Contact Center 2020 - From forgotten cost base to thriving interaction hub

The core objectives of today's contact center differ very little from the call center of 20 years ago – that is, to effectively and efficiently respond to customers contacting the organization.  However, the technology that has become available during that time period has provided the opportunity to move from call center to a virtualized multi-channel and multimedia environment that has most recently become social media community enabled.

Initiatives to support this move include:

  • Virtualization of the communications network to allow any call to be delivered to any agent irrespective of physical location
  • The additions of numerous new channels such as chat, email, etc.
  • The pushing of certain types of interactions to self service web applications
  • The introduction of new enabling technology:
  • Speech
  • KM
  • Decision Engines
  • BPM
  • Desktop CRM application
  • Universal Queue
  • Social CRM applications
  • Speech/IVR
  • Speech analytics
  • The development of social media communities of agents and employees to drive better performance, peer coaching and learning
  • The introduction of sophisticated tools to support the management of the contact center, such as workforce management, quality assurance and performance management
  • Customer experience improvement programs to drive fewer repeat calls and increased first contact resolution

However, in many cases these initiatives have not been planned and executed in a consistent and coordinated way.  In addition, the contact center today has found itself under considerable pressure to reduce costs and in many cases stand alone as a profit center by increasing sales revenue considerably.  This has led to additional initiatives such as:

  • Programs to reduce operational costs in the contact center
  • Outsourcing to third parties
  • Off-shoring centers to other countries
  • Consolidation of physical premises
  • Cost-cutting programs to reduce spending on some of the technology and customer experience initiatives outlined above

Given this plethora of initiatives, as well as the changing priorities within the contact centers’ agenda, it is perhaps not surprising that the hoped for efficiencies, revenue increase and customer experience have not been achieved in many contact center environments.

The reality is that it is possible to execute on the vision of a multi-media enabled contact center (or more aptly “interaction hub”, since the interactions are often managed across multiple geographic locations in a virtualized manner).  It is also possible to do this while reducing operating costs, driving improved revenue and improving the customer experience.

The key in moving to an effective operation in a multi-channel and social-media driven world is to ensure that there is a clear and defined strategy for the contact center/interaction hub, which incorporates a business and technology roadmap.  This roadmap should be developed to deliver initiatives that drive value in line with overall business objectives.  It is critical that initiatives are not just simply “bolted-on” to the current environment without a clear end game, objectives and targets.  This is especially true in moving to a social-media-enabled environment where the development and fostering of “community” has to dovetail carefully with other customer interactions.