2017…yes, we made it!
First some good news: call centers aren’t going away this year (well, not exactly – but more on that later). And while call centers are expected to see an uptick in staffing in 2017 (did you know that 4% of working Americans – about 5 million – already work in a call center?) they are also in the midst of wide-ranging change.
Here are 5 Trends that Will Affect the Call Center Industry in 2017:
- The Millennial Age
Millennials – not only are they your employees, but they are also your customers. And boy, are there a lot of them – 100 million by some estimates. The Millennial generation is changing the way we do business, and call center managers are learning that not only are we changing how we market and sell to them, but also how we train and integrate them into the workplace.As more millennials enter the call center workforce, changes will be necessary in work processes and procedures. They are more comfortable with technology, and also tend (as a group) to respond well to gamification and other workplace incentive measures.As customers, millennials will drive even bigger changes in the near-term – including omnichannel support (see below) and the widespread adoption of technology. The challenge – one that is particularly important to the millennial generation of shoppers – will be creating seamless customer experiences.
- Emphasis on Quality Metrics
Forget call length, call outcomes will continue to matter more than ever as the customer experience train picks up speed. Bad customer service isn’t cheap, and the situation isn’t getting any better. In fact, it’s getting worse: according to an August 2016 article at Forbes, businesses are losing $62 billion each year due to poor customer service – up nearly 50% in the last 3 years.Call quality metrics have always been the subject of great debate, and firms such as ours spend significant amounts of time developing accurate measures that also align with company goals. That’s why companies like Zappos can walk away from a 10+ hour customer service call and consider it a success, while other companies measure how many calls an agent can complete in a shift. Metrics matter, and they must align with company objectives in order to deliver value.
- Social Media and Omnichannel Customer Service/Digital Engagement
Multichannel customer service is now giving way to omnichannel customer service, and this is a trend that will continue into (and beyond) 2017. The difference between multichannel and omnichannel? In one word: integration.With multichannel operations, customer service exists across platforms – on social, for instance, as well as chat and voice (or the traditional call center). Multichannel service opened up a myriad of additional channels in which to interact with a business.Omnichannel takes multichannel to a whole new level, allowing customers to begin a customer service interaction on one channel and seamlessly shift it (or pick it up later) on a completely different channel. Gone will be the days when a chat interaction was confined strictly to chat. What starts on the web at home can be finished via mobile on the train to work.It’s a change driven by the arrival of new technologies, the millennial population (see #1, above) and their comfort with often complex technologies, distinct platforms and communication tools.
- The Cloud – Up Up and Away
Last year (and earlier), a number of prediction & trends articles pointed to the rise of cloud call center operations. The increase in cloud-based call centers has certainly been growing rapidly. The top benefits of cloud operations are numerous: cost savings, flexibility, efficiency and scalability, for starters. Equally as important, cloud-based systems more effectively open the door to omnichannel (see #3, above) customer service operations.The last several years have seen wide adoption of the cloud for a multitude of corporate operations – from data storage to collaboration to customer interaction. The call center is a natural evolution of the growing comfort the corporate world is experiencing with cloud-based operations and computing.
- Data…and More Data
Data analytics have gone mainstream in recent years, and call centers have embraced it as a tool to direct marketing and retention efforts. Understanding trends – from the broad strokes of a consumer base to the buying or decision-making actions of each individual – allows companies to precisely target their audience….whether it’s baby-boomers as a group or Matt Jones, their customer who prefers HBO over Cinemax.Collecting, analyzing and understanding consumer data gives call center operators a huge advantage: they know fairly precisely what the customer wants, how they want it delivered, and what they’ll typically be willing to pay for it. That’s a marketers dream, and call centers are increasingly embracing it to find, acquire and retain customers.
What do you see as key trends in the contact center industry this year? Feel free to share in the comments.