Call Recording Featured Article
The Contact Center 2012 and Beyond
When you think about contact centers you generally don’t envision much more than just phones and agents. A few years ago the phone may have been the only piece of technology you needed to run a call center, but with the proliferation of new communication channels and a boatload of new technologies, relying on phones alone is not in the cards for most call centers.
So what’s changing? How is it changing? And what can we expect from the contact center space in 2012? Here’s a look at three predictions on how the call center will change (or at least start to) in 2012.
Hosted options have totally changed the landscape of the contact center, offering a new way to hook up agents without much in the way of computer power. Pretty much anything that can connect to the Internet can run virtual contact center software. The next logical step is obviously tablets.
For significantly less than the investment in a full featured PC, agents can be fitted with iPads or Android devices that have all the connectivity needed to tunnel into a full featured call center suite. The advantage here is a more flexible, mobile workforce that can take calls from home or in the office, and even physically bring the screen to a shift supervisor should an issue be encountered.
While smartphones have relatively the same level of smarts as tablets these days, the smaller screen size could make accurately entering customer information a little bit more challenging and reduce the devices effectiveness as an agent station. We’ll probably need to wait until more millennials get into the call center before we can effectively utilize phones as the only tool in an agents arsenal.
This is already happening to a certain extent, and while the long debate over which department will handle social media has been raging since the first Twitter complaint, scales are now tipping from the marketing department to the call center. A survey by Nielsen Online (News - Alert) showed that social networks and blogs are now the fourth most popular online activity; even more popular than personal email. With volume like that it’s impossible for a marketing staff to create one overarching social media campaign that will address each customer’s unique concerns. You need boots on the ground like you have in the call center, ready to address situations as they arise.
Most call centers are already using this platform as a source of CRM intelligence, with analysis of profiles and interactions that help to target marketing campaigns and cross sales. But social media offers much more in terms of communication than just this.
2012 will see the continued legitimization of social media as a channel of conversation for businesses. Companies will need to prepare workforces to handle not only the standard phone call, and the occasional email, but also tweets, messages and wall posts if they want to continue to protect their brand image and build customer loyalty. The boots on the ground mentality of the call center is already in place, and with a bit of training and a basic understanding of how social media works, agents will be read to meet customers on this new frontier.
The Text Message
Here’s another method of communication that needs to be legitimized in the customer service space. According to recent reports there are over three billion SMS enabled phones in the world currently, but customer service support for SMS is still relatively uncommon. According to information from Pew (News - Alert) Research,” Some 83 percent of American adults own cell phones and three-quarters of them (73 percent) send and receive text messages,” The survey continues on to say that 31 percent said they preferred texts to talking on the phone, while 53 percent said they preferred a voice call to a text message.”
A third of adult users may be far from a majority, but it’s a large enough market segment that it warrants some investment from customer service. To be most effective, call centers need to be ahead of the curve in terms of social trends, and text messaging is one that just about everyone still seems behind on.
Right now there are automated text messaging services that might shoot off information to customers at their request, but there’s no real standard for agent engagement via text. We’ve seen that automated message systems like IVRs can be polarizing, and there’s no reason to think that in SMS form, people won’t complain about getting the run around from “a robot” just like they do when they call their cable company.
As the next technology immersed generation gains purchasing power and becomes the voice of the average customer, the need to service these additional channels will continue to grow. Adding support for newer devices like tablets and phones makes sense in facilitating more fluid interactions with both customers and supervisors. Right now there is still a substantial need for technologies and agents capable of effectively handling the needs of technology in the customer service operation. Hopefully 2012 is the year that contact centers start to incorporate these trends into their core operating strategies. However, if they miss the boat this year, they’re likely to fall behind permanently.
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO East 2012, taking place Jan. 31-Feb. 3 2012, in Miami, FL. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. For more information on registering for ITEXPO registration click here.
Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO. Follow us on Twitter.
Chris DiMarco is a Managing Editor for TMCnet. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University. Prior to joining TMC (News - Alert) Chris worked with e-commerce provider Suresource as a contact center representative and development analyst. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page. Follow him on Twitter (News - Alert) @cpdimarco.
Edited by Stefanie Mosca