Hurrah! Gone are the days of waiting in a queue at the bank or scouring shopping malls to find the item we want. Instead we go online, browse the web, send an email query or tap out a webchat or tweet. Only it’s really complicated or urgent do we pick up the phone. Some might say it’s become impersonal, that consumers no longer need organisations to help them buy or get advice. Is that really the case, or has the focus of customer service merely shifted?

So why would customers need a contact centre? Will it become obsolete?
If service chain was 100% perfect then in theory the demand on your centre will decline. However customers will have problems, questions and unique issues that mean they need to talk to the organisation.

In recent years the landscape of the contact centre industry has changed dramatically and it continues to do so. Technology has been a driving factor, changing the way we communicate, the way consumers buy, and more importantly what they expect.

In 2014 Dr Nicola J. Millard & Dr Tanya Alcock released a whitepaper titled: SuperAgent 2020 – the evolution of the contact centre. (http://www.slideshare.net/btletstalk/bt-whitepaper-superagent-2020-the-evolution-of-the-contact-centre). It speaks about the changing face of contact centres and what changes organisations should be preparing for. Specifically the paper highlights how the function of contact centres has changed from being a transactional process to being a strategically important resource – a customer relationship hub.

Factors influencing change:

This got me thinking about the other factors influencing change in the industry. Certainly I have seen the emergence of consumer driven business. Contact centres are becoming the hub through which consumer data is collected for marketing purposes and consumer relationships are built.

Consumer expectations are increasing. People are used to having immediate access to information and products, and being able to compare. Because of a trend towards self service, consumers are more educated than before. They won’t accept glib excuses for bad service or products – they know better and they expect more.

Technology is providing increased ways to interact with customers in real time and across the globe. Customer service tools can be customised so that some processes are automated and provide consumers immediate access to the information they need.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes is the past decade is social media and impact it has had on business. Initially many organisations used social media as a marketing tool, but now it is more widely recognised as a customer relationship management tool. I really believe that social media is a great way to build consumer loyalty and develop a positive company image. If you want to read more about social media and customer service see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Delivering-Effective-Social-Customer-Service/dp/1118662679, that I co-authored with Martin Hill-Wilson. You can connect with us here, download a free sample chapter, read reviews or ask a question: http://socialcustomerservices.com/

What do you need to change in your contact centre to keep up to or ahead of industry trends?

We need ‘super-agents’ – people who have exceptional communication, people and problem solving skills. It is almost as though agents will be expected to mind read and pre-empt what the consumer wants or needs. Consumers are looking for a better customer experience and it’s up to contact centre agents to provide this. If this is where consumer expectations are at, then it is vital that organisations help equip their agents with the training and expertise they need in order to fulfil their roles and reflect these increasingly important skills in agent pay and incentives.

Another area to focus on is customer service channels. While voice channels may still be used, more consumers are interacting on web-chat and social media, often via mobile technology. Do your agents know how to use these channels and how to respond to or interact with customers on them? Using these mediums is a great way to interact with customers and understand what’s really important to them. Customers are choosing these channels because they are convenient, they don’t need to wait in call queues in order to get answers. Responding to them in time and providing the answers they are looking for easily can translate into greater customer loyalty.

Remember-because customers may be contacting you via mobile technology don’t send them complicated links, forms or pages that are not a responsive design.

All of these changes and driving factors are steering companies to be more strategic about their interactions with customers. Rather than a contact centre just putting out fires, it needs to evolve into a customer relationship centre. Empowering and equipping agents, and upgrading systems to stay abreast of technology changes can help your organisation deliver exceptional customer experience.

For more information on training your super-agents contact me on 0161 408 2003 email hello@real-results.co.uk or tweet @realresults101