Research firm Software Advice recently moderated a live online debate called, “Will Technology Kill the Call Center?” The event was hosted in a Google+ Hangout and featured representatives from IntelliResponse, Avaya Inc., Drumbi and Etech Global Services.
The panel discussed trends in customer contact channel utilization, technology and the future call center. The speakers offered advice for consumer contact strategy and ways companies can prepare for the future.
Here’s a few key takeaways from their discussion.
Respond to the Customer’s Choice in Channel
One of the prepared questions from the debate was “What role has technology played in changes to contact channel utilization?”
IntelliResponse Vice President of Marketing Mike Hennessy said newer contact channels such as intelligent virtual agents and social media have improved to the point of leveling the playing field as far as user experience. This has armed the customer with choice – they want to use multiple channels, so they do.
“Technology can finally deliver on the promises from five or six years ago,” Hennessy said.
In response, he suggested companies “right channel” their business, or determine which channels are most important to its customers and invest in those technologies.
Use Multiple Channels Together
The moderator also asked the group about consumer contact channel utilization and how that has changed. All of the speakers agreed that consumers are embracing newer contact channels at a pace never seen before in the contact center world.
This doesn’t mean customers are choosing these new channels instead of voice. Rather, they are using self service, FAQs, mobile and other channels in addition to the telephone. By the time the customer reaches the phone, they are likely at a crucial point in their interaction.
“The company needs to be much smarter when they get there,” said Avaya Director of Customer Experience Management Laura Bassett.
This means using data from the customer’s other interactions – be that on the website, social media, or other contact touches – to get a 360 degree view of the customer. For example, can you tell what a customer was looking at in your FAQs before they called your 1-800 number? Do you know if they interacted with a virtual agent? Having these answers can bring context and personalization to the live response experience. This increases efficiency and customer satisfaction.
The Contact Channel Skill Set is Changing
“In the future, we will have the tools to seamlessly move from one touch point to another without losing all the context. … This will have a tremendous impact on customer experience, but also the agent,” Drumbi CEO and Founder Shervin Talieh said.
The concept of a call center comprising phone agents has evolved into a contact center comprising “command teams” who manage customer interactions through multiple channels. That’s because today’s consumer demands instant gratification, and the reborn center is expected to support those demands, whether they come through Twitter, live chat or a phone call.
This will continue to affect expectations from contact centers and their agents. Talieh said companies need to ensure that their contact center has the ability to leverage these various channels together. These centers will be smaller and more specialized. This means agents will need to be more skilled and technically savvy.
So do these trends hint at the eventual death of the call center, or it’s rebirth? Let us know what you think by commenting here.