Cloud and Digital Technologies Give New Shape to Contact Centers

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The telephone still rules the roost in contact centers, but its influence is waning – last year phone interactions fell by 12%. Digital, enabled by cloud and personalization, is now rapidly becoming the core of the contact center user experience, according to the 2016 Global Contact Center Benchmark Report.

Mobile apps are a top three choice for customer service with everyone under 55 years. Despite this drive for digital channels, few contact centers are fully satisfied with their digital solutions and the report highlighted that many contact center companies are redesigning or deploying new technologies to meet these growing needs.

The report said that omnichannel was the top trend for 2016 with integration capability set to
triple from 22.4% to 74.6% in next two years. Andrew McNair, Head of Global Benchmarking at Dimension Data, explained that it is clear from this report that customer experience (CX) is driving the digital channel presence within the contact center. The 2016 report found that 82.5% of organizations recognized CX as a competitive differentiator and 77.5% of boardrooms see CX as their most important strategic performance measure.

The Global Contact Center Benchmark Report is based on responses from 1,320 participants located in 81 countries around the world including Europe, Area Pacific, Australia, Middle East & Africa and the Americas. Individuals within 14 industry sectors provided more than 700 data points focused on six main areas – workforce optimization, contact center operations, technology solutions, customer experience strategy, analytics and digital channels. Collected between September to November 2015, the survey results were validated using standard market research rules as well as a robust data integrity check process.

McNair added: “CX is the basis upon which a company will experience customer retribution or redemption with the contact center acting as the integrated, vital part of a company’s overall CX strategy. When there is a focus on CX, companies increase revenue, improve loyalty and reduce overall costs.”

He explained that CX used to be measurable through the quantifiable terms of cost only. While this aspect remains important today, the companies must look at what drives costs such as productivity, first contact resolution and self-service. “Digital channels have forever changed traditional CX. Companies must have a clear understanding of the customer journey through an omnichannel CX,” McNair said.

Quality Concerns

One of the key concerns around the integration of digital customer experience in contact centers is the issue of quality control and monitoring. The report noted that such channels often suffer from a lack of management and measurement in comparison to traditional telephone interaction.

McNair said: “The lack of monitoring and quality control of the digital channels cannot be tied to one specific reason. Rather, it can be due to a combination of things including confusion of responsibility and ownership of these channels as well as the contact center not being involved in the channel design. Since the digital channels are newer, the same economies of scale (seen on the telephony side) are not seen here.”

By piloting these new channels, companies can have a sense if they need to ramp up or down at certain times while mitigating the risk of costs and resourcing. Additionally, according to McNair, digital channels provide insight to the contact center team on how to best to engage with customers via these channels.

The report found that “IT capabilities are significantly lacking and omnichannel efforts, while hyped, lack integration – only 36 percent can track a customer journey that spans multiple channels.”

CX Check

According to McNair, by connecting CX across contact channels, companies can improve the experience and maximize the business potential of the interaction. Although seven out of 10 of contact centers can track the customer journey, only 36.4% have the ability to do it across the multiple channels and gain the most vital insights for CX improvement. Drilling down even further, only 17.4%of contact centers can point to the blockage points that directly impact CX.

“Companies must thoroughly map the customer journey to understand the potential hotspots where processes can be improved. Tracking customer journeys – especially in real-time – will mitigate concerns before there is a significant impact on the CX,” he said.

No longer a nice-to-have, the report finds that cloud is now considered crucial. Cloud – specifically hybrid cloud – has firmly arrived in the market and it is having a profound impact amongst early adopters. “Cloud is becoming the standard choice for most operators,” McNair said. In fact, 60.5% are currently planning to adopt cloud, with hybrid solutions being the most popular option. For those existing cloud users, there are obvious benefits – 88.8% says that it enables access to new functionality; 83.8% state it reduces cost and 67.1% declare it provides better security.

“We see this number rising as the technology enables flexibility and a single connected customer contact platform – the omnichannel capability,” he added.

Getting Personal

Another top trend in the contact center space is personalization, coupled with analytics. McNair explained that customer analytics and personalization are still new to the majority of contact centers as some do have this capability, but it has not been widely adopted. While 52.1% of respondents agreed analytics will help improve customer journeys, 79.4% stated that they have no big data capability .

“However, there is tremendous potential in translating large data sets into personalized data that will result in connected customer journeys and ultimately transform the business,” he said. “Those organizations that are levering analytics for sentiment contact, content and channel preference insights are experiencing better customer engagement.” Only 34.2% use analytics to
personalize solutions and services, and 23% can provide a customized customer experience based upon analytics.

The report highlighted the need for the “human touch” despite the drive for digital touch points. This links with the notion of personalization. Proactive automation and the Internet of Things were also highlighted as trends to watch in the contact center space.