The contact center has always been a somewhat nebulous concept. Many folk still default to the older term 'call center', despite every effort that has been taken to rebrand it.
The failure of the 'contact center' label to take off is simply because the role that it plays has fundamentally remained the same. It is still responsible for inbound (and to some extent, outbound) communications with customers in order to handle their enquiries, complaints and requests for help. The only difference between a call center and a contact center is that the latter handles non-voice communications as well as voice communications.
However, this terminology binds us to the legacy world and is increasingly unhelpful. The contact center is a zombie concept - neither dead nor quite alive, but carrying on as though it were alive.
In its place I believe a new concept will begin to arise which implies neither centralized handling, nor an emphasis on intermittent, reactive communication. Instead of the contact center, an interaction hub will form, where continual, multi-way and new forms of communication will be practiced. This hub will also be the engine of customer experience and will be fully integrated into the digital business (not just operating as a siloed, operational afterthought).
Thus from the ashes of the contact center a new concept will rise phoenix-like - one that is customer-centric rather than operations-centric, and one that will deliver differentiated experiences. This interaction hub will need to focus on entirely new metrics to measure its success. The days when the focus was simply on call handling times, for example, rather than upon customer satisfaction, will be a dim and bad memory. The message will have got home that having no customers in the queue and rapid response times does not equal happy customers.
I believe that an interaction hub will also be a far more pleasant place to work because it will focus on a positive, proactive and creative conversation with customers. Moreover, I believe it will have to be a happier place to work because quite simply the happiness of staff has a strong correlation with the happiness of customers; but also because companies will struggle to attract and retain staff unless they can offer them a happier, more fulfilling job.
I'm declaring the contact center dead. Let's begin to build its replacement.
To find out more about the future of the contact center and its integral role in delivering the next generation of customer experience, come to our session at Interactions or register for the upcoming white paper by emailing email@example.com.