Call Center Management Feature Article
August 22, 2012
Call Center Trends that are Shaping the Future of the Industry
By Amanda Ciccatelli, TMCnet Web Editor
Over the past few years the call center has evolved into a primary customer service channel. Therefore, the agent role has become more sophisticated along with the software that manages and supports it. Call center operations encompass CRM, customer service, agent management, as well as software-based PBX.
Today, there are many growing trends in the call center industry that are shaping call center’s future place in the technology world. A recent article by Enterprise Apps Today discusses the primary trends that involved truly ‘disrupting technology’ that is impacting the call center.
In the past, call center agents simply make or answered customer phone calls. Then, the Internet came along and agents were asked to answer e-mail too. Now, as customer service channels have increased, so has the burden on the agent and the sophistication of the software. Consumers now use social media to research products, express opinions, influence brands and reach out to companies, so agents are expected to interact with customers on social channels like Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter.
“Agents are not only handling calls but are monitoring and servicing social media contact channels to connect with customers and prospects,” Chuck Ciarlo, CEO of workforce optimization software provider Monet Software, told Enterprise Apps Today.
The typical call center software suite has many facets and has grown in size and complexity over the years. Most recently, knowledge management (KM) has become a main feature of the suite. Forrester (News - Alert) Research Analyst, Kate Leggett said KM is becoming a necessity for agents to answer the variety of customer inquiries. KM software performs many functions as it answers customer questions online, searches for answers, and tracks social media interactions.
Mobile customer service applications are becoming a necessity of competitive call center suites. According to a survey by BearingPoint, about 44 percent of companies plan to allow access to CRM systems via mobile devices, and doing so increases customer satisfaction and sales.
Call center software providers recently have introduced applications allowing customers to connect with agents via their smartphones, using solutions such as Genesys Mobile Engagement, Nice Systems Mobile Reach and Jacada (News - Alert) Mobile Agent.
“In 2012, more customers will demand the ability to interact with customer service organizations via mobile devices to register products, locate stores, create support tickets and, receive value-added services and incentive offers,” Leggett said.
Technologies like Facebook, Twitter (News - Alert), mobile phones and iPads has been driven mainly by the younger generation. Now, that same generation is also driving video calling, another shift that will have a huge impact on call centers.
“Younger generations are showing a preference for a video chat over a phone call or text,” said Laura Bassett, director of marketing, customer experience and Emerging Technologies at Avaya (News - Alert). “This trend will extend to customer service in specific areas that require personalization, relationships, or advanced support.”
Inbound and Outbound
The call center industry has always focused on fielding inbound calls. A lot of call center software deals with how to channel, monitor and improve the performance of agents as they deal with the rising volume of calls. But, now companies are also focusing on outbound communication.
Leggett said this communication is gaining ground as a way to notify users of flight schedule changes, bank balance changes, bills due and more. Consumers can choose to receive these alerts via text, e-mail or phone, which results in a reduction of inbound call volume and a boost in customer satisfaction.
According to Forrester Research, SaaS is entering the mainstream as 23 percent of companies are using SaaS for CRM, eight percent plan to add it this year, and most existing users plan to expand usage.
“Customer service organizations will continue to evaluate their SaaS strategy and mature their skills that address emerging needs around SaaS and cloud initiatives,” said Leggett.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman