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By 25 February 2015 | Categories: Managed Services

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Becoming customer obsessed is one of the top five trends that will impact the contact centre industry this year, according to one of the experts at the Interactive Intelligence panel discussion.

To be truly competitive today, companies have to become ‘customer obsessed’, contact centre experts say. Enhancing customer experience is one of the top five trends in the contact centre industry this year, and new strategies and technologies must be harnessed to ensure that customer expectations are met and exceeded.

This emerged in a webinar hosted by Interactive Intelligence this week, featuring senior Forrester Research analyst Ian Jacobs, McGee-Smith Analytics Founder Sheila McGee-Smith and the founder and President of Vanguard Communications, Don Van Doren.

CX a top 2015 trend

Highlighting customer experience as one of this year’s top contact centre trends, Forrester’s Ian Jacobs noted: “We have truly entered the age of the consumer. The majority of companies view customer experience as one of their top priorities and many are now seeing themselves as being in the customer experience business, rather than a particular industry vertical.”

Jacobs said a key issue likely to come to the fore in 2015 would be linking customer experience to revenue and returns. “Only around 25% of companies today have a model for linking customer experience and revenue, but we will see a lot more of this happening now.” Jacobs said there would also be increased interest in linking other contact centre factors with revenue – such as whether happier contact centre agents impact the bottom line.

Tim Passios, Interactive Intelligence Vice President of solutions marketing and host of the webinar, said enhancing customer experience and linking it to revenue depended a great deal on data. “Our customers are saying data has to be gathered at every touch point. It then has to be pooled and put to use. This big data can be put to use in areas such as dynamic IVR, in which customers are recognized for who they are; dynamic agent scripts that reduce the number of questions that must be asked and give the agent important information about the customer; and new customer experience focused routing to match the customer with the best possible agent to deal with that particular customer based on historical and demographic data.”

The Omnichannel experience

Omnichannel is another top trend emerging in the contact centre industry this year. Jacobs noted that it should not be confused with multichannel customer service, however. “Multichannel is serving customers in many channels. Omnichannel looks at all the communications holistically, to provide cross channel service. Customers might view it as a single interaction with you when they start with social media and move through chat, to a phone conversation.”

This omnichannel approach will extend beyond communications to include various business units too, Jacobs said. “We are starting to see efforts to also cross organizational boundaries,” he said. This would allow organisations to determine, for example, what initiative by a marketing department had prompted a particular customer to call the contact centre.

Jacobs said new and innovative channels to interact with organisations were emerging all the time, with self-service now the most-used channel by customers. Social media had also impacted organisations in that customers now use it readily to complain about poor service or post good reviews, however, he said he did not envisage 2015 becoming the year of social customer service.

“Companies aren’t prepared organisationally to handle customer service at scale – social media is typically still handled by small groups in marketing or PR. To do this at scale requires organisational changes. But what I do see this year is companies looking to understand where social fits in within the customer journey and how to use it more effectively,” he said.

Passios noted that customer choice routing was a technology likely to be adopted more in 2015. This, he explained, would allow customers to ‘shop’ for their agents much like they shop for goods and services. “They can visit a website, look at the agents’ experience, interest, customer reviews, average wait times and rankings, and improve their experience by choosing to interact with a particular agent through a channel of their choice.”

On the question of whether this could lead to discrimination against inexperienced agents, Passios said customer preferences differ – while some might prefer to communicate with the most knowledgeable agent for an in-depth discussion, others might prefer to speak to the agent with the shorter wait time.

Cloud case goes beyond cost

Jacobs says that while cloud has been on the business radar for some time, a shift is underway now, in which businesses are turning to the cloud for reasons other than cost. “They are starting to recognize the benefits of cloud, for example cloud supports continuous feature roll out with greater control on deployments and the ability to test in a live environment,” he said. The fact that numerous cloud models are available now to enable companies to match the model to their evolving needs and existing infrastructure is also set to make cloud a top trend in 2015, he said. “There are so many options available now, that 2015 will see adoption rise for reasons of agility rather than cost.”

Passios added that a key concern in recent years had been the perception that there are greater risks associated with cloud. “Cloud has now generally come to be regarded as a more secure environment than most people can provide on-premise,” he said.

The fully mobile-enabled market

Another key trend in 2015 is the growth of mobile’s influence. “Forrester research last year found that not just Millennials, but all ages, are deeply mobile enabled. This includes contact centre customers and contact centre staff,” said Jacobs. “It’s important to remember that mobile is not just a channel – it is all the channels. It encompasses text, social, web and voice, and presents the potential to incorporate gaming, context and location for additional and more proactive communications channels. This year, we will start to rethink mobile and think about the power of context, proactive notifications and location aware services.”

Passios added that in addition to significant potential presented by proactive customer engagement using mobile features, mobile should also be harnessed to empower the mobile contact centre employee. “We could also look to tools like a tablet-based dashboard to enable the contact centre supervisor to move around and still ensure optimal contact centre performance, for example through an app mapping the contact centre floor, with the ability to drill down into agent information and quality monitoring tools. Even the notion of allowing contact centre agents to be mobile is gaining traction,” he said.

Workforce optimisation to the fore

Workforce optimisation models and technologies will enjoy greater focus this year, as businesses move toward the age of customer obsession, says Jacobs. “We are starting to see the unification of a broad range of workforce optimization tools, including agent scheduling, customer satisfaction surveying, speech and desktop analytics and performance management tools, into unified workforce optimization suites for greater customer experience and operational efficiency.”

Unified workforce optimization and routing will start working together, he said, to enhance the customer experience.

Passios noted that a technology now becoming mainstream is real-time interaction monitoring. “The traditional approach was to record every call and analyse them later. But there are cost and resource drawbacks to this. With real time speech analysis, supervisors are alerted to interactions they should pay attention to in real time, allowing for an intervention that could improve the customer experience. When integrated with a suite of workforce optimization tools, real time analytics also allows for more accurate analysis of what impacts customer experience, and where agents can improve their performance,” he said.

Listen or download the presentation here: http://www.inin.com/Events/Pages/Web-Event-Whats-New-in-Contact-Center-for-2015.aspx

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