What In-House and Outsourced Contact Centres Need to Know.
What does 2019 and the future hold for the Contact Centre industry?
By Phil Kitchen, Director, the Contact Centre Panel
Working with our clients to find their ideal outsourced Contact Centre partners requires a lot of research on our part. Not just about the relative strengths of our network of over 80 Contact Centres, but about the trends that are shaping the future of the sector. Trends in technology, training, customer expectations and demographics, communication channels and a huge range of other influences.
This article aims to bring together just some of the key findings from research we’ve been reading through 2018. These facts and figures should be useful in your own planning for the future… after all, as the phrase goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail!
How Fast Are Channels Switching?
The Global Contact Center Survey by Deloitte in 2017 asked how Contact Centres anticipated changes in interaction between 2017 and 2019. The biggest reduction in volume was anticipated in voice, down from 64% of interactions to a predicted 47%. Email was also predicted to drop slightly, from 18% to 16% but still be the second biggest source of contact.
The biggest percentage increases in volume were expected to be Web Chat (up from 6% to 16%), Social Media (from 4% to 9%) and SMS Text (from 2% to 6%). Between them, these channels account for a little more than the reduction in Voice and Email.
This emphasises the need for Contact Centres to be capable of excellent omnichannel communications in 2019 and beyond. Integration of online communications into processes and reporting is already an important factor in providing a good customer experience, where handovers between channels can sometimes be a crucial part of the customer’s journey.
Will The Phone Continue To Decline?
As our population ages, the preferred choice of communications device also changes. Analysis by L.E.K. shows that the first choice channel to contact a brand for under-25s is Social Media, then their mobile phone, with landlines being much lower down the list. For 25-34 year-olds Email wins, with mobile in 2nd place before Social Media. Landline phones are first choice for over-35s, with Email and mobile or Social Media bringing up the rear.
In 15-20 years only 27% of the population will be from the group which prefers the phone today. So voice communication will not disappear, but it will reduce significantly. Importantly, although younger generations are more at ease with digital communications, the human touch is still critical and phone conversations are still used to complement non-voice interactions. This makes integration of the various channels even more crucial for Contact Centres.
Artificial Intelligence – Is It Real?
In Social Media contexts, bots are already making huge inroads into making accounts more interactive and responsive. A number of high profile commentators have made bold claims about the impact of AI on the Contact Centre space within a short timescale, including:
- Forrester predict that investment in AI will increase by more than 300% over the next year
- Oracle state that eight out of ten businesses have already implemented, or are planning to adopt, AI as a customer service solution by 2020
- Gartner predict that AI bots will power 85% of customer service interactions by 2020
Chatbots Magazine found that 67% of people already expect to see or use messaging apps when talking to a business, and Location World state that 40% of adults now use voice search at least once every day.
With a longer forecasting timescale, Accenture have said that by 2035, AI technologies are projected to increase business productivity by up to 40%
This aggressive growth in the use of AI in the Contact Centre sector means that businesses have to adopt the technology and find ways to adapt their processes to enable it to improve results. The pace of change is fast, and the winners will be the businesses who use AI to find solutions effectively. Good systems and reporting will be the foundation of successful AI implementations rooted in real customer service issues.
This growth in Technology Solutions will also impact on how agents work within Contact Centres, or even off-site with the successful utilisation of cloud-based platforms for connecting agents to their systems.
Does Voice Have A Future? We Say Yes.
Against a backdrop of increasing automation and multi-channel communication, is there a place for voice communications in the future of Customer Service and Contact Centres? We believe so, yes.
Recent data is showing that although the proportion of voice channels is reducing, this isn’t the full picture: 70% of major enterprises surveyed by Frost & Sullivan actually showed an increase in the number of calls handled. Even more importantly, 57% saw average talk time increase too, with 35% reporting talk times staying about the same.
What does this mean? Leading players we’ve spoken to say it reflects how important Voice is to the customer. Voice may not always be the first choice of channel, but it’s the one customers use for more complex interactions.
More research in 2017 by Juniper Research anticipated the use of chatbots and similar technologies to increase by 1000% in the three years to 2020. However, 75% of the customers polled did not believe that a chatbot would not be effective for more complex interactions such as complaint handling, still preferring to talk to a human.
So, while new technologies may grow quickly to the point where they dominate transactional work and frequently asked questions, there will still be a need for a well-trained agent to deal with more complex situations. It’s these situations which need a longer interaction, and they include complaints where there’s (so far) no substitute for a real human being capable of understanding, empathy and sometimes expert negotiation skills!
Why Is This Important? Because It’s All About Pleasing Customers!
We’ve found some facts, figures and research to show just how important excellent Customer Service is to your customers:
- 71% of organisations cite customer experience as a competitive differentiator – 2017 Global Customer Experience (CX) Benchmarking Report
- 55% of customers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience – Dimension Data
- 84% of organisations working to improve CX report an increase in revenue – Dimension Data
- 79% of consumers want brands to demonstrate they care before making a purchase – Wunderman
- 54% of UK consumers feel more loyal to brands that show a deep understanding of their preferences and priorities – Wunderman
- Acquiring a new customer costs around 6 times more than retaining an existing one – ThinkJar
Despite these surveyed results, which seem to intuitively reflect what we believe:
- Just 44% of companies say they prioritise acquisition over retention – Invesp
- 33% of organisations are not able to track customer journeys – Dimension Data
- Organisations with a poor omnichannel strategy retain just 33% of customers. Brands with effective omnichannel engagement programmes keep 89% of customers – Aberdeen Group
What Does All This Mean?
There is an undeniable link between Customer Experience and success. Brands which link up their communications strategies, implement technologies to deliver great customer interactions and handle customers professionally generate better revenues and develop more loyal customers. With customer acquisition costs so much higher than retention costs, this is simply a more efficient way to do business.
Finding the right Contact Centres to handle your customer interactions is crucial to success. Customer Experience must be a key part of an organisation’s revenue generation plan to build a great platform from which to develop a loyal base of returning customers and build growth.
At The Contact Centre Panel, it’s our job to make sure that Brands and businesses find the best Contact Centres to meet their complex needs. An in-depth knowledge of the sectors we work with, coupled with our rigorous selection process and network of over 80 outsourced Contact Centre providers, enables us to work with major brands and growing businesses alike to find the right partners. We offer a free, no-obligation assessment of your current Sales and Customer Service Contact provision, so just contact us by email, use our WebChat or call 0114 3030 393 to talk about your needs. We won’t push: we will only help if you need it.
Keep In Touch
To find out more about working with the perfect partner for your business, give us a call here at Contact Centre Panel on 0114 3030 393 or contact us using the form on our website.