The Contact Center of the Future in the Distributed Workforce Era
As customer service leaders envision the contact center of the future, a key question is whether agents will need to come in to work at all. After all, the costs of operating a physical contact center are immense, and the challenges of training, motivating and retaining staff remain major pain points for all B2C organizations. As more companies embrace the possibilities offered by cloud-based infrastructure, the pros of employing a distributed workforce are now beginning to outweigh the cons.
Everybody Understands the Cloud!
A growing number of organizations are looking to the heavens – or the cloud, to be precise – for answers. By migrating their legacy infrastructures to the cloud, and by shifting to remotely based workforces, enterprises are now able to make huge cost savings while enhancing both agent productivity and customer service quality.
Over the next few years, existing contact center solutions will give way to more flexible approaches that meet the demands of an increasingly mobile workforce, enabling managers to solve the ever-growing problem of agent attrition. Companies will also be to scale up and down more effectively to meet seasonal demand. In fact, the global Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) market is projected to expand to USD 24.11 billion by 2023, up from USD 6.47 billion two years ago, representing a CAGR of 25%.
Cracking the KPI Conundrum
Many of us dream of becoming digital nomads. What could be better than working remotely from a beachside café? Giving contact center agents the freedom to work remotely might ring alarm bells for some. But the rise of gig economy also holds the promise of a more intelligent approach to productivity. When agents are effectively freelancers, their pay can be tied directly to performance. Companies will be able to pay only the most motivated people who deliver tangible results. KPIs such as First Contact Resolution (FCR) will therefore grow in importance, while AHT, closely associated with the operational costs of physical contact centers, will likely become less significant.
Supporting Distributed Workforces
It’s vital to keep sight of the fact that agents need backup, from both peers and superiors. Team-based service models are growing in popularity, enabling a more holistic approach to customer care, and the ‘free agent’ of the near future will need to rely on constant support from colleagues, as well as ‘always on’ digital resources and agent decision support tools that cover the widest possible ranges of devices and customer issues.
This needn’t represent an insurmountable challenge in a globalized world where outsourced contact centers have been a fact of life for over twenty years. Think about your own office. You probably speak directly to the colleagues at your own desk cluster, but if you want advice from your friend in R&D or the guy in HR, you’ll almost certainly ping them.
Now picture the traditional contact center. What’s the first thing you imagine? Cubicles, right? Agents might as well be on the other side of the world from each other. In other words, physical proximity is largely meaningless on a hyper-connected planet. When robust communication channels – ideally video-based – exist, distance is no object. Constant communication and collaboration between agents to address emerging customer experience issues delivers both better service and enhanced employee experience.
Fewer Calls, Superior Skills
As AI becomes more firmly entrenched in the contact center of the future, there will be a profound change in the types of tasks handled by agents. Chatbot designers naturally focus on automating the simple, repetitive tasks that make up around 60% of all customer queries. Live agents will therefore increasingly focus on the toughest nuts to crack. The customer service and experience issues that require in-depth product expertise and the highest levels of patience and empathy are those which companies will be happy to pay specialists – multiskilled Subject Matter Experts – to handle.
Of course, the contact center of the future will need an arsenal of cutting-edge technological weapons, especially visual desktop tools that enable direct, intuitive communication with customers. For example, Customer Service is rapidly emerging as the killer app for Computer Vision AI, enabling contact centers to save fortunes by recognizing devices and issues in order to route calls to the most appropriate agents or to self-service channels.
This creates another major opportunity for cost savings. Emerging software consumption models reject the perpetual licensing model in favor of seat-subscription-based or usage-based licensing. Cloud-based architecture effectively provides access to contact center software on a per-hour, per-agent cost basis. This enables contact center managers to continually measure the usefulness and the ROI of each tool. This approach also frees up the contact center from the endless refresh cycle. Contact center decision makers need the agility to react to rapidly changing business priorities and a flexible application ecosystem methodology is the key to staying ahead of the game.
Summary: The Rise of the Superagent
While full self-service remains the ultimate goal of enterprises in multiple sectors, there will always be a need for the human touch. Some customers simply prefer it, and as the IoT continues to develop, companies will need to deal with complex emerging issues related to device interoperability that bots are simply not trained to deal with. That’s why the contact center of the future is likely to be virtual – a cloud-based operation staffed by the finest talent on the planet.