Contact Center Experts share their thoughts on the year ahead
Illustration by Gina Park

It’s the start of a brand-new year with new budgets, plans, outlooks and predictions. What’s in store for contact centers in 2017? We asked 17 industry experts to share their thoughts on what to keep an eye on in the next 12 months in various areas of interest to contact center professionals.

Part 1 of our four-part blog series offered views on artificial intelligence, training, speech analytics and contact center employment. In Part 2, industry thought leaders share their insights about what the year may bring for contact center technology, headset technology, quality standards, PCI compliance and contact center cloud migration.

On Contact Center Technology…

Founder and President
Strategic Contact
Lori BocklundI have a distinct advantage in weighing in on the top challenges and priorities for 2017, as my article on our survey results attests (See the Special Report, Contact Center Challenges & Priorities for 2017). Putting a lens on technology specifically, I can resoundingly agree with our survey participants that omnichannel looms large as the greatest challenge. And to succeed on that front, centers need better desktops, including CRM and KM tools. They need to work with their counterparts in IT and digital channels to tie mobile apps and text/SMS, at a minimum, into the end-to-end customer experience that may land in the center. And they need to implement performance tools to manage not just voice contacts, but all the other media as well. The priorities in our survey show our participants solving some of these enablers ahead of the omnichannel pursuit.

Arguably, none of these technology needs are really new. We’ve progressed from talking about multichannel to omnichannel, but the goals haven’t really changed. The reason we haven’t progressed much is it is all darn hard, and it requires significant budget dollars, resources and time. So what will make 2017 different? Perhaps the disruption of cloud solutions getting people to rethink how they approach technology. Add in some leaders and staff that will push aside the remnants of “we’ve always done it this way…” and we could start to see technology truly take its place as a transformative tool in delivering great customer experiences.

On Headset Technology…

Director of Product Management
Sennheiser Communications A/S
The near future holds many interesting developments for contact center headsets. Chief among these will be advances in sound quality. Leaving the best possible impression is essential to many industries, but reaches its absolute peak in contact centers, where everything hinges on the operator’s voice and the quality of his/her equipment. The call is the defining moment for the customer experience. Therefore, a contact center headset needs to provide both the user and the listener with premium audio. This means making sure that sound picked up by the headset has the highest possible quality, as well as eliminating the background noise from the generally crowded environment of the contact center. Here, we will see further development of innovative technologies, such as even better noise reduction and a transition toward super wideband audio, creating a more face-to-face like communication experience.

As contact center agents become more agile, working from different locations with multiple systems, we will see headsets play a more essential role in this digital transformation. Apart from offering increased flexibility, connectivity and functionality, headsets will become a more integrated, intelligent part of the communication setup, supporting a smooth, productive workflow.

Spending most of their day on the phone, contact center employees depend heavily on their headsets. Therefore, design quality and wearing comfort are two important factors that will continue to impact headset development. Design matters not just in terms of the robustness and reliability of the equipment, but also in terms of a headset’s premium look and feel, as this can positively affect employee satisfaction.

On Quality Standards…

Author, Speaker, Consultant
Senior Advisor, ICMI
Customer service predictions would not be complete without pointing to opportunities in mobile, social, omnichannel, AI and others. They are cool and (depending on how well they are used) potentially transformative.

But there’s a powerful, almost under-the-radar movement underway in an area of development that may seem much more mundane: quality standards. The best organizations are equipping their agents to engage with clarity and effectiveness, and to ensure their brands shine through.

Disney’s standards (from the 1950s!) still inspire. When Disneyland opened in 1955, they developed four simple standards to operationalize the role of “cast members,” including safety, courtesy, show and efficiency. Disney outlines actions and responsibilities for each; under show, for example, are the actions “I stay in character” and “I keep my area show-ready.” Though there’s no thick manual of dos and don’ts, you aren’t likely to find gum wrappers littering the ground or Cinderella using inappropriate language off stage.

It’s hard to top the efficiency and customer loyalty gains that come from a focus on quality at the point of interaction. I recently traveled through Asia on a multi-stop itinerary, and, somehow, the travel agency that helped me with ticketing had my passport expiration date wrong by one digit. It resulted in hours of explanations to airlines and immigration officials. And it took several agents and oodles of time to fix in multiple systems. All from one simple 10-second mistake.

Quality standards are more important than ever as channels proliferate and customer expectations evolve. Count on this being a prime area of focus in the coming year.

On PCI Compliance…

Director, Market Intelligence
TelStrat International Ltd.
Protecting sensitive customer payment card data is critical. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard ensures that organizations who receive payments protect cardholder authentication data. The standard defines policies, tools and controls to protect customers’ sensitive data and enhance data security.

Merchants who process, store or transmit payment card data must comply. Non-compliance results in loss of processing and fines. Merchants and payment card service providers must validate compliance. PCI Security Standards Council maintains a directory of Qualified Security Assessors with whom payment processors can contract for audits and validation.

Centers must not capture sensitive payment data in voice or screen recordings of agent activity used for quality assurance. Typically, they use desktop analytics to prevent sensitive payment data from being recorded through automatic pause/resume triggers. Triggers stop recording the sensitive content. Sensitive data is not captured. The tool detects the field where the payment authorization code is entered. When the agent’s cursor enters that field, the trigger stops the recording. When cursor exits the field, recording resumes.

Also, this industry standard requires storing recordings of customer interactions with high-level AES 256-bit encryption. And, recordings must be transmitted via Secure Sockets Layer encryption and encrypted while transmitted from/to workstations and remote storage. Files must be secured by passwords, and decryption keys kept in separate secure locations. Recording systems must track all activity so auditors can determine who accessed which recordings for playback or export, or performed other activity involving customer data.

On Migration to the Cloud…

President and CEO
While cloud technology isn’t new, contact centers have been slower to transition. In 2017, contact centers will continue their own digital transformation and begin the journey to the cloud by first looking at their core infrastructure and how it supports a multichannel environment. Without this fresh look, many cloud initiatives will fail because they do not unify the view of the customer.

Today, there are as many as nine channels that customers use to communicate with a brand, with more options to come. Whether it’s chat, social media, email, SMS or phone, companies must correlate data from all channels to better capture and analyze how a customer is interacting with the business.

Once base technologies are in place, companies and their contact centers will finally embrace the cloud in order to provide a complete, unified view of the customer, regardless of touchpoint.

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