Experts Share Their Top Choice for 2017 Contact Center Technology
Technology is reshaping our lives at a pace beyond anything we’ve previously experienced. New technologies are introduced every year and they are forming our reality in new and exciting ways.
Customer Service is responsible for keeping those technologies working but, at the same time, it is reliant on technology to continue doing so in a scalable and effective way that meets customers’ changing demands.
This leads to an influx of call center technologies flooding our gateway, demanding our resources and calling for our attention. At times it’s difficult to look through the noise and identify what might be a breakthrough solution that will change how we deliver service and support, and what is just noise.
To help you figure out what path to take when investing in the future of customer support, we’ve rounded up nine top experts in Customer Service and asked them each the same question.
The line up:
We intentionally choose a short and eclectic list of thought leaders in the customer service industry. They are customer service icons, up and coming industry analysts, as well as active high level executives.
With IOT around the bend and a growing consumer centric sentiment, brands turn to technology for scalable, personalized and better customer experience solutions.
If you had a limited budget and could introduce only one new disruptive CS technology into your contact center what would that solution be, and why?
So without further a do, here are our experts’ top choices of call center technologies for 2017:
Our industry is going through a transition.
Millennials’ share in consumer spending is growing, which influences how customer service is delivered. The trend towards multi-channels, self-service and chat will continue. With that in mind, if I had to point at a single crucial technology to implement into your service operation for 2017, it would be A.I.
Call it Chatbots, intelligent self service, or whatever you like, but no matter what you need to get your foot in the door and start automating your support processes. Customers are learning how to work with Chatbots and Chatbots are learning and improving by the day.
“You need to get your foot in the door and
start automating your support processes”
Deep learning requires data and by getting A.I. into your contact center today, you will start the process of gathering data, which will lead to better, automated self-service for your business.
If you wait you’ll be left behind.
When working with Chatbots, make sure you do it right. Be aware of Chatbots’ limitations, and make sure the expectations are set right. Chatbots are not ready to replace humans, so you need to assign them the right tasks and find a way to seamlessly transition from Bot to human when necessary.
There is no doubt in my mind that Artificial Intelligence in customer service will continue to grow in 2017.
How hard do marketers work to make contact with the customer? How much money is spent trying to find eyeballs and ears? The answer is a lot! Enter the contact center, the place where customers literally come to us, the brand. The contact center today is largely a missed opportunity where brands try to do more with less; less resources, less technology and less people to help customers.
“This is the end of customers repeating
themselves ten times to the contact center”
If I were to pick one technology to improve that interaction it would be an omnichannel CRM that provides IoT data. The omnichannel CRM provides information to the agent about the customer such as where that customer had been. Examples include the company’s website, forums, twitter, the call center, interacting with a Facebook chabot or the actual store.
IoT products can also provide real-time information to the agent so the agent has more insight into the customer’s current situation. The agent is one step ahead of the customer at all times, which will empower the contact center. This is the end of customers repeating themselves ten times to the contact center.
There are several innovative Contact Center technologies I’d like to make happen in 2017, but if I had to choose one it would have to be video chat. So much about customer service is establishing quick credibility with the client. This is hard enough to do in such a short amount of time, but infinitely harder when we pull away the primary way people communicate: through nonverbal cues.
“So much about customer service is
establishing quick credibility with the client”
Giving agents the ability to show their true self would make it simple to communicate with authenticity and develop the type of meaningful relationships we strive for with our customers.
Recently many barriers such as expensive hardware and limited bandwidth have been removed, finally bringing this channel into reach for contact centers large and small. This probably will not happen for us yet in the span of 2017, however I do think we will see an industry trend move in this direction for companies wanting to provide an exceptional customer experience.
As a tech strategist and consultant I am constantly bombarded with new tech solutions. Most of them are just another technology “in search of” a customer or user. Real effective solutions, must solve real-world problems but also have real ROI benefits.
Running a contact center is a complex task. Having been a consultant to global companies who routes calls to multiple contact centers across five continents, as well as that “tax” department we don’t ever want to call, here are some key findings.
“2017 is going to be the year to introduce
Live Visual solutions to your call center”
Labor, real management, agent training and associated HR costs will always be the highest cost of any center. Automating tasks is a great idea but it’s still evolving. In 2017 it still won’t make a real dent in customer service and tech support. Additionally, voice recognition is nice but rarely works all the time and, frankly often makes the customer more upset than they already are.
2017 is going to be the year to introduce Live Visual solutions to your call center. It is a ripe technology with an existing consumer infrastructure (2.5 billion camera equipped smartphones and counting) and has a real ROI model.
Simple video chat can be utilized for better customer engagement, while evolved Augmented Reality solutions will help get customers painlessly and quickly through tech support. Either way, adding live video capabilities to call centers should be on every customer service and contact center executives’ list.
I believe that as an industry we are the way we view things. Breaking things down into channels is the reason behind why our companies have siloes. We tend to compartmentalize things into extremes. Rather than seeing the world as techno-color, we view it in batches of primary colors. Customer engagement with brands is not divided out into customer care and customer experience but is one, unified interaction that should be viewed as always-on.
“Contact centers must begin to migrate
portions of their technology to the cloud”
Offering customers a vehicle to engage, transact, and use to address problems at will is a powerful differentiator that allows companies to transcend the offline/online world, while remaining in the conscience of customers in the most state-of-the-art yet customer-determined way imaginable.
That is why contact centers must begin to migrate portions of their technology to the cloud or to solutions that can be integrated with the new generation of cloud based APIs. When this happens, technology becomes much more flexible and accessible. It can then be moved around with ease, while agents and customers are accessing every aspect of it from anywhere. This will then offer customers new communication options and give front-line employees the tools that will help them provide better resolutions and improve customer satisfaction.
In order to do this efficiently, contact centers must invest the time it takes to understand the vendor community, upcoming technology and the tools that are already available to our marketplace.
Companies have improved self-service portals, so that their customers can now find solutions to many common problems. At the same time, companies have begun moving from a multichannel approach to a omnichannel approach in order to ensure the customer has a seamless experience across every platform.
This means that if a customer still needs to call a contact center their issue must be complicated. With that in mind, I would recommend investing in a software that allows agents to type in a few keywords from the customer, which will then generate strings of similar queries from all channels–with the solution that worked best appearing at the top.
“If a customer still needs to call a contact center
their issue must be complicated”
It is a given that contact centers already have built a CRM database to identify their customers and track past history. So, coupled with the existing CRM system that would identify if the customer had contacted the center previously, the agent could end the call with a comment like, “I see you called us before asking about [issue]. How did our solution work for you?”
If necessary the agent could repeat the process to see if there has been an update. By personalizing the experience, the customer’s last impression is not negative because they had to call about an issue. Instead his impression is positive because not only was his current critical problem resolved, but he also will feel that the company cared about his satisfaction on past incidents.
Each year, it seems we face new and different challenges to keep our companies running smoothly, while consistently delivering both on the expectations of customers and shareholders. Call centers must also adapt to new technology advances while ensuring that they are recruiting top talent in a dramatically-changing job market. Many times, they are caught in a tug-of-war between improving the top line and reducing the middle line.
Call centers shaping their strategies for 2017 and beyond should begin by allowing for mobile messaging engagement. It’s about meeting the customer in the place where they are and want to do business. Messaging is the most common cell phone activity, outpacing telephony, according to the Pew Research Center. It is the fastest growing communication channel in history. Therefore, it’s essential that customer service departments incorporate it into their game plan.
“It’s about meeting the customer in the place
where they are and want to do business”
Within this channel we’re going to see some breakthrough technology that really disrupts the customer service experience. Human agents and Chatbots will work in unison to deliver lightning fast and seamless experiences for customers. In this context, agents can be better utilized by letting them process higher-touch, more complex customer issues. In the meantime, automated Chatbots resolve those repetitive, low-level issues that can slow down the customer service process.
The call center space is long overdue for a major transformation – some estimates are that as much as 40 percent of customer care/call center seats will be automated out of existence in the next five years. Change is on the line, and it won’t be put on hold.
On a limited budget, the most bang for your buck can be attained from adding Speech Analytics into a Contact Center’s tech stack. For the cost of the software, it gives you the capability to scrape every customer interaction for insights and gain awareness of trends that may not be uncovered by the limited scope of a QA team.
Even a large QA team can only sample a small portion of your customer interactions, and chances are high that potentially valuable insight is being left on the table. That large QA team will come at a considerable staffing cost, that only scales up as size increases. With Speech Analytics software, the initial investment can ensure that 100% of your interactions are analyzed and scraped for potential business insight.
“Even a single customer interaction has the potential to uncover
an internal inefficiency or major service issue”
The implications can be huge, as even a single customer interaction has the potential to uncover an internal inefficiency or service issue. This technology is no longer in its infancy, yet many companies have failed to realize its potential, meaning it can give you a major leg up on your competition.
The main challenge contact centers will continue to face through 2017 is delivering better customer experiences for less. As we all know, today’s consumers are demanding, and nowhere is their patience shorter than when dealing with your call center. Yet, hold time is one problem that is quite easy to fix using innovative technologies known as cloud-based call-backs.
The basic idea of call-backs (aka “virtual queuing”) has been part of the call center world for decades. Traditionally these solutions were quite difficult and costly to deploy but today, adding call-backs no longer requires expensive, equipment-based solutions, and can be easily added via a cloud-based service that works on top of legacy call center platforms.
”The main challenge contact centers will continue to face through 2017 is
delivering better customer experiences for less”
For example, if your business offers self-service tools on web and mobile, cloud call-backs can be added to your existing technology, allowing customers to escalate smoothly to a voice conversation from any other channel if they hit a roadblock. This significantly impacts the customer experience without spending extra time or money on development.
When looking for ways to reduce cost, boost agent morale and enhance the customer experience in 2017, call-backs are one of the few contact center technologies that are truly win-win.
It’s been a fascinating process for us to interact with our world class experts, listen to their insights and put it all together for this article.
As you can see, different people have different priorities and perspectives. The technologies they mentioned were diverse, from Live Video and Augmented reality solutions to evolved CRM systems, Multichannel technologies and Bots.
Most of our experts seem to agree that the underlying issues that need to be addressed in customer service are improving the customer’s overall experience, being more approachable and coordinated across more channels and improving self service as a way to the future.
How to do so depends on your product and the specific service that’s most important to your customers. Look at the weakest link in your customer service, find the best technology to strengthen it and have a stellar service year for 2017.