Other parts of this series:
On the surface, today’s contact center does not look much different than that of a contact center of 10 or 15 years ago. The phone continues to be at the core of the center, with more than 90 percent of an agent’s time spend handling inbound calls. Scaling to meet demand is a challenge, due to the large amount of time needed to train agents. Reporting is based on simple call metrics for reducing handle time, but do not provide insights on underlying causes. Contact center applications are custom built, periodically updated with a backlog of issues stretching back months or years. Moving quickly to address changing needs of customers and agents is very difficult, with contact center support staff in a reactive, not proactive, mode. For all the challenges currently facing contact center operations, what will running a future contact center look like?
My previous posts on this topic define a Contact Center of the Future, describing what it is and how it balances digital with human touch. Likewise, Accenture’s presentation outlines a future center and the various processes it takes on. Here’s a look at how things might be different in the future.
The Contact Center of the Future will move away from the phone as the core of the center, transitioning to a more omni-channel platform that includes phone calls, but also comprised of chat, email, instant message, social media, video chat and other forms of communication that continue to emerge. Customers who interact with agents will be routed to the agent after Artificial Intelligence (AI) has quickly assessed their level of need and the complexity of the issue, pointing customers to agents best suited to handle their particular concern. Customers with simple requests will be serviced through easy to use, digital self-service channels and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). A central application will compile an appropriate amount of information on the customer and equip the agent with guidance on how to best resolve the request. Such an application will reduce training time, allowing faster deployment of new agents. Overall scaling of resources will be more fluid and better match changing demands.
The center of the future will shift from conventional call metrics to more holistic KPIs that reflect all customer contact. This will include data combing multiple customer accounts, contact across channels and reoccurring contact, to understand what issues are the highest priority and will require the most resources to resolve. Prioritizing will help contact center operations shift from a reactive mode, where the priority is to reduce handle time, to a proactive mode in which underlying issues are resolved, reducing overall service volume across channels.
Finally, the future center will tap external vendor solutions, using highly configurable software that is easily reconfigured to match the changing needs of both customers and agents. Solutions will run on vendor infrastructure, eliminating performance, scaling and upgrade issues. Contact center operations will follow an agile methodology of development, focusing on quickly modifying user and customer experience to meet changing demands.
Overall, the Contact Center of the Future will be part of a combined digital and physical “Phygital” vision, allowing operations to focus more on delivering high quality service to the end customer, maximizing customer profitability, and eliminating waste and inefficiencies in the contact center.
For more on designing and operating the Contact Center of the Future, see the previous posts in this series, as well as Accenture’s Contact Center of the Future presentation.