficiency.
Cloud technology has already changed the business landscape, and we believe that we are only just seeing the edge of an expansive horizon of change. We believe that the cloud is going to have a major impact on how contact centers operate specifically in terms of cost effectiveness, accessibility, and maintenance.
However, there’s a growing concern surrounding cybersecurity as it relates to the cloud. The biggest reason for this is that cloud technologies are moving faster than the security measures to protect them. While a couple of decades ago, companies could build a secure wall around their technical infrastructure, that same wall is quickly losing the capacity for preventing breaches. This may be significant in our industry. Vulnerability testing and improved security efforts across the board are going to be vital in the future view of call center technology.
Having said that, the cloud enables true scalability for every contact center. With a careful migration and integration planning, there is real value in how quickly cloud-based solutions can be deployed, and the ongoing maintenance required will be out of your hands. As your customer base grows, so can your infrastructure.
Finally, efficiency. The contact center technology ecosystem is becoming increasingly elaborate, with evolving queuing and routing technology, CRM technology, and workforce optimization technology. This complexity will be the biggest deterrent in migrating to the cloud or any other SaaS service. The risk around business continuity and sustained customer service quality seems significant. Particularly for in-house contact centers, both the time and monetary investments seem too high. But take into account costly maintenance and upgrades, evolving customer habits, trends in analytics, and the challenge of scalability, and consolidation within the cloud will soon be an attractive alternative.
Our main prediction is that, whether it is the idea of using complex prescriptive analytics or evolving your omnichannel support to the increased use of cloud technology, businesses that plan to leverage a tech-savvy, competent contact center are the one who are going to thrive well into the future.
At Blue Ocean, we’re asking these questions about the future of customer service every day in order to fully meet and exceed the unique needs of our client’s customers. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to see how we can help you.