With the rise of technology that allows better customer service, customers are becoming more demanding – that’s why to satisfy and retain them, you need to develop your contact center in accordance with the worldwide trends. Check out what recent reports and experts suggest, and take part in a contact center benchmarking survey to get more accurate data on the current contact center trends.
The The 2017 Global Benchmarking Report (pdf) suggests that the top trends are:
As people switch from phones to other channels, companies need to work on integrating human approach to their CX robotics:
Global contact center report shows us which technologies companies are using, and which they are planning to use:
We won’t just talk about the trends, what you are reading now is an overview of opinions of respected contact centers experts, so even, if you doubt any of them, you may want to listen to opinions from several of them about the technology that interests you.
Here are the experts:
@Jon Arnold, an independent research analyst with a great blog
@Nate Brown, VP of Communication for the HDI Music City Chapter and is the founder/author of CustomerCentricSupport.com
@Teresa Cottam, Chief Strategist, MVNOpro
@Al Hopper, cofounder of DoLabSATX
@Shep Hyken, Customer Service and Experience expert – hyken.com
@Ian Jacobs, Principal Analyst at Forrester
@Evan Kirstel, Social media innovator and B2B marketer
@Irwin Lazar, Analyst, Nemertes Research
@Kate Leggett, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester
Rob Maynard, Contact Center Architect for Cisco
@Sheila McGee-Smith, an enterprise communications industry analyst
@Dave Michaels, founder of TalkingPointz, covering enterprise communications and IoT
@Blake Morgan, Customer Experience Futurist and the host of the Modern Customer Podcast
@Blair Pleasant, analyst and consultant about Unified Communications
@Elka Popova, Industry Analyst focusing on Unified Communications, Frost & Sullivan
@Darren Prine, Omnichannel Contact Center Solutions Specialist at BrightPattern
Lutz Remmers, Operations Director for Call Center de Mexico
@Colin Taylor, CEO and Chief Chaos Officer at the Taylor Reach Group
@Donna Peeples, Customer Experience Strategist
@Bruce Temkin, a customer experience transformist.
@Neal Topf, President of the Callzilla contact center
Wade Wiant, Vice President of Sales and Channels at Mediu
We analyzed articles about contact center trends in 2017 from each of them, and here are the trends most experts agreed on:
The promise of Omni-channel today is similar to that of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms a quarter of a century ago; by centralizing knowledge and customer information, it enables agents in our Contact Center to deliver more satisfying customer experiences, resolve issues more quickly and efficiently and generate more revenue. Of course, it took about 20 years for CRM to become an overnight success. I suspect Omni-Channel will have a similarly long gestation period.
Unfortunately, I consistently find two things missing from most omnichannel conversations: modern channels and context.
The problem with omnichannel is the continuous change component of every or all. For example, fax was certainly an important channel at one time (and still is in some sectors). Modalities come and go, but omnichannel doesn’t expire. Instead, it’s necessary to reevaluate its scope regularly.
Omnichannel initiatives must now include messaging and video. These are the two most significant emerging modalities in enterprise communications. Both are already popular in consumer services.
Teresa Cottam forecasts that:
Meanwhile, tomorrow’s customers will be creative, will communicate across an array of existing and new channels but also in a new visual language. They will expect to co-create their experience via a continual interaction with the enterprise and will want to take responsibility for many issues currently managed by the contact centre to fulfil their desire for increased autonomy. The contact centre will support this by providing hints, tips, education and technical support.
In addition, the contact centre will also become a powerful resource for finding out what customers think of companies, and for capturing sentiments, feedback, needs and wants. As an invaluable source of data for both the enterprise and its partners, it will evolve beyond omnichannel operation to become the centre of the connected enterprise. And, as its mode of operation broadens and becomes more proactive, its success will have to be measured by new metrics, reflecting its critical role in overall business performance.
According to Teresa, contact centers will need to:
In 2011 Gartner predicted that
by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.
However, in 2016 Forrester has already reported that
consumers are using web self-service more than assisted service. In fact this number increased from 67% in 2012 to 84% in 2015.
In 2017: Customer service will continue to invest in structured knowledge management and leverage communities to extend the reach of curated content. Service will become more ubiquitous, via speech interfaces, devices with embedded knowledge, and wearables for service technicians.
As customer preferences have shifted over the years, consumers are demanding more immediate service and many of them are resolving their problems on their own through self-service.
With a self-service portal, customers can search for their problem online and follow instructions to fix it. In the worst case, if they were not able to solve their issue, the portal can include a click to call button where they are transferred to an agent and they don’t have to repeat all their information in order to get assistance.
Customers have begun to use, and in some cases even prefer, non-agented interactions. They use knowledgebases, FAQs, mobile customer self-service, chatbots, and peer-to-peer communities in increasing numbers. This means that:
Because self-service solves many of the simpler issues that customers have, the inquiries that do make it through to contact center agents are the more complex, difficult, or relationship-dependent ones. So, contact center agents now need to be prepared for solving harder problems than in the past.
Because most customers that actually do reach a contact center agent will have tried to self-serve and failed, they will more frustrated than they were in the past. In a world where the phone and even chat are actually escalation channels, agents start three steps back by the time they say the word, “Hello.”
According to Teresa Cottam, by 2025, three key concepts will come together to create a new customer paradigm:
“The combination of these three elements of personalisation, self-service and social consumption creates a phenomenon that Telesperience has dubbed ‘selfie-service’. This represents an evolution of self-service because it doesn’t just enable a customer to serve themselves, but also to create their own service paradigm, tailor their experience, and be more creative.“
Call centers shaping their strategies for 2017 and beyond should begin by allowing for mobile messaging engagement. It’s about meeting the customer in the place where they are and want to do business. Messaging is the most common cell phone activity, outpacing telephony, according to the Pew Research Center.
In fact it seems that the sharing economy is one of the biggest superuser industries of mobile messaging. Examples include Uber, Airbnb, Etsy and TaskRabbit to name a few. Customers enjoy the ease of use and not having to call the call center. It feels as easy and seamless as an interaction with a friend or family member. This is the future of customer service.
But it is the harnessing of social platform messaging apps that will turn social customer care on its head in 2017. Thanks to the announcement by Facebook that they were opening up Facebook Messenger to the public and developers, businesses and solution providers alike now have a captive audience of socially-addicted consumers to engage with in private.
Mobile continues to become an increasingly dominant interaction channel… and now can be accessed through increasingly varied types of devices (including those described as “Internet of Things”). In 2017, we expect more companies to shift to a mobile first strategy and to design customer offerings with the assumption that the primary interface may be a remote digital device.
AI is already here, has been here for a while and will continue to support ever increasingly complex customer interactions. Perhaps the bigger question for Contact Centers is, “How will we manage the interactions that cannot be handled through AI enabled automation.”’ Those contacts that remain, will be complicated, complex and require a significantly different profile, than the typical customer service or technical support agent that exists in most centers today. We need to rethink the skills and competencies required to deliver excellent service in this brave new AI enable world.
Since the business value of these technologies continues to evolve, we talked about the big challenges developers face in selling chatbots and AI into the enterprise. The challenges may be daunting, and very different from selling these technologies into the consumer world, but the opportunities can also be large… so the potential payoff is definitely there.
One issue is that chatbot and AI have a long way to go before they’re ready for widespread adoption. These tools will take time before they can provide real value and earn the trust of customers, so companies that adopt them do have to consider the risk factor. For example, speech recognition accuracy is approaching 90%, but is that good enough for the contact center? Skeptics will point to Microsoft’s early experience with its Tay chatbot, and flat out say, “No.”
Artificial Intelligence is coming to the forefront of how a company creates a better CX. Machines’ ability to interact with humans is stronger than ever. AI will help us make better business decisions, many of them positively impacting the customer. AI won’t necessarily take over the human function, although in some places it can and will, but it will assist customer support people, becoming an IA , or Intelligent Assistant.
Machine learning, AI, and cognitive computing offer the opportunity for applications to learn from past behavior as well as from external data sources. While in their early stages, these technologies offer real-world potential for organizations to increase the speed of workflows, enable employees to make better decisions, and even enable delivery of new and innovative services, especially in engineering or science-intensive industries.
Already we’re seeing tremendous interest in using intelligent bots to eliminate repetitive tasks or to provide an improved experience to customers. We’re at the cusp of tremendous advances in these areas, with increasing opportunities for IT leaders to forge the way in delivering business value from emerging technologies.
“Bots are Good for the Seller, but What About for the Buyer?”
This question kept popping up in my mind, as we heard many speakers talk about all the cool capabilities their chatbots have. For now, the consumer market is all about driving sales, either online or in-store. Messaging has now become bigger than social media, and with better ad-blocking tools, anyone trying to sell digitally to consumers is coming to realize the value of chatbots. AI has a long way to go still to make the chatbot experience feel personal, but it’s improving as all emerging technologies do.
Chatbots will become a big storyline in 2017, and increasingly, messaging will be a platform for automated, person-to-machine communication. This is actually part of something even bigger — digital transformation — where natural language processing is going to transform the role of voice. Telephony will continue as a real-time channel, but the new value basis for voice will be in the realm of AI and ML, where Amazon’s Alexa is a sign of things to come.
There are also some notable bots that have shown us what is possible moving forward. Take Siri or Amazon Alexa for example. Some bots can even provide intelligence and service better than a live representative. Babylon Health or Your.MD have bots that provide health related consultations based on images and symptoms
AI will increasingly be used for routine transactions while higher-value and more complex transactions will be handled by customer service agents. The key is being able to identify what interactions need to be handled by a human rather than automated.
The best chatbots are able to not only respond to requests and questions, but also recognize when the customer is confused and seamlessly hand off the conversation to a live customer support rep.
To truly meet a need for enterprise-grade customer service, chatbots must be able to understand what a customer speaks or types, pick out the customer’s actual intent, respond in a conversational manner and maintain the conversational state across multiple back and forths, and act on the customer’s behalf.
Finally, as customers choose to have interactions across multiple channels (phone, chat, web, mobile, messaging, social, etc.), enterprises should be able to deploy their chatbots in multiple channels. Although the idea of truly ‘write once, deploy many” chatbots remains elusive, directionally, this is where enterprise chatbots need to head.
The main way it will improve customer experience is through proactive customer service. Smart devices will be able to communicate that there is a problem with the device directly to the manufacturer before the consumer is even aware there is a problem. This will also lead to increased self-service as customers will need to contact customer service less frequently when smart objects are able to diagnose their own issues.
ABI Research found that by 2020, more than 50 billion additional devices will be wirelessly connect increasing the IoT. Organizations that can successfully integrate IoT into their contact centers will benefit from shorter interaction time, cost savings from self-service, and more dedicated customer service.
With IoT, presenting a single view of the data becomes easier whether you are a B2B or B2C company. The convergence of digital and physical worlds across multiple channels has created opportunities to measure and influence customer behavior beyond traditional purchasing cycles.
To make the business model of IoT work, companies must keep a close eye on emerging IoT ecosystem components, networking protocols, security, data models, and analytics to connect with contact center solutions and act on the received triggers.
This is because a lot of IoT data is related to operations and security, as well as product development — and ultimately marketing. End users will see the data first. They will then ask the contact center to remotely access the data — as happens now with computers and phones.
IoT will completely change the game for companies – all of our products and devices will soon be connected, and this is good and bad. It’s good because companies will have much more data to personalize our experiences. Our lives will be made easier through improved user experiences. But IoT devices must be made secure.
Blake Morgan also mentions the following IoT examples:
By 2020, a staggering 26 billion everyday devices—anything with an on/off switch, from cellphones and coffee makers to washing machines, headphones and lamps—will be activated by users all over the world (Gartner). As technology evolves, these devices are entering into a network of physical objects connected to the Internet and to one another to collect and share data.This is the Internet of Things (IoT).
Consumers will opt to leverage mobile and personal devices as a means to realize their customer journeys, enabling them to engage with the contact center when, where and how they want.
Sheila McGee-Smith mentions a few examples:
On stage, the presenters talked about a washing machine sending out a message that it is in need of repair. That’s a nice example of the proactive customer care possibilities of IoT, but another example Bosch shared during a breakout session showed the broader implications of combining IoT and customer experience. In one of my Enterprise Connect sessions last week, Kentis Gopalla, senior director of product management and market strategy at Genesys, shared that case study — Bosch Connected Parking.
Bosch Connected Parking offers car park operators new business opportunities and ideas for increasing the value and scope of services for participants. Parking solutions include:
- active parking lot management
- community-based parking
- automated valet parking
These video enabled terminals or kiosks called ITMs (Interactive Teller Machines) allow a customer to interact, live, with an agent in a Contact Center. Where these solutions have been deployed, transaction value has increased while transaction costs have decreased, and at the same time, customer satisfaction (CSAT) has risen. The increase in CSAT is likely, in part, due to an increased level of trust in the interaction and the fact that there is a person who can provide help or answer questions as required.
So, if it is so helpful, why is less than 0.2% of contact center traffic handled on video chat? Although video chat exists, it is often hard to fit it into the current technology which explains why most don’t use it. But, forward thinking companies such as Schuh and Amazon have already deployed video as part of their customer service strategy. With advancing omnichannel solutions, the demand for video chat as a service is only going to become more popular and effective.
Giving agents the ability to show their true self would make it simple to communicate with authenticity and develop the type of meaningful relationships we strive for with our customers.
Recently many barriers such as expensive hardware and limited bandwidth have been removed, finally bringing this channel into reach for contact centers large and small.
2017 is going to be the year to introduce Live Visual solutions to your call center. It is a ripe technology with an existing consumer infrastructure (2.5 billion camera equipped smartphones and counting) and has a real ROI model.
Simple video chat can be utilized for better customer engagement, while evolved Augmented Reality solutions will help get customers painlessly and quickly through tech support. Either way, adding live video capabilities to call centers should be on every customer service and contact center executives’ list.
I’ve seen several big wins in the banking industry. Nationwide Building Society, a U.K. company, has implemented a Cisco-powered service to supplement branch office staff with virtual agents who can conduct face-to-face video consultations. The pilot resulted in a 62% gain in mortgages, so Nationwide has opted to expand the service to each of its 400 locations.
Check out more examples of companies successfully using video contact centers from Dave Michaels here. Also, check out our own video chat for contact centers, Richcall.
While this is not necessarily a brand-new trend, it is an excellent option for businesses due to the speed and ease in which it can be implemented.
Cloud-based services offer 24/7 support and provide real flexibility and adaptability, particularly in their ability to be integrated with third-party CRM platforms such as Salesforce, Zendesk, SAP, and Facebook.
Offering customers a vehicle to engage, transact, and use to address problems at will is a powerful differentiator that allows companies to transcend the offline/online world, while remaining in the conscience of customers in the most state-of-the-art yet customer-determined way imaginable.
That is why contact centers must begin to migrate portions of their technology to the cloud or to solutions that can be integrated with the new generation of cloud based APIs.
..the survey suggests three-quarters of companies have recognized the value of the cloud, with 25 percent of contact centers having fully deployed cloud today and another 28 percent partially transitioned. In addition, 21 percent have plans to migrate within the next year. I would certainly say that there is no doubt that cloud is no longer something that contact centers need to be educated on. Customers are asking solution providers about cloud, rather than the reverse. It’s not if, but when, and that is the key.
But perhaps the most exciting trend in 2016, which Frost & Sullivan believes will be a continuing core trend in 2017, is designing contact centers to support the millennial worker, and that cater to the millennial consumer. This was very apparent with multiple announcements of enhanced Workforce Optimization (WFO) offerings that focused on making life easier for agents.
At the same time, enterprises will have to deal with new demands from the next generation of workers who don’t want to work long shifts in centralised operations. In order to recruit and retain the best of these workers, enterprises will have to identify what these workers need from them in order to be seen as a good employer. Meanwhile, tomorrow’s customers will be creative, will communicate across an array of existing and new channels but also in a new visual language. They will expect to co-create their experience via a continual interaction with the enterprise and will want to take responsibility for many issues currently managed by the contact centre to fulfil their desire for increased autonomy. The contact centre will support this by providing hints, tips, education and technical support.
digital workplace begins the shift from thinking of UC and collaboration as stand-alone applications to ones that are tightly integrated with workflows and business processes. In this new paradigm, collaboration applications must support business processes, especially the digitizing of these processes. This means integration with message flows, events, tasks, and projects to ensure that collaboration exists within the context of business workflows.
One consequence of the increased skill and competence levels requirement is likely an increase in wages and salary costs in order to attract those people. The overall transaction costs will drop. But the direct salary expense per employee will rise. Their needs and expectations for career and job satisfaction will change and become more important.
As these trends communicate, staying up to date on new technologies is the secret to better customer service, so keep in mind that today’s customers are more tech-savvy and can make or break a company’s reputation based on their experience.
There are some trends that only few experts pointed out, here are some of them.
Report after report highlight that companies are woefully bad at tracking customer journeys to make meaningful decisions:
The newer Dimension Data’s 2017 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report informs us that even though 76% of companies have some channels connected, 8% have all of the channels connected, and so on:
Colin Taylor says:
If not, you are quickly falling behind the curve. If you have documented CJM’s, well done – you have step one completed. With your CJMs you now know what the customer and the organization are expecting to take place, when and through what channels etc. .. We need to acknowledge that our marketing and other initiatives, informs and colors customers’ perspective of the organization and consumer expectations on any interaction. When we design customer experience, we must inform the definition with both the CJMs and with the expectations and perceptions that marketing has created.
Ian Golding suggests that companies need not only to create customer journey maps, but to manage customer journeys.
Failure to understand the true role of a customer journey map, is likely to deem the exercise of creating them completely worthless. In a world where no organisation has infinite resources to keep people busy conducting tasks for no particular reason, it is critical to ensure that the management of the customer journey becomes part of the way a business works. Everyone in the organisation – from the CEO to the front line – needs to know what the customer journey is AND the role they play in delivering/improving it – continuously.
Read Ian Golding’s post to learn which questions you need to ask yourself, if you want to manage customer journeys by embedding them into how your company works
The growth of CPaaS is due to customer-facing markets driving to deliver a better customer experience. CPaaS has emerged as an easy and compelling way to create new digital experiences with communication woven in. Some common applications include: video enabled help desks, SMS appointment reminders, and authentication services.
As enterprises need more advanced communication methods and technology to improve the customer experience they require deep integrations between application and communication
Possibly the most important and exciting thing about the open APIs is that all integrations are typically certified and maintained by both vendors. This means you are getting a completely seamless integrations that are continuously being updated without having to pay for extra professional services.
The API economy — flexible APIs, integration PaaS (iPaaS), and CPaaS solutions — marks the current phase in this evolution. Over the past few years, the innovation frontier both in the premises-based and cloud communications spaces has shifted from explosive feature development toward a rush to integrate communications with third-party software. The purpose — more tangible business outcomes through greater impact on specific workflows.
As Al Cook, Twilio director of product, mentioned during a general session on APIs, “The number and types of APIs are increasing, and use cases are increasing.” It will be exciting to see what types of use cases show up in the next few years, and how developers and organizations will use APIs and CPaaS to create applications and integrations to workflows that change the way business gets done.
In my opinion, social media is the Achilles heel of most companies in today’s digital world.
Social media can generate positive or negative discussions that will impact your brand if not handled properly, so if you have an open forum then take advantage of it. When responding to a customer, always go beyond what they expect, then post the follow up and final results so others can see the outcome, building further confidence in your brand.
Many customers post about positive experiences, but some people may express their frustration over a bad experience more frequently. More, younger customers are used to using social media to connect with their service providers. Our CTO described a friend’s daughter who called her father in a panic because she had had a car accident, had tweeted this to her insurance company, and no one was responding. Our next generation of customers may demand better responsiveness over social media.
Companies are getting better and spotting problems and fixing them before the customer notices and complains. There are software programs that can alert companies to issues so they can be proactive in mitigating or eliminating problems. A good proactive service program creates trust and confidence.
With Speech Analytics software, the initial investment can ensure that 100% of your interactions are analyzed and scraped for potential business insight. The implications can be huge, as even a single customer interaction has the potential to uncover an internal inefficiency or service issue. This technology is no longer in its infancy, yet many companies have failed to realize its potential, meaning it can give you a major leg up on your competition.
At the same time, we see a rise of voice interfaces, from Comcast’s XFINITY remote control to Amazon’s Echo. In 2017, we expect more companies to increase their use of speech recognition for insights and interfaces.
With today’s technology and software, real-time monitoring of agent performance is very simple and it’s possible to track every move of home-based agents, so more contact centers have been actively exploring the benefits of this employment option.
In a few years, it’s very likely that one out of every three agents will be working from home due to lower attrition rates, productivity improvements, a reduction in costs, and more flexibility for extended hours if the business operates on a 24-hour schedule.
It was nice to see the high percentage of businesses that claim to have work-at-home (WAHA) workers (59%). The ability for contact centers to support remote workers has been around for a long time, but now we have better technology to support them.
(remote working) will require the same applications and knowledge bases to be available to remote workers as for those in bricks and mortar premises or contact centres. This will be enabled by cloud-based applications and information storage. However, companies will need to consider that the experience delivered both to and from remote workers will be highly reliant on the performance of the local network, and they will need to ensure that telecoms providers are delivering the level of availability, reliability, performance and security required
It seems that while some most experts agree on the incoming trends in contact centers, companies don’t completely embrace them.
Sheila McGee-Smith mentioned Dimension Data’s 2017 Contact Center Benchmarking Report, which listed quite a number of reasons digital transformation stalls:
As it turns out, there are many reasons the implementation of new strategies is slow.
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