Contact Centres are at a crossroads in their evolution. One that requires a radical rethink of how services are structured and resources deployed. Getting this right is key to survival. Those that take the wrong path are destined to fall by the wayside. Yet, for those finding the right formula, the future is bright.
At the heart of this dilemma is the balance of cost vs capability – where to direct which resources deliver the best, financially-sustainable solution.
While it may be considered that ‘voice is best’ and that the ultimate customer service is delivered by a member of staff at the end of a telephone, customers would not always agree. In fact, as many as 80% of customers opt to try and resolve their issues online first, before contacting a call centre to avoid the ‘hassle’ of having to speak to an operator.
So, clearly, true innovation comes from matching the right solution for each need.
Getting this right is made even more important by the wage inflation experienced by the sector. Over the past decade, the UK minimum wage for a worker over the age of 25 has risen by over £2 per hour – from £5.73 in 2008 to £7.83.
As these wage costs have increased, forward-thinking contact centres have thought again about how to deploy people within their operations. While this might sound like bad news for workers, in fact it is causing an increase in the skill levels required and therefore the emergence of better training and more rewarding roles within contact centres.
The emotional intelligence of our human resource is best deployed when a complex interaction is most useful. Therefore, rather than tie up call handlers with mundane tasks and requests, customers that genuinely need a human solution need to be fast-tracked.
Conversely, those that want a quick-fix to a simple query can be more efficiently and effectively served with alternative solutions.
Getting the balance right between these needs reduces the common frustrations of poor contact centres (long waits, endless phone menus, dispirited staff) and massively increases customer satisfaction, alongside cost efficiency.
Achieving this blend is not simple however. It requires time, investment and expertise to maintain. Key to this evolution is continuing innovation with technology.
For example, over the next 12 months, 89% of contact centre managers believe AI will begin to make huge waves within the sector when it comes to improving customer engagement. And by 2020, 85% of customers’ interactions are expected to be managed without a human element.
One area that is particularly interesting is interactive voice recognition (IVR) – a technology that allows a computer to interact with humans by voice. Instead of customers having to use the dials on their phones to select menu options or input information, this could all be done by speaking into the phone using IVR. This will dramatically shorten the amount of time that customers spend stuck in menus and queues and will allow them to get through to a human contact sooner.
Chatbots are also increasingly being explored by contact centre managers to improve staff efficiencies and customer service levels, with 76% of managers stating that the technology is likely to experience significant growth within the market over the next year.
Right now, 37% of contact centres are currently using automated chatbots, with a further 55% planning on using them over the next 12 months.
The combination of rising wages and advancements in technology have helped evolve the contact centre industry to be more customer-centric. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
More investment and innovation is required to create a bright, sustainable future for contact centres. This will be a particular issue for those small and medium sized businesses that make up the vast majority of our industry. Expect to see greater consolidation in the market as business look to gain the scale required to deploy successful solutions and share expertise.
For those that get it right, the increase in ‘remote business’ (with customers looking to engage with businesses at their convenience from any location) means that the potential rewards are significant.
Equally, for workers, as the skills of well-trained and experienced customer service personal become better utilized in the industry, their value and job-satisfaction will also increase.
The perfect balance between cost and capability will be key to unlocking these rewards as we seek to blend Emotional Intelligence (EI) with Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the benefit of all.
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alldayPA is a Salford based telephone answering service, founded by Reuben Singh in 1999. Leaders in business to business telephone answering providing services for over 23 000 clients.
Isher Capital is a Boutique Private Equity Fund & Family Office primarily focused on providing immediate equity resourcing to Entrepreneurs & Owner managed businesses. Established to support businesses and entrepreneurs, its expertise lies in business growth, rescue and turnaround situations which require capital resources