Call Center Changes Afoot for 2016?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve read several roundup articles of predictions for the call center industry – most of which were written end-of-year in 2015. The predictions largely fell into one of two categories: technical or procedural (though there can be some overlap).

Technical changes have to do with the physical business of call centers: for example, whether agents or supervisors can telecommute, whether the call center is set up to utilize callbacks, or what new technologies or software systems can make possible to improve the customer experience.

Procedural changes – for lack of a better phrase – refer to how the agents actually perform their jobs – the guiding rationale behind their interactions with customers or callers.

Call Centers: Less ‘Necessity’ and More ‘Opportunity’
There has been a slow-motion shift over the last ten years away from ‘call-center-customer-service-as-necessity’ and towards recognition of the role it can play in overall customer relations. The rise of the customer experience will undoubtedly continue the trend towards recognizing the value of the call center front line.

It’s a premise that I – and many others from the call center quality side of the equation – have been pushing for years: customer service isn’t an expense line item or a necessary evil…it should be viewed as a profit-driver. The emergence (and subsequent headlining) of the customer experience is changing the way corporations view call center operations.  A big portion of the shift can likely be attributed to the rise of sales opportunities (for example, up-selling or cross-selling) via the call center.

A Shift Away from Business Siloes?
One commenter on the subject at CallCentreHelper.com reinforced this point, writing that: “Education and training will be at the forefront of the contact centre industry in 2016 as businesses become less siloed” – a reference to the shift in which front line agents are now truly customer-facing sales reps.

Another comment from the same article noted that “agents will be recruited for their soft skills, rather than their technical ability.” This is in-line with that same changing view of agents, and the search for skills that are better-suited to enabling a positive experience for the customer.

On a similar note, I really appreciated the comment “We’ll show our customers more respect.” That should be the top-line mantra for everycompany.  

The Common Denominator: Going Customer-Centric
Other predictions I’ve read across the web all reinforce customer-centric concepts – and much has been written about remodeling corporate cultures to address this. Bottom line – 2016 is not shaping up to be about reeling in expenses. On the contrary: everything seems geared towards reeling in customers…and making them happy customers.

Phrases that keep recurring on the topic of call center predictions all hint at a continued shift in the balance of power towards the customer: emotional engagement, loyalty-building, the customer experience.

All told, it’s a positive sign that customer service organizations are focusing more on building value and good experiences for customers. And as many companies have learned, value for customers translates directly into revenue for companies.

Are there any trends that you see dominating the industry this year?