The Death of the Contact Center

It seems like every vendor these days is tuned to my needs. From my cable provider to Uber...everyone cares about what I think, feel and best of all, how I experienced their service.

Enterprises today, are focusing on perfecting the customer journey...about capturing customer feedback, understanding how they can do better...and execute the appropriate actions.

Just as the contact center evolved from the call center in order to support more channels of interaction with customers, so this evolution will continue. The next transformation for the contact center will transform them into an experience hub – an entity that is essentially responsible for underpinning and driving the customer experience as well as for the interactions a company has with its customers and prospects.

The vocabulary we use will change to reflect this evolution in thinking. A call center, and even a contact center, conjures up an image of scores of people working shifts while sitting in cubicles and being constantly monitored on productivity (eg how many calls they answer or first call resolution rates). Historically, its role was reactive with the emphasis being to respond to customer enquiries, queries and complaints as quickly as possible – success was usually interpreted as minimizing the cost to the company. For a long time, many companies used traffic diversion techniques to reduce the possibility of actually talking to customers due to the perceived expense – diverting them to lower cost channels irrespective of whether this met the customer's need. Outsourcing support to third parties was another popular trend, but was not motivated by customer-centric measures such as increasing customer satisfaction or service levels, but by internally-focused drivers such as cost reduction.

This thinking has essentially been obsoleted by the rise of social media. Finally, businesses can see the benefits of not just being available for customer contact which is focused on resolving negative and stressful experiences (such as inaccurate billing, confusion or service failure) but on truly interacting with their customers and focusing on driving more positive experiences.

Companies also now recognize that by focusing too much on minimizing the direct cost of running their contact centers they failed to factor in the opportunity costs they were incurring. Frustrated customers, reduced customer loyalty, the loss of valuable cross-sell and upsell opportunities, and the squandering of customer ideas, comments and data resulted from treating the contact center as an afterthought or 'necessary evil' - a silo whose performance was measured outside the full range of corporate goals.

​"I use self-service in McDonalds so that I don't have to talk to anyone or take off my headphones."

In the next 5-8 years, Contact centers will morph into experience hubs and how they perform will be placed more clearly within the context of the overall performance of the business. They will no longer be just a reactive service silo focused on problem resolution or campaign-based selling, but will be a proactive and interactive experience hub – driving positive customer experiences (see Figure 3). This is a big step forward for businesses, customers and those working in contact centers today, as this transition will have profound effects.

Not only will interactions between the customer and the business take place across an ever-widening range of channels – some of which don't exist today – but those interactions will be very different in nature. Experience hubs will add new, positive roles and responsibilities to their remit. For example, some responsibilities will come from marketing teams, such as acting as a social media hub, where the experience hub takes full responsibility for the role of educator in addition to problem-solver, and drives up digital adoption amongst the customer base.

Even the word 'center' will be challenged, as 'center' implies a large centralized facility at a time when service provision will be decentralized and include more home-working, virtual teams and more amateur or community-based support. The experience will be blended and supported across multiple channels, including bricks-and-mortar stores, in order to provide a consistent, seamless, unified front-end to customers. When stores are not busy, staff can be redeployed into digital channel support, and when digital channels are quiet then staff could be deployed via presence applications to provide support to customers in-store.

We're living in exiting time and I for one, can't wait to see how things will continue to evolve in the years to come. 

To learn more how NICE is transforming the contact center into the experience center visit www.nice.com

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