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

What are the trends that contact center leaders should know about in 2017? We asked 17 industry experts to share their thoughts across a wide range of topics. In this final post of the series, our participants offer views on what the year may bring for customer experience at the center of strategy, remote working, omnichannel journey management and cloud-based omnichannel.

You can get additional insights and topics in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

On Customer Experience at the Center of Strategy…

Chief Vision Officer
PowerHouse Consulting
Kathleen PetersonCustomer experience remains at the heart of many strategic plans. Customer experience essentially represents the promises made to consumers by the brand. The contact center must have a clear understanding of customer experience objectives in order to execute effectively on the promise. It is becoming increasingly important for the contact center to be able to contextualize reporting, budget requests, etc., within the customer experience objectives to gain access to budget dollars and visibility as a strategic player at the executive level. Don’t bother reporting simply on service level anymore. It is critical to educate those receiving reports on how service level impacts the customer experience rather than report metrics as isolated figures.

As a contact center leader, if you have not drilled down to the customer experience objectives within your enterprise you cannot wait any longer! Your entire contact center team must be fluent in the language of customer experience behaviors. You must communicate to the front line how every task, activity, event, contact and process either contributes to or contaminates the customer experience. Manage your future, your visibility and your value by contextualizing all contact center activities in the framework of customer experience—only then will the most senior levels of the enterprise recognize and fund the contact center of the future.

On Remote Working…

President and CEO
Customer Contact Strategies
Michele_RowanDuring the course of the past decade, work-at-home for contact centers has evolved from an alternative staffing strategy to what is now a mature, proven, high-returning core business model. Eighty percent (80%) of contact center organizations in the United States utilize home working today. Why? Results are compelling and consistent.

Customer Contact Strategies has collected data from 500+ companies over the past 36 months. Below are some key established trends when comparing in-house to work-at-home performance in the contact center environment.

  • 100%–200% increase in qualified applicant flow
  • 25% improvement in employee retention
  • 20%–40% improvement in employee satisfaction
  • 20% improvement in attendance
  • 10% increase in productivity

The interest in remote-working policies and practices is reaching broadly across enterprise functions, largely due to employee requests, attractive real estate benefits, and technology that easily supports a work-from-anywhere approach.

But unlike the contact center work-at-home environment, effective management, output and engagement are often not as transparent or measurable in other functions where work is less transactional.

That’s what makes the case so compelling for work-at-home in contact centers. Companies have exactly the same visibility of work output regardless of where representatives do the work (through CMS, Centerview tools, etc.). Enterprise social networks and chat enable broad knowledge and experience sharing for all employees, much more effectively than in-person, one-to-one exchanges. Video maintains the value of face-to-face interactions, and frequent polling invites connectivity and measurement of engagement.

If your organization is considering a serious embracement of a remote-working strategy, the contact center is an excellent place to start. Highly transactional work, transparent outputs and superb technology have accelerated returns and marginalized the risk.

On Omnichannel Journey Management…

Chief Marketing Officer
Early adopters will begin using a single customer experience platform to mine data accrued from all points of engagement.

This type of system will include self-service analytics, mobile analytics and big data analytics. Analytics do provide the insights that brands are looking for, but it’s important to view contact center analytics from a customer, agent and organizational perspective. Other solutions attempting to manage customer experiences cannot work beyond a single interaction. They’re either trapped in a function (sales, marketing, service) or a channel (voice, mobile, digital, social) or, even worse, both—in a channel, in a function. These silos are where accountability go to die.

In the not-too-distant future, your digital marketing campaigns will have to deliver exceptional omnichannel journey management because most of your customers are active across multiple digital channels. Connected campaigns that orchestrate all customer interactions with ease will have a longer shelf life and drive better business results. And customers themselves are not single entities, either, as they’re part of a community: an enterprise, a neighborhood, a family, etc. Events happening within that community will drive behavior—behavior that you will only understand in an integrated big data world.

On Cloud-based Omnichannel…

Vice President, Cloud and Service Provider Strategy
Enghouse Interactive
The path forward for contact centers is omnichannel, where there has been a great deal of innovation to support seamless transition of the communication experience across multiple channels. These capabilities go well beyond the conventional telephony-centric customer service model, and cloud-based omnichannel provides unprecedented flexibility for how businesses proactively engage with customers.

For inbound inquiries, agents can interact via whatever mode the customer prefers—telephone, web chats, messaging, video, etc. A more holistic view of how omnichannel adds value lies in enabling live agents to not only respond to incoming inquiries, but to also initiate automated outbound notifications to customers. The latter is a form of proactive customer service, and while many contact centers see the value of doing this, their premise-based systems lack the capability.

Being notifications, these communiques provide a different form of service; rather than solving problems in a reactive manner, they communicate information that’s both timely and important. Since they are provided on an opt-in basis, the notifications are expected, purposeful, with specific outcomes in mind. When acted upon, they can prevent problems from manifesting.

The flexibility of the cloud lets the contact center support all the modes used by customers to communicate. For many consumers, being able to use their preferred mode is central to the customer service experience, and their decision to opt-in for these notifications will largely be based on this capability.

Cloud-based omnichannel represents the next generation of contact center solutions, and proactive outbound notifications are another example of its myriad capabilities and business value.

Download a PDF of this article.