For this latest blog post, we decided to interrogate a leading thinker on the issues surrounding the changes being forced upon Contact Centres, both culturally and technologically. Nerys Corfield is the Managing Director of Injection Consulting, specialising in helping businesses to operationalise their technology and deliver their digital transformation objectives.
We asked Nerys to give her own insights on some of the burning issues right now:
- The biggest issues affecting Contact Centres in 2019;
- The in-house versus Outsource conundrum;
- What clients are failing to address when they choose a Contact Centre;
- How Contact Centres can truly improve their performance;
Read on to find out what’s going to affect your Contact Centre this year, and what the industry leaders are doing about it.
By Phil Kitchen, Director, the Contact Centre Panel
Nerys, tell us about yourself and your relationship with The Contact Centre Panel.
I was a practitioner in outsourced Contact Centres for 17 years and worked in 6 different outsourcers, dealing with clients from the biggest to the smallest. Now I work with businesses in the sector to integrate new technologies into their operations and to hit their digital transformation targets. In down-to-earth terms, this usually means that an IT team have been given the job of implementing a new Contact Centre technology, so I work with the business to make sure they get the most out of it.
For example, a recent client had a technology solution and we identified 70 potential outcomes! Obviously this is too many to cope with at once, so I prioritised these outcomes with them and expanded on how we could use the technology to use these outcomes to achieve their business aims. So an IVR system could be used to help consumers on the phone to self-serve and reduce call volumes – that’s just one example of a really positive outcome from a new technological solution. Of course, there are many more innovations and potential outcomes, so it’s my job to make business sense of the IT possibilities.
I work with the Contact Centre Panel thanks to some mutual connections within the industry. Thanks to being in outsourcing for such a long time, I was introduced to CCP and I really liked their model. I believe in how it works in the interests of the both client and the Network of Contact Centres that CCP works with. So when I can help a business in CCP’s Network, it’s great to get involved.
What Do You Think Are The Biggest Issues For Contact Centres In 2019?
There are a few technological issues to deal with, so I’ll pick the ones that I’m already seeing major impacts from…
Automation and Robotic Agents. Contact Centres have to be about delivering Lifetime Value for their clients, so how do you balance the technology and the need for human interaction? It’s predicted that by 2023, voice will account for only 64% of customer service interactions, but which are the third you’ll lose the human and emotional connection with? – your promoters, your advocates, the ones you might have the largest cross sell opportunity with? Self-serve isn’t always going to be the panacea.
I cannot see non-voice channels being handled by live agents in 5-6 years. This will move to bots thanks to advances in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. There are already very impressive AI customer service utilities in use, so the pace of change will accelerate.
What does this mean for agents? Well, there will still be a need for human interaction to deal with the more complex issues. Better trained agents will be required for this and they should be paid appropriately, with a more professional status.
(for our opinion on this issue, see our blog “Rise Of The Robots” from June 2018)
Commercial Focus. With the average size of a contact centre around 70 agents and an upcoming 4.9 % increase to wages (minimum wage and living wage) there will be material impact to a contact centres’ bottom line (£30k+ extra a year for a 70 seat centre). There is no getting away from the fact that the contact centre is a very expensive department*. Being commercially focused and understanding cost per contact and margins should be a must for all centres as this will help build business cases for improvement investments.
*The Profile. I would love for Contact Centres to be universally referred to as ‘Customer Service Departments’. When conducting judging this year for ECCSA and CCF it was lovely to see the profile of the contact centre finally increasing and the C-suite finally taking notice. Calling them ‘Centre’s’ does nothing to move away from the age old perception of them being the cost centre pit. With each advisor having tens of thousands of interactions a year with real life customers they, as a department, are integral to the brand and to the delivery of the businesses mid-to-long term strategy.
What Do Clients Fail to Do When They Choose A Contact Centre?
Clients probably fail to listen to their limbic brain! (If you’re not familiar with that term, here’s the Wikipedia explanation) People are commonly so process-driven that they forget about relationships and their gut feel. They move through the tendering process with the Contact Centre’s sales people but often don’t spend any time with the account team. This is an essential part of the success of the relationship, so it’s important to check that the client will be able to treat the outsourcer as a true partner.
Honesty is also important. For example, in some cases an SLA that’s asked for in a tender might be unrealistic. Explaining why this is, and offering practical alternatives should put an outsourcer in a better position of trust. Good clients will be prepared to listen to the experts, and no amount of positive or negative incentive can deliver an unrealistic expectation!
Outsourcers should make sure they have a high-level sponsor in the client’s organisation. This allows uncomfortable, but productive conversations to happen when they’re needed. Having a trust level where a client is prepared to hear unwelcome news is hugely beneficial, and allows brands and outsourcers to work together to solve problems.
How Can Contact Centres Improve their Results?
Contact Centres should strip themselves completely bare! By this, I mean start every operation for a new client as if it’s being built from scratch. Plan a workshop and ask the question “How would we do this if we were building the best operation we possibly could?”… Too many teams start with “How do we do this to fit into the operation we already have?”.
Get an honest skill set analysis done. Most Contact Centres promote from within which is laudable, but bringing in skills and experience from outside can bring huge improvements to your business. Consider recruiting from outside the sector where appropriate, because exposure to other services and solutions can really add to a rich experience and skill set. You don’t know what you don’t know!–
Our time with Nerys was certainly interesting and she’s playing an important role in helping Contact Centres to cope with the rapid pace of technological change in our industry. If your Contact Centre has an issue she can be contacted via LinkedIn or her website at Injection Consulting.
Here at the Contact Centre Panel, we offer a free, no-obligation assessment of your current Sales and Customer Service Contact provision, so just contact us by email or call 0114 209 6120 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 209 6120 or contact us using the form on our website.