Mega-Trends Reshaping the Contact Centre Industry
In July this year, I was asked to deliver an opening address at our annual National Contact Centre Conference. This was when I began penning down my thoughts on the mega-trends reshaping the contact centre industry. There were so many thoughts in my mind, so many opinions to share, and perhaps so many heartfelt emotions to put into words. And when you have so much to say, sometimes it all gets mixed up in your head. The opening address was eventually delivered in some structured manner, but soon after that I began writing this article to share my thoughts. In many ways, it serves more as a reminder to myself of what to focus on.
The Contact Centre industry has evolved over the last 20 years and companies have started to realize the importance of adopting advanced technologies so they could better target the customers and consumers with more efficient engagement with the stakeholders. Customer interaction via contact centres has proven to be beneficial for the businesses as it adds value to the business.
Technology has always played an important role in the development and growth of the contact centre industry where the mobile boom, social media, data analytics, and big data centres are making a huge impact in today’s world. Contact centres were not even a recognized industry until the latter half of the 20th century but today, it is considered as the key part of many of the small and big revenue generating businesses.
According to statistics, in 2012, there were more than three million positions approximately, in the contact centre industry of United States accounting for almost five million jobs. Also, the annual growth of the contact centre industry in terms of jobs is 0.5 percent and it accounts for eight to ten million jobs worldwide according to estimation. Closer to home, the contact centre industry in Malaysia comprises of 230 MSC companies, employing 53,544 people, and generates a total revenue USD2.5billion per annum. With the addition of organisations in the BFSI and Telecommunications space, this industry employs all together more than 150,000 people – accounting for 1% of the total working population in Malaysia.
The rise of the call centres in the 1980s and 90s was the shift of terminology from telemarketing to call centres and it became a distinct function for the businesses and organizations in the last two decades of the 20th century.
By the end of the 20th century, the industry started to take off and call centres were being established by organizations of all sizes to address and cater the customer service requests, inquiries about the organization and its services, marketing and other similar areas. Not every company established their own contact service centres as some of the organizations also outsourced it to the already established contact centres whereas some established and ran the centres internally or did a little bit of both for better performance.
In today’s world where the competition is tough and economies are volatile in most part of the world, maintaining and establishing a profitable business is important. That is where contact centres play their role as it delivers and provides a quality customer experience (CX) to the individual customers as per their preferences, needs, and satisfaction. However, the technological advancements in the past have focused only on providing better and better customer service and improving the efficiency of the organizations.
Fast forward 20 years, the pace of change is accelerating, fuelled by technology and changes in customer expectations. The global CX industry is undergoing a major revolution as a result of automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning. With the new cutting-edge technologies, the scope of the contact centres is increased exponentially, and it is more important for the success of the businesses as it was ever before. Contact centres are considered as one of the most technically sophisticated operations, having a wide range of responsibilities and applications, within an organization. These new disruptive technologies are forcing us to re-think the way CX activities operate.
Companies, on one hand, are striving to improve the quality and efficiency of the customer experience by understanding the needs of the customers and, on the other hand, to cut down the costs associated with it. The technological advancements and new trends in the contact centre are revolutionizing the industry with self-service tools, simplifying operational requirements and environment, better online security and protection, the use of Artificial intelligence and deep machine learning, mobility, and big data analytics. These technological advancements have made it possible for the contact centres to provide more value-added services to the businesses and in turn create high-value jobs in the industry.
These are some of the key areas of the contact centre industry where technology is playing a vital role to attract more investments and attention toward the industry.
1. The cloud-based infrastructure of the Contact Service Centres
Cloud-based services have changed the dynamics of the formerly static markets and contact centre industry. The cloud-based communication as a communication strategy in the contact centres has already been adopted by many businesses to take advantage of the seamless and uninterrupted communication with the team and also to collaborate with the other members. It has become a necessity since the remote contact centre agents are steadily increasing which has made cloud-based infrastructure for the contact centres a necessity for the organizations.
The traditional, office-based centres can now take on new locations by contracting workforce and handling growth as per the market and industrial requirements. The cost associated with the hardware and operations can also be reduced.
2. Integrating Artificial Intelligence into Customer Interactions
The use of artificial intelligence in predictive analytics is becoming an important aspect for businesses, especially in contact centres. The use of AI features and applications can help in streamlining the contact centre experience for the agents as well as for the customers. Adopting the AI applications to continue for call routing in the contact centres and other processes can be applied to improve the efficiency and performance.
In addition to this, predictive analytics using artificial intelligence will also make it possible to better understand the customers and their behaviour which would result in better targeting to attract new customers.
3. Self-service and Automation
Self-service is becoming a preferred channel for the better part of the millennials. The web-based selfservices or voice enhancement by the companies using advanced IVAs (Intelligent Virtual Agents) and Bots will be able to provide better and seamless interaction with the customers. The use of advanced tools to automate the processes of the contact centres is most likely to attract a great deal of attention toward the industry as it will enhance the quality of the services provided by the centres.
Automation in the contact centre services such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be adapted to ensure that the customer’s calls and non-voice interactions are being answered promptly, which will also take the simple, repetitive tasks and data inputting off the shoulders of the agents. The productivity of the staff will also be increased across multiple channels.
4. Speech Analytics and Customer Journey Analytics
There has been an increased focus on the customer journey within the organizations so obtaining the more raw data from the phone calls can be utilized to boost and improve the customer experience.
Many research studies have found that the excellent customer experience is the key to retaining customers and to make them spend more – as statistics show that 70% of the customers stay loyal to the companies with better customer service and around 40% of the customers spend more. Therefore, speech analytics has the potential to grow the businesses and customer base which would eventually lead to more revenue generation.
Moreover, the applications of big data analytics in tracking, evaluating, and measuring the sentiments and activities of the customers at every step of their journey allow the companies to understand the customer behaviour, which results in significant improvement in the quality and performance of the contact service centres.
The implementation of this idea in the contact centres is a bit complicated, but there are huge potential and great reward for the organizations that will slowly roll out to integrate these capabilities into the existing systems.
5. Utilizing the Dark Data
The dark data that is usually not used or is hidden across the business processes is considered to be a goldmine of the information and insights into customer behaviour. More attention is required to the dark data as the big data analytics is being used to get useful insights into the data that helps in better engagement with the customers.
Also, the information that is usually provided by anonymous persons can also be utilized by measuring emotions and other aspects to draw useful conclusions. The performance of the contact centres can be increased significantly with the use of Dark Data in a useful way. Having more accurate knowledge of the customer’s whereabouts and activities, they can be contacted at the right time, at the right place and on the right medium to obtain more positive results.
6. Knowledge Management
Google is a prime example of how search-based solutions are more effective and yield positive results. Knowledge management in the contact centre industries has started to emerge as a successful practice to deliver good results and enhance the performance of the systems.
Therefore, building a knowledge management culture where customers can receive search-based queries using Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and less expensive procedures to enable compelling knowledge management solutions provided to the customers.
7. Voice Biometrics/Verification
Security and the protection of sensitive customer data is the biggest concern in today’s world where cybercrimes and identity theft are the most common problems shared by all the organizations.
Contact centres are also exposed to similar threats where security and protection of the customer’s data are important that plays an important role in providing reliable services to the users. Voice biometrics uses the cutting-edge technologies to minimize the risk of leaking information to the fraudsters and imposters.
The traditional processes of customer verification and identification needs to be updated using the advanced technology to provide reliable services to the customers because customers are more inclined toward the businesses that ensure the security and protection of their information.
8. Need for a Human Touch is always important
The importance of personalized touch can never be neglected when it comes to the contact centres because customers are more likely to engage and interact with a human as compared to a machine.
The complexity of the problem and complex transactions cannot be handled by the machines so most of the time a customer with a sensitive complaint or a complex query would naturally want it to be handled by a human by talking to him.
Providing fast and personal service in contact centres is of extreme importance that ensures the success of the organization and creates more value for the businesses as well as for the customers. It is important to make sure that there is enough staff who is skilled enough to cater the customers with a quick and personalized response.
So, What is the Potential & Future Scope of Contact Centre Industry?
Businesses have started to realize the importance of the contact service centres as the technological advancements and increased competition in the market has made customer service centres a necessity for the organizations and the businesses.
From small scale businesses to big corporations, provision of quality customer services is important and contact centres are essential for providing quality customer experience. Technology is playing a central role by making a huge difference in the efficiency and quality of customer interaction. The use of the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, cloud-based systems, knowledge management, biometric techniques, and data-driven approach is helping the contact centre industry grow to optimize the customer experience. Therefore, there is a huge potential in this industry to create value for businesses and organizations.
The increase in the performance of the contact centres and the enhanced quality of the customer experience that can be provided using the state-of-the-art technologies and technological advancements have also made it possible for the contact centres to create high paying jobs in the industry.
The increased productivity and efficiency of the contact centres will also cut down the operational and other costs associated with it that will result in many benefits for the organizations, customers and the contact centres as well.
It takes a great deal of dedication, hard work and commitment to create value in the contact centre industry and managing and maintaining that value is even more challenging. However, technology has now put the industry at leverage which is beneficial for the contact centres. The contact centre industry is predicted to be an integral part of the organizations and business of every scale to survive in the competitive markets.
27 November 2019