Nine Call Centre Trends to Watch in 2017
Christian Szpilfogel, Mitel VP Strategy and M&A Business Development
We saw a lot of changes to the call centre and customer experience landscape in 2016. Cloud communications and virtual agents were at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and social media was more important than ever. 2017 is shaping up to be the year of strategic thinking, better analytics, more intentional social media conversations and innovative ways to involve artificial intelligence. To help you stay on target for 2017, we’ve identified nine of the most influential trends affecting centres so far.
1. Digital transformation
Businesses have always tried to differentiate themselves on price or product quality. Today, however, we’re seeing that customers are more frequently looking for something more: a rewarding experience that leads to a long-lasting relationship with a business. Customer interactions are no longer stand-alone activities and they are demanding a more comprehensive and consistent experience.
Digital transformation, the application of advanced technologies that have completely restructured the modern business environment, is a big part of this. With advancements like unified omni-channel communications and machine-to-machine communications via the Internet of Things (IoT), a forward-looking digital transformation strategy is going to be key for businesses who want to stay competitive.
That should that strategy include? Businesses need to consider the whole of the customer experience. A truly digital contact centre redefines this from start to finish. And it’s not just about using the right channels to interact with customers where they are; the smartest businesses (of all sizes) are integrating technologies across their business to provide full customer context with each interaction and leveraging system data to provide proactive service. Further, unified communications and collaboration (UCC) tools, like team collaboration applications, will be strategically important for contact centres, because they enable employees to leverage the collective intelligence of the whole business. Vendors that offer applications with open APIs provide new levels of customisation and integration to help deliver a truly seamless customer experience.
2. Better contact centre analytics
Gone are the days of relying on supervisor skill and know-how to get the most out of a contact centre agent. Now, even smaller businesses are taking advantage of sophisticated analytics to turn data such as, call and screen recordings, chats, SMS messages, and more, into truly useful feedback for their agents.
It’s not enough to rely on manual observation and monitoring as there is just too much information.
More omni-channel call centres are starting to rely heavily on analytics programs to build dashboards with the statistics that affect their businesses. We’re also seeing more and more businesses display this kind of statistical dashboards on user interfaces, so call agents and managers get real-time updates on customer experiences.
In general, we expect more advancements in analytics as companies continue implementing more unified communications platforms and strategies.
3. Omni-channel communications for all
A huge hot button in 2016,omni-channel communicationscontinue to separate proactive businesses from their more reactive counterparts. A holistic view of the customer experience, factoring in an omni-channel approach, is helping businesses give customers a more personal feel to resolutions.
While a customer journey may begin on one channel, valuable insight and feedback from the customer is taking place on a completely different channel and this must be recognised.
Unifying customer communications across channels gives businesses better context for their customers, helps resolve issues more quickly and helps sales agents identify better opportunities for future sales.
4. Widespread adoption of cloud communications in call centres
Many businesses have already adopted cloud communications as part of their strategy, but they have become particularly important for contact centres. With the steady increase in remote call agents, cloud communications are a necessity for businesses who want to take advantage of seamless team interaction and collaboration. Traditional office-based contact centres can take on new locations, grow, and contract workforces as market needs demand it.
Moving to the cloud also doesn’t have to happen all at once. Vendors that offer hybrid cloud options can help you phase your organisation into the cloud at your own speed or create a tailored architecture that leverages the best of multiple deployment models based on your business needs. So, for example, a contact centre with an on-premise solution could implement a cloud-based webchat system, without needing to completely reinvest in infrastructure up front.
5. More robust customer satisfaction measurements
Customer satisfaction sends huge signals to companies about where and how their businesses could improve. Businesses approach customer satisfaction measurement in different ways, but slick all-in-one measure seem to be holding steady.
Amazon’s cornerstone Negative Response Rate (NRR) strategy continues to be a major part in calculating contact centre customer satisfaction in 2017. No matter which measurements businesses are using, however, special care needs to be taken when addressing the customer experience across digital channels.
Using effective reporting and analytics tools that are integrated with your communications systems makes this process automatic and valuable.
6. More remote call centre agents
Lower overhead, time zone flexibility, and elastic working hours have made remote contact centre workers a stable trend for 2017.
With constantly improving and unified cloud communications, they’ve become a permanent (and beneficial) part of the contact centre environment.
With collaboration tools, agents can take their work mobile anywhere, with access to real-time analytics and customer context.
7. Continued emphasis on self-serve documentation
In 2017, so far we’ve seen a greater emphasis on self-service problem solving information on business websites. Giving customers information quickly helps reduce call volumes, and easy-to-navigate FAQs help narrow down calls to those with sufficiently complex issues. Quick access to self-serve solutions to problems also provides an emotional benefit to customers (that DIY fix high!), and reduces overall call times.
8. Two-way social media conversations
An effective social media presence is a necessity. Customers want a place they can go to give quick feedback, and learn about their favourite businesses. But the way organisations approach their social media conversations is changing.
It’s not enough to make witty posts or share images. Customers are looking for a two-way social media conversation, and when they interact with businesses online, they expect a personalised (and immediate) response.
Responsive businesses are using this trend to create a superb customer experience by unifying communications across channels into one stream. This helps their customers by connecting them with an agent who knows their purchase and service history, provides valuable context, and most importantly the two-way conversation is public, on a social media platform, so that other customers can see how the business solved the problem.
Negative feedback can be a killer online, and unanswered negative comments make potential customers wary. If you positively resolve issues quickly and in a way that makes it clear the customer is central to the conversation, on the other hand, it leaves your business looking intelligent and caring, motivated by the customer experience.
9. Artificial intelligence integrated into customer interactions
Businesses are getting deeper into predictive analytics, using artificial intelligence (AI) applications to help streamline call centre experiences for customers and agents.
We expect that as early adopters continue honing AI applications for call routing, they will become more widely applied. We also expect to see more connections forged between various media channels and streamlined call centre response. It’s worth investigating what options might benefit your business.
These trends have already made an impact on the contact centre landscape in 2017, and look to continue through the rest of the year. To ensure your contact centre is future-proofed, look to leading suppliers of integrated, cloud-based, seamless communication and collaboration tools that come with real-time activity and reporting.
Christian Szpilfogel is VP Strategy and M&A Business Development at Mitel
For additional information on Mitel visit their Website