Four Critical Components of a Next-Generation Contact Solution

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Doug Whitaker, Director, Optimization

 In previous posts, I discussed how a contact center can directly support business strategy as well as the workforce optimization tools that contact centers need to fulfill their potential. The next step for business leaders is to identify a solution that can empower the contact center—and the organization as a whole.

As the customer service environment has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past several years, what had been a straightforward exercise is now more complicated. Four forces have altered the landscape.

1)      The customer-company dynamic has changed. One-way conversations, in which companies dictated the terms, have been replaced by an ongoing dialogue. What’s more, customers now expect a collaborative relationship with the companies they favor.

2)      The availability of information about companies and products has exploded. Companies used to have control of the information that was available about products and services. Now customers can do their own research using forums, blogs, and reviews.

3)      Technology has enabled greater connectivity. The mass adoption of mobile devices—Pew Research found that 83 percent of U.S. adults have a cell phone—has given rise to consumers who are always on. The same study found that nearly one-third of adults preferred to be contacted via text message.

4)      Consumer expectations have increased. As soon as one company integrates such channels as social media into their contact center operations, consumers not only become aware of it but also immediately expect the same capabilities from other companies.

The evolution of consumer behavior and technology will likely accelerate, presenting businesses with new challenges—as well as new tools to address them. Therefore, a next-generation solution must incorporate traditional applications while allowing the flexibility to accommodate near-term and future requirements. The components of the solution must include:

  • Customer empowerment – To give customers the ability to interact and get information in the way they want, companies will have to offer a variety of options for live and self-service communications. This strategy will require new functionality to ensure that information and experience across channels are consistent.
  • Enterprise engagement – Aspect CEO Jim Foy noted in an interview in May of this year that the contact center as we know it won’t exist in ten years. Unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) have connected our enterprises so that physical, technological, and organizational barriers don’t inhibit a company’s ability to address customer requirements. Increased consumer expectations will compel companies to adopt UC&C so that back-office and knowledge workers can be included in the process.
  • Social communications – New communications channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and even blogs have introduced exciting mediums for customers to share information and opinions on their consumer choices. What makes social media more complex is that the contacts are typically indirect rather than direct. Many companies are scrambling to address social media channels with their contact center operations. A key element of this strategy is the ability to monitor these communications, manage the interactions, and respond appropriately to the customer issues.
  • Dynamic analytics – Contact centers have become the natural hub of customer data, but many companies haven’t adopted the tools and processes to use this information to shape business strategy and set priorities. Beyond the technology, executives must reorient their organization so that functions such as marketing, communications, and sales can all benefit from these insights.

Speaking in the general sense, companies must pursue workforce optimization to make the best use of their available internal resources. A comprehensive strategy to schedule staff, accommodate mobile agents, and right-size the physical contact center can increase efficiency and returns on investment.

In the coming year, Aspect will continue to share our vision for the future of the contact center and how companies can achieve the full potential of our customer experience efforts.