By Donna Fluss
As the economy continues to improve in the US and around the world, 2014 is looking to be a good year for technology investments that are supported by a solid business case and have quantifiable benefits with a rapid payback of one year or less. Enterprises and government agencies are expected to make investments to improve the customer or constituent experience. These investments will address the core infrastructure of contact centers and customer service organizations, many of which have not been updated in more than ten years. Other investments will be management applications and analytics to help organizations make the most of every customer contact.
Investments will be driven by eight top contact center and servicing trends for 2014. These trends are:
1) Improving customer service: For years, executives have discussed the importance of delivering a great experience, but they have been unwilling to make the investments necessary to achieve this goal. But change is finally starting to happen. It may be because of the speed at which a small issue can go viral, or perhaps it’s due to a growing appreciation that customer service is becoming the primary differentiator in a world of highly commoditized products and services.
2) Improving the customer journey: For the first time, organizations now have tools to measure every touch and action taken by prospects and customers, from the time they first access information about a company online to when they retire the use of a product.
3) Resolving inquires during the initial contact: Organizations have been talking about “one and done,” or first contact resolution (FCR), for as long as call centers have existed. But now organizations are going proactive, realizing that the shortest route and best way to resolve an issue is to try to address everything a caller might need to know, not just what they are asking. Companies are striving to provide answers to anticipated issues in order to deliver an outstanding customer experience.
4) Reducing operating costs: Contact centers and customer service departments require staff, and people are expensive. Executives are more motivated than at any time in the past to deliver an outstanding customer experience, but the winning investments will be those that improve service while reducing operating expenses.
5) Complying with regulatory requirements: Whether it’s the new Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) regulations or other Do Not Call (DNC) requirements in the US and many other countries, governments are introducing laws to protect their citizens from bad business practices.
6) Avoiding social media firestorms: Companies are investing in social media to avoid bad public relations. Never in the history of business has there been a tool like social media that can affect the bottom line and stock price of a company due to the public airing of consumer opinions.
7) Retaining customers: This is a top goal in tough economic times, but it is still important when people are more freely spending money. It is always more expensive to acquire customers than to retain existing ones.
8) Increasing sales and collections: Companies are in business to make money. Inside and outside sales teams need to pick up the pace of sales. Collections departments need to follow best practices to increase their contribution to the bottom line. And executives want their contact centers to pick up the slack and become major players in generating revenue.
Many of these goals are similar to those in prior years; however, the priorities have changed, and there are new twists enabled by a more open, creative, and flexible view of the role of contact centers and service organizations.
The top technology and application areas of investment for 2014–2015 will be:
- Unified communications contact center solutions
- Customer relationship management, servicing, and sales applications, including desktop analytics
- Speech analytics and analytics-enabled quality assurance
- Real-time guidance and next-best actions
- Workforce management, including intra-day management
- Social media applications to improve the effectiveness, timeliness, and quality of these interactions
- Performance management to improve the management of front- and back-office operating areas
- Back-office applications for work allocation and workforce management
- Big data and proactive analytics to support all of these initiatives
A lot is going to change during the next few years, including the contributions and perception of contact centers. Now is the time to start making these changes.
Donna Fluss is the founder of DMG, a vendor-independent research and consulting firm that analyzes contact center and back-office technology and best practices. DMG uses this information to help enterprise and contact center leaders build their servicing strategies and select the right solutions for their environments. Contact Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[From Connection Magazine – Mar/Apr 2014]