What will the contact centre of the future look like? It’s a question that I will be exploring in three blogs over the next couple of weeks.
Nobody can actually predict the future, but we can see changes in the industry that, when extrapolated, do lead us to quite a different environment to what we are familiar with today.
Multichannel customer service, social media interactions with customers, and the increased complexity of customer interactions mean that the contact centre of the future is more likely to be run by a specialist customer service company than being an internal function within a brand that needs to interact with customers.
But this increased complexity changes a number of areas within the contact centre itself, often in ways that are not immediately obvious and regardless of whether it is outsourced or not.
The traditional approach to a customer query would be for the customer to call the contact centre where an agent would deal with the query. The generalists on the front line would do their best to handle the issue, but would direct the caller to a more specialised agent if the problem were too complex.
This process works fairly well when customers all come into the system using a uniform point of entry, they are funnelled towards the expertise. But in the present day we are already seeing a change in how enquiries are routed because there are now two requirements from an agent:
- Know the product that is being supported.
- Know the channel that is being used to contact the brand, so responses can take place within the same channel.
So in the present day environment it’s no good directing an enquiry from Twitter to the best product expert on the team if they are only familiar with Facebook and voice as support channels. There is a new dimension of complexity in how the routing must take place.
Taking this multi-dimensional support structure forward leads us to the conclusion that contact centres will become increasingly virtual in time; with the requirement being to spread support experts across a number of contact channels and also a number of time zones it becomes less desirable to collect the entire team together in one place.
What will become really important is the intelligence of the routing algorithms so that the person supporting the required channel with the right expertise can be found quickly and without the need for bouncing the customer around inside the support network.
If finding the right person quickly becomes one of the key issues driving contact centre performance then it is likely that the right people will be more distributed – agents more often working from home with a control centre ensuring enough people are available to cover the required product knowledge and channels.
Agents working from home has been presented in the past as a more flexible way of working that also has business continuity planning advantages – you never have all your eggs in the same basket – but I believe that it may soon become normal out of necessity.
In the next article, I will explore how the increasing complexity of multichannel support is increasing the calibre and profile of the agents in contact centres.
Photo by Jesus CM licensed under Creative Commons