One of the most significant shifts in the realm of customer service to occur in the past decade has been the move from the call center to the contact center. Whereas the phone used to be the end-all, be-all of customer support, there are now many channels that consumers can use to reach out to a company for assistance, and businesses eager to keep their clients happy have no choice but to accommodate these preferences.
But that's not the only trend that's having a major impact on how companies approach customer support. Two other developments are now well underway, both of which have major implications for the contact center - specifically, the rise of self-service solutions and the Internet of Things. In light of these trends, it's imperative for companies to ensure their contact centers feature more sophisticated, responsive tools and strategies.
The growing popularity of self-service customer support has led some industry observers to conclude that the contact center's importance is waning. After all, numerous surveys have found that when consumers are able to resolve their problems independently, they are far less likely to reach out to a given company's support team for assistance. People generally prefer the self-service option for any reasonably simple issue.
However, it would be a mistake to presume that this means the contact center will fade into irrelevance. On the contrary, this trend has, in some ways, increased the pressure on contact centers. For one thing, it is worth noting that the idea of self-service is somewhat misleading, as a recent WhaTech article sponsored by Premier Technologies highlighted. The piece pointed to a survey from IntelliReponse which put forth the view that self-service was effectively supplanting the contact center. However, many of the forms of self-service identified in the survey actually required support from contact center agents. These included online screen sharing and click-to-call features. While it's true that both of these options are initiated by the consumer without directly contacting a support agent, they obviously require that interaction at some point. Reports such as this one make it seem like self-service is replacing the contact center, when in fact it is often just a new channel or approach that contact center leaders need to adapt to.
Additionally, the rise of self-service means that when customers do reach out to the company, they are likely to be both dealing with a more complex issue and frustrated by their initial failure to resolve the problem themselves. An under-prepared contact center can easily stumble given this situation, as agents will be expected to deal with more specific, detail-intensive issues.
All of this makes it more important than ever for contact center managers, agents and other personnel to have access to in-depth, up-to-date contact center solutions, including real-time reporting and wallboards and dashboards. These resources are critical because they provide an accurate view of the state of the contact center as a whole, as well as individual agents' performance. Considering the higher degree of difficulty that support personnel will increasingly face, there is a much greater risk of problems spiraling out of control. With extremely visible real-time reporting, contact center staff will be able to recognize problems and respond faster, leading to more satisfied customers.
"There will be 50 billion interconnected devices on the IoT by 2020."
The IoT and customer support
Beyond self-service's growing popularity, contact center leaders must also account for the increasing importance of the IoT, as Telecom Reseller contributor John Cray recently asserted. As the writer noted, the IoT is growing rapidly, with research from Cisco predicting that there will be approximately 50 billion interconnected devices on the IoT by 2020.
Cray explained that, generally speaking, this trend is seen as involving a reduction in human involvement, as the IoT will produce massive amounts of data and insight automatically. However, human involvement will be a high-level necessity for the IoT when it comes to the contact center. As the IoT picks up steam, consumers will have more technical problems and other issues that involve a wider variety of devices. This will make support more complex.
"Currently, your contact center is focused on providing service to customers who own a product or have purchased a subscription from your company," Cray wrote. "How will you respond when your contact center traffic includes support requests for 'things' that are connected to your products and services?"
This will undoubtedly create serious challenges for contact centers in numerous sectors. At the same time, though, companies that are able to navigate this field will gain a significant advantage over their industry rivals. Once again, having the right tools in place - including real-time reporting contact center solutions - will prove invaluable for minimizing the risks associated with more complex customer support issues.