In a world where consumers are connected to the Internet, and each other, on a permanent basis, expectations on customer support are fundamentally changing.
In this always-on economy, emerging generations of digital natives require instant attendance and resolution of their issues. We even see this expectation of instant support shifting towards an economy where consumers expect faster interactions, and proactive support.
We firmly believe that contact centers are at a pivotal moment in time, with great new opportunities to reshape our industry where serendipitous support replaces traditional support methods, and offer opportunities to turn the contact center into a profit center.
Contact centers in 2025 are uniquely positioned to become intelligence and profiling centers that are able to better anticipate when consumers will require assistance and will deploy a blend of robotic and human agents that are able to concierge consumers in such a transparent and proactive manner that, services are perceived as if we are an extension to his, or her, digital journey. And his life.
In this series of weekly blog posts, we will provide a detailed market analysis on the different facets of the future of the contact center
- Part 1: The emperor’s new clothes: changing consumers and their expectations
- Part 2: Operating models (September 8th)
- Part 3: Technological enablers (September 15th)
- Part 4: A roadmap for contact center automation (September 22nd)
- Part 5: From contact center to experience center (September 29nd)
The emperor’s new clothes, changing consumers and their expectations
With every generation embracing new technologies, consumer behavior changes radically, as does the way companies reach and interact with their users. With every new generation, their preferences, expectations and demands change. Understanding the consumer in this world of rapidly evolving technologies is a key element into formulating a mature strategy for the future of contact centers. To better understand the future, we must first clearly analyze historical trends, understand them and then extrapolate them to their logical conclusion.
A real-time world through mobile
Smartphones are no longer merely a device for answering calls or texting friends, but have become a remote control to the world by billions of people worldwide. With over 6,1 billion mobile users in 2016, and an expected growth of up to 6,9 mobile users we are nearing the inflection point where a global community is connected through their mobile devices.
One psychological effect in particular has emerged through this massive proliferation of smartphones and apps. As consumers expect the world to be instantaneously responsive to their needs, their threshold for waiting decreases.
Example: John walks out of the meeting room. Google Now has warned him of traffic buildup, so he better gets moving to get home for that last Skype call. While running to the elevator, he hails an Uber and quickly gets on Slack to ask his colleague to send the latest slide deck to the investor. While John is on his way, he orders his food on Deliveroo so he can have dinner by the time he gets home.
The psychological trigger of instant gratification has brought forward an impatient generation accustomed to real-time interactions and updates from retailers, banks, insurance companies, taxis, restaurants, and the world in general.
Consumer don’t want to wait in call queues, or even have to look for a telephone number. New support channels like chat are paramount to making customer interactions instantaneous.
A world of proximity through social networks
Social networks have brought forward new ways how people interact with each other and brands.
Example: Christie has an accident. She bumped into the car in front of her. Minor damage, but she is unsure if it is covered by her insurance company. She opens a Facebook Messenger chat with her insurance company, snaps a picture of the damage and in a few seconds, and it seems the damage is covered by her premium. Moreover, an appointment is made automatically at the nearest car repair shop to her home.
An unprecedented proximity between consumer and brands has been created through social networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and many more. Where once a brand was only reachable through postal mail, outlets or contact centers, brands are now available in one to one communications on social channels.
This trend has not only opened extraordinary opportunities in advertising but also brought forward new ways of directly interacting with consumers, and delivering delightful experiences through chat or social media channels. Obviously, this trend also brought new challenges for companies, as building brand image and awareness is a more decentralized effort than ever before, requiring brands to actively monitor and quickly act on the interactions in the network. The ability to properly scan, profile and engage becomes ever more instrumental.
A connected world through ubiquitous computing
Where computing once happened on desktop computers and laptops, computing and interacting is happening everywhere. From your wrist to your home, with the advent of Internet-Of-Things (“IOT”), our lives are increasingly becoming connected, through smart watches, connected cars, connect homes, and much more.
A significant trend can be witnessed, in which future generations live in a world where everything will be connected, and anything can be a touch point or channel for interaction with a brand, whether through touch, gesture, voice or typing.
This era of ubiquitous computing is earmarked by connected devices that are built to pervasively listen to our needs, and are in a first phase voice driven. Companies, such as Google, Amazon, Apple, … have begun the battle for your home by releasing devices that respond to your voice commands.
Example: Mike is watching Netflix. All of the sudden, the image freezes. It seems there is a problem. Mike yells “Alexa! What the heck is wrong with Netflix??”. After a few seconds, Alexa responds “Hi Mike. It seems as if Netflix is fine, but you forgot to pay your cable provider, so they put you on small band. Do you want me to pay your subscription and fix this for you?”. Mike, obviously embarrassed, gives the go ahead to Alexa, and after a few moments he hears Alexa confirm “Hi Mike. I just paid your subscription. Hang on a few minutes, and you should be good to go again.”
Already, Amazon has shipped millions of Alexa devices and has processed more than 100 million of purchases made by consumers ordering items and asking questions by simply talking to the device. Conversational management interfaces make it easy to repurpose already developed support flows and deploy them on smart speakers as a first line of customer help.
Going from an omnichannel to the “right channel” experience
In a rapidly evolving customer experience management landscape, organizations are focusing to reinvent their contact center strategy to meet with ever growing customer expectations of the omnichannel experience. Now, more than ever, consumers are spread over a variety of channels, often even changing channels multiple times in a matter of minutes.
Being able to be where the consumer is active, while capturing content and context across its active channels, will be a key factor in profiling the user and making sure when a contact center engages with a consumer in an outbound campaign, the right channel at the right moment is used.
This level of targeting is only possible when profiling and personalization technologies are used, and integrated as a blend within the overall contact center, sales, and marketing endeavors of an organization.
Delivering unified experiences
From a strategic standpoint, the contact center must concern itself as intently with digital channels as it does the traditional voice channel. Just as the “call center” of old would aim to create a consistent experience from agent to agent, the modern-day engagement center must create a consistent experience from channel to channel.
The mechanics of the interaction may differ – social customer care is obviously different from mobile self-service, which is obviously different from live voice – but the fundamental experience absolutely cannot. The customer anticipates the same commitment to personalization, proactivity, and resolve wherever he is interacting, and it is the job of a unified contact center to meet that expectation.
From a technology standpoint, the omnichannel revolution further underscores the importance of a unified customer experience platform. As the lifeblood of the omnichannel contact center, this platform must handle all interaction types and seamlessly connect all channels.
In a world where humans are 24/7 connected to the Internet, serendipitous support will replace traditional support methods.
Contact centers of the future will be intelligence and profiling centers that have technological capabilities to anticipate when consumers will require assistance, and will have a blend of robotic and human agents that are able to help that consumer in such a transparent manner, the consumer will feel as if the support agent is an extension to his digital journey, and his life.
In the next part, we will dive in deeper in how operating models of contact centers will change in the near and medium term future.