With the holiday shopping season drawing quickly to a close, businesses no doubt find their contact centers inundated with customer requests, questions, and complaints. However, with the end of the holidays also comes the start of a new year, which means taking a step back and planning for change.
TMCnet recently spoke with Matthew Storm (News - Alert), director of innovation and solutions at NICE, a leading provider of workforce optimization solutions, to discuss what these contact centers are likely to focus on in 2014. Storm identified four major trends on the horizon, which he believes will begin to play a large part in the way customer service is carried out in the months ahead.
The first, and perhaps most obvious, is the trend toward multichannel interaction. While this movement has been ongoing in the contact center industry for some time now, particularly in response to the rise of social media and consumer mobility, Storm suggests that the focus will begin to shift towards understanding precisely where these various channels fit in the larger scheme of the customer journey. In other words, it won’t be enough for companies in 2014 to simply offer these channels; they must also be able to identify why a certain channel was used and how that interaction fits in with the customer’s overall relationship with the company over time. Today’s customers expect businesses to know what was discussed on any given channel regardless of the interaction medium currently being used. That is, a customer dialing in over the phone expects the agent to be aware of the Tweet exchange they had with the company last week, and vice versa. That, combined with the growing need to truly understand the motivations for choosing one channel over the other will become a prime area of concern for contact centers in 2014.
Second, Storm predicts an increased awareness of what data really matters. “Big data” has been a hot topic in the contact center software industry as of late, but the question has to be asked: Can big data be simply too much data? The sheer amount of metrics, key performance indicators (KPI), and other measurements that are tracked in the contact center can be overwhelming to the point of overload. The purpose of collecting such information in the first place is to identify and promote the right behavior. Data is useless unless it provides you with some hint as to the actions you can take to see improvement. Thus, Storm believes that companies will increasingly “reduce the noise” created by big data by focusing on actionable metrics that can truly drive behavior, as opposed to collecting data simply for the sake of collecting data.
“Reducing the noise means taking all of the data and all of the metrics that come out a contact center and making sure there is a single version of the truth that can be used to really change behaviors,” he explained.
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Thirdly, Storm foresees 2014 as the “year of the employee.” Contact centers are notorious for high turnover and low employee satisfaction rates, which is why he believes an increased emphasis on employee engagement will be seen in the months ahead.
“Engaged employees deliver engaged experiences,” he said. “The customer can feel when a customer service agent is truly engaged as an employee or if they’re just there to answer the phone.”
Tools like gamification and pay-for-performance are likely to play a larger role in this effort. These solutions and policies build excitement, create competition, and provide instant feedback, keeping employees moving and “leveling up” so that their constantly improving. An employee that feels like they’re on the move is much less likely to leave.
“It’s hard to abandon your trophy case,” Storm said.
Finally, 2014 is going to be the year where organizations actually do something with feedback, Storm predicts. The new year will see contact centers putting a stronger emphasis on consolidating customer feedback and using it as a tool to take action, rather than just a benchmark. Thus, organizations will start to take more concerted action on both the very specific level (i.e. feedback from one specific customer) and on the aggregate level (i.e. larger [dis]satisfaction trends with specific processes). This, he believes, will represent a significant departure from the way surveys and customer feedback have been leveraged in the past, creating a more attentive and responsive contact center.
As for NICE, Storm explains, the company’s first major initiative for 2014 is to truly help organizations know their customer, in all of their detail:
“Sometimes they’re very basic details about their needs and preferences, and sometimes they’re very broad details about their buying behaviors and their ability to remain loyal to your brand.”
The company plans to do this by continuing to develop tools that help organizations “operationalize the voice of the customer,” allowing companies to truly take action on the feedback they get from their consumers.
Indeed, Storm explained that NICE has broadened its portfolio with acquisitions over the last two years, giving new life to things like workforce management and performance management, all of which serve to help organizations avoid unnecessary interactions and prevent the next one from happening in the first place. The next 12 months will certainly see a continued effort in that direction.
All in all, 2014 will be the year where call prevention strategies reign, whereby limiting the reasons for customers to contact a business to begin with, companies will both reduce the number of costly interactions and instantly improve customer satisfaction by default.
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