The Future of the Contact Center

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By: Colin Taylor
I am often asked what the role of the contact center is in the customer experience and whether the contact center is an outdated mode of customer communications in the age of web 2.0, ecommerce, social media and self-service. To which I reply that the contact center is arguably the most valuable tool in your arsenal for delivering on the desired customer experience and for improving customer satisfaction, loyalty and repurchase.

While it is true that many of the queries and tasks that had to be completed in a call center years ago, such as placing an order can now be completed quite satisfactorily without the need for contact center involvement. But contact centers continue to exist and thrive, even though there has been a decade long drive towards automating more call center activities and deliver service through self-service. One study identified more than 50% of customer interactions being received through the contact center via live voice calls, IVR, email and chat interactions. A reason for their continued utility is human nature. We have developed a comfort level with interacting with technology for many tasks and activities. I no longer feel the need to phone a travel agent, but will book my flights online instead. I am happy to place an order for a commodity product such as an ink cartridge for my printer on a website or repeat my last pizza order by interacting with an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system.

We all strive for efficiency in our daily lives and do not want to waste time completing a basic or mundane task which can automated significantly and save us time. We see these activities as simple and basic, so it becomes more about being time efficient and convenient.

This focus on efficiency shift dramatically however if we believe a task is complicated of difficult. Our order is wrong and we receive an incorrect product, our credit card is charged too much or too often, or my pizza never arrives. At this point when we perceive complexity and challenges in righting the error, we reach for the phone. Even though there is a reasonable or in my case a significant likelihood, that the error was cause by our actions or lack therefore in interacting with the technology originally, we still believe that a human will still be the easiest and fastest way to correct a problem.

Research I saw recently showed that in verticals such as Health, Technology, Credit Card and wireless issues perceive as ‘non-complex’ resulted in the majority of those surveyed to seek corrective action via the web, where as in the same industries if the problem was identified as ‘complex’ then in 3 out of these 4 verticals the majority opted to reach out to the contact center. The only hold out was technology which still employed the web to seek solution or resolution. In fact 2 verticals Satellite/Cable and ISP the majority employed the contact for ‘complex’ and ‘non-complex’ issues, though in both of these cases if the internet service or cable modem is down, then pursuing a solution on the web may not be an attractive option.

So as long as we have complex challenges, dumb user errors, dysfunction processes in the mix, people will seek resolution through contact centers. So there is no real risk that you friendly neighbourhood contact center is vanishing anytime soon. They will continue to process increasingly complex to satisfy customer and let us get back to being time efficient on our simpler interactions.

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