Blog summary: As customer demands grow, how will contact centers shift to continue delivering exceptional omnichannel customer service?
- There is no customer blueprint that covers the uniquities that more successful, personalized interactions demand.
- In order to manage customer expectations and transient teams, the gravitation toward cloud technology is no longer just a matter of what’s trending, it’s a matter of what’s necessary.
- Customers might respond to a Tweet or comment on an Instagram picture with an order issue — treat those communications with the same care as they would a more traditional phone call.
Ever since companies and commerce have existed, so has customer service. Before there were multimedia advertising campaigns and a multitude of channels where customers interacted with companies, there was still the unshakeable truth that the customer experience impacts business, for better or worse. While back then, word might have traveled peer to peer, nowadays reputation is solidified worldwide, with customer experiences broadcast on the Internet or feedback shared during calls or in online chats.
While the importance of customer service hasn’t wavered, the way organizations approach it has certainly evolved. The creation of contact centers has made it easier for companies to stay ahead of customer needs, and for customers to get what they expect from every service or purchase. And while contact centers today have come a long way in the past couple of years leaders in the space recognize they are still ever-evolving.Looking ahead to what’s next, here are some of the biggest trends being considered by contact center leadership today.
1) A more human-centric approach
Contact centers should, in theory, make lives easier. For companies and agents, they offer a more streamlined way to connect to the next sale and organize and enhance the customer experience. For customers, they mean effortless access to support when necessary and open-ended communication. However, in the consumer world, contact centers can often times still have a negative connotation –– associated with the extraordinary effort, frustration and inconvenience.
To combat that, and deliver a truly delightful and helpful customer experience, contact centers are trending more human-centric than ever before. What that means is that more and more contact centers are being designed in a way that puts the human experience first This means using modern contact center technology, such as omnichannel capabilities, integrations with CRMs, data analytics, coaching and more to elevate every engagement with careful consideration for both the agents and customers involved. How can the contact center work to make their jobs –– or lives –– easier? Technology is critical in streamlining processes, but leadership is discovering that when humans connect with humans –– invaluable connections are made, customers feel most heard, and agents are most successful in getting a customer question or issue resolved quickly and deals closed.
2) More personalized customer profiles
No two customers are the same, and as companies have learned over the years, no two customer experiences should be, either. In fact, 87% of organizations agree traditional experiences no longer satisfy customers. While contact center technology can certainly help create efficiencies, ensure that agents’ time is used wisely, and empower companies to make more connections with customers, at the end of the day…as demonstrated in the above trend, the most powerful connections are human connections. And most human connections are personal connections.
That’s why, looking forward, contact centers are getting real about the fact that customers can’t be generalized. There is no customer blueprint that covers the uniquities that the most successful, personalized interactions now demand. With that in mind, a forward-thinking contact center is to better utilize all of the customer data available to provide agents with a bird’s eye view of who each individual customer is and their history with the organization including purchasing and engagement history –– during and prior to each interaction. By defining each customer more concretely, along with their interaction journey, companies are able to deliver hyper-personalization that isn’t just piecemealed information working on the fly and a more wholesome understanding of who the customer at hand is –– and how they can best be served..
3) More agents in more places
From the outside looking in, with contact centers adapting more and more technology, it might appear that teams are shrinking. However, those in the contact center industry know otherwise.. In fact, the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) reports that customer service jobs have been on the rise for the past six years, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that growth will keep on coming, forecasting a 5% upwards trend over the next 10 years.
As improved contact centers add efficiencies, raise the bar of the customer experience, and smooth out and shorten the selling process, companies are finding greater success. while aided by technology, that success is still human-centric, driven by teams of informed, efficient agents and admins.As more success becomes viable, teams naturally grow. The difference between adding agents now vs. 10 years ago is that now,and looking forward, it’s no longer typical for contact center teams to be confined to one city, let alone one country. Teams are spread out, and it’s not uncommon for agents to be working remotely.
A team structure without borders provides opportunities, such as broadening the available talent pool to ensure the right hires aren’t regionally restricted, but can also leave companies with a new set of technology challenges. In order to manage customer expectations and transient teams, the gravitation toward cloud technology is no longer just a matter of what’s trending, it’s a matter of what’s necessary. Contact centers need a complete, all-in-one customer service solution that can keep up with a multitude of moving parts and a talent pool that is spread over multiple geographic locations worldwide.
4) Deeper analytics
Leading the customer journey has never been easy –– but it is getting easier. Teams today no longer need to rely solely on supervisor leadership or a trial-and-error style approach to make the most of customer interactions. Finally, the technology present in contact centers is making use of all of the data points from every customer call, every online chat, and every text and email chain to allow contact center teams to use real-time knowledge to evolve and refine the way they approach customer engagements.
The analytics available today range in complexity and type, varying to include everything from the stress level detected in a customer’s voice to associating the various touch points a customer has with the company as part of a single customer journey. By having deeper dives of data readily available during any customer contact, contact centers are only becoming better equipped to predict customer needs, seasonal and time of day trends, scheduling, and more to to exceed customer expectations.
5) Expanding and uniting the omnichannel experience
It’s been a long time since customer calls were the sole source of company-customer engagements. To meet modern customer expectations and keep up with today’s customer demands, the contact centers of the future must support customer engagements on any channel. Consumers might call in once on one channel, and then continue the conversation, switch topics, or offer relevant feedback and valuable insights on an entirely different channel.
For example, while years ago it was enough to have some sort of social media presence, today, social media is often a two-way conversation. Customer Contact Week reports that the average contact center offers nine channel options, but not all contact centers offer full-service support on social media. Customers might respond to a Tweet or comment on an Instagram picture with an order issue…and companies need to be ready to treat those communications with the same care as they would a more traditional phone call.
With the future in mind, contact centers should be working toward a more inclusive omnichannel experience that takes a holistic approach to customer engagements and attempts to ensure that no matter which channel customers are engaging on, the company knows who they are every time.
Key considerations for contact center leaders
The way customers interact with companies is always changing, and your contact center strategy should be shifting, too. Looking ahead, how do you envision your team creating more value for customers? What can you do to embrace the trends? When prepping your contact center for the future of customer service, consider the above trends and the following questions:
- How can your contact center combine cutting-edge technology with a relatable, human-centric approach?
- Are you leveraging analytics to improve how agents work and deliver your best customer experience?
- How are you ensuring that customer needs are being met across all channels and that no matter the channel, the customer experience is the same?
Want to learn more about managing customer expectations? Discover RingCentral’s contact center solutions.
Originally published Aug 12, 2019, updated Jan 30, 2023