Multiple channel interactions, technology innovations and increasing preference for self service is bringing about massive changes in the way contact centers work.
The contact center outsourcing industry continues to witness some major transformations. A turbulent economy, rising customer expectations and changing modes of customer interactions are swiftly redefining contact center activities. Customer service is being increasingly seen as one of the major competitive differentiators for enterprises, as there is not much scope in other areas.
Interactions have grown beyond the traditional phone calls. Customers are interacting in different ways and through different channels like email, chat and social media sites, like never before.
Cost reduction remains one of the primary objectives as a result of budgetary pressures. Enterprises are attempting numerous ways to reduce their cost of servicing, at the same time not compromising on the quality. A higher percentage of technology automation is thus being enabled with the objective of cost savings and improved customer service.
How far will automation go? Though automated technologies will continue to find their way, where ever possible, this will depend on the complexity of transactions involved and is not expected to replace human interactions completely. Experts and service providers have similar views on this. Sitel foresees humanization of technology to be an important change. The idea behind the approach is to discover ways to reduce expenses through technology without sacrificing the human touch.
Multiple Channel Interactions and Self Service
Today customers are interacting through multiple channels and are smart enough to decide where, how and when do they want to interact. In case of a problem, they are more likely to look for solutions on their own before they make a call. This poses a big challenge for enterprises to be there where all the customer is and interact in a way the customer is interacting. Service providers that can enable their clients to interact and engage with customers on multiple channels will clearly have an edge. Significant investments are thus being made into channels like email, chat and Web-based interactions.
Self service is being encouraged more through technology enablement. The benefit here lies in being able to lower call volumes and be able to take up more customer service. It can significantly cut down the amount of time that customers need to spend waiting in queues finding answer to their queries.
Web engagement is going to be a major part of customer care strategies. Engaging customers once they are on the web either through self service or through assisted service will be very important. Web retention and web conversion are two major opportunity areas.
Manish Dugar, Senior VP & Global Head, Wipro BPO, says ”Multiple channel communication will be a major trend. Players who can bring technology to combine all mediums of communication to offer an optimum communication medium strategy will stand out.”
The Power of Social Media
Social media interactions are happening in a big way. More companies are thus waking up to the benefits that a social media strategy can bring about and the impact it can have on the overall customer service. Customers are increasingly turning to social media sites and other online forums to find answers to their queries and even to vent out their anger when things go wrong. It is important for enterprises to be a part of these interactions to understand and control what is being said about them and use it to their advantage. Andrew Kokes, Vice President, Global Product Management, Sitel, commented in a previous interaction, “Here is the reality all companies must face, social media interactions are going to happen with or without you.
Social media strategies in contact centers is still in the early stages of adoption. United States has been an early adopter and other areas are also gradually gaining momentum.
Andrew Kokes, Vice President, Global Product Management, Sitel, says, “What we get out of our social media activities is an additional layer of value add capability that enables us to build better relationships with people. The major challenge here is lack of awareness. But we do see increased adoption in the coming years.”
Increased Technology Automation and Cloud Adoption
More enterprises will move to the cloud and adoption rates are likely to go up significantly. Vijay Narsapur, Strategic Business Practice Head, Customer Service, Infosys BPO, reveals in another interaction on automation. “Lot of contact centers will be moving to the cloud-both hardware and software. CRM software is already going to the cloud” he says.
Experts have a unanimous view on this. Technology automation is leading to major transformations and will continue to do so in the coming years. During an interaction on technology automation in contact centers, Subramanium C, CTO, Hinduja Global Services, reveals, “Lot of new technologies are being enabled. The IVR is slowly being replaced by ASR. TTS is another area that is seeing more adoption. These are technologies that are being enabled to see that volumes are lowered so that automation kicks in for end clients to take more service.”
Enterprises will take the road to technology automation in order to cut down costs and and be able to offer better customer service. Significant amount of technology investments are being made across different channels of communications. Cloud-based BPO services are finding their place in the industry, though its difficult to say at this point that how much time it will take to completely evolve. Keshav R. Murugesh, Group CEO, WNS, says, “Cloud-based BPO services are taking longer to take off than expected. The outsourcing market is getting more diversified and the trend will get stronger as we move into 2012. The Cloud holds huge potential for the BPO industry and leading providers like WNS are building strong Cloud-based platforms. We will definitely see some momentum on BPaaS offerings on the Cloud by end-2012.”
Deepankar Khiwani, Vice President, Continental Europe Application Services, Capgemini India, says, “New revenue streams like Cloud will gain popularity. Business driven projects towards customer experience, business intelligence, etc are examples of customers spending to adopt technology evolution to keep up competitive differentiation at services level.
Analytics-How You Make Use of Data
How you manage data is going to have a very crucial role to play in understanding customer behavior and making right decisions at the right point of time. Customer interactions across different mediums offer a huge pool of useful information. Integrating the scattered pieces of information and using it in the right way through analytic solutions can help enterprises in improving overall performance and cutting down costs. This is thus an area that is going to gain more prominence in the coming year.
A recent example is Avaya that has added speech analytics capabilities with the acquisition of Aurix, a global provider of speech analytics and audio data mining technology. Brett Shockley, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development, Strategy and Innovation, Avaya, commented in one of its press releases, “The value of document search engines is widely understood. There is another dimension of data that is largely untapped,and that is the information exchanged through spoken interactions.”
What Lies Ahead?
Multiple channel interactions and technology innovations will continue to influence contact centers in 2012. According to Amit Singh, Avasant, “Technology disruptions will be the biggest trend to watch out for in the coming year.” Enterprises that are able to make customer interactions simple, serve on multiple channels, imbibe new technologies and bring out flexible offerings will clearly stand out.