The rise of the contact centre over the past three decades has transformed the customer service landscape and created one of the world’s fastest growing industries. In the UK alone, there are an estimated 6,200 contact centres in operation, with around 4 per cent of the working population employed in the sector.
To meet the needs of this huge market, the development and provision of contact centre solutions has grown into a major industry in its own right, worth approximately $22bn worldwide. Like the rest of the telecoms industry, rapid advances in technology, coupled with shifts in consumer behaviour, continue to shape the contact centre market at a fast pace, as end users aim to match the latest available solutions to the emerging trends they see in their customer base.
To launch our Contact Centre Technology Track, here we’ll take a snapshot of the state of the market as we approach the final quarter of 2017, assessing the major trends which have emerged so far this year, and offer some insight to vendors, resellers and buyers alike about what they can expect in the market going forward.
The rise in popularity of cloud-based contact centre solutions has been the dominant trend in the market over the past couple of years and has continued unabated into 2017. According to DMG, the number of contact centre seats using cloud technology should grow by 23.5 per cent in 2017, and the value of the global cloud contact centre market is predicted to treble in the five years to 2021.
Many of the key drivers of this rapid pace of adoption are common across all types of cloud technology – flexibility, scalability, reliability and security. DMG suggests this growth in trust in cloud-based contact centre solutions is partly down to vendors creating ever improving service architectures, including growing third-party data centres to improve security and increased use of virtualisation to reduce costs.
However, another key factor is changing customer demand. Overall, the growth of the contact centre industry has been driven by growing awareness of and expectations about customer service, and as time goes on, people are expecting ever better, faster and more personalised service. Recent research has shown that the dominant factor in how customers judge ‘good’ service is speed of response – 34 per cent look for quick issue resolution first and foremost, while 29 per cent want resolution on first contact.
While this sounds like common sense – no one likes waiting in lengthy call queues when phoning up with a problem, or being kept on hold – the point is that it is these kinds of expectations which have opened the door to wider cloud adoption in the contact centre. With better integration and better streamlining, and the ability to scale and adapt to any size and type of operation, the cloud has allowed companies to deliver real improvements in service while still helping to control of costs.
Opportunities in the Cloud
One of the big changes the Cloud has helped to introduce in the contact centre is the ability to respond to different modes of communication customers are using. Although phone is still by far the dominant channel customers use to contact a help desk – 79 per cent of all communications, in fact – preferences for other modes of communication are growing. Given the choice, 20 per cent of customers prefer email, 19 per cent would use self-service on a website, while 13 per cent would opt for web chat.
So while a majority of customers still use the phone, many do so because it is the only option they are given. To truly stay in tune with customer demands, omni-channel contact solutions are becoming increasingly popular. Not only is this a matter of catering for customer choice, it also takes into account the fact that customers might use a variety of different methods to pursue a query.
Legacy contact centre solutions were developed before the majority of current communication channels became available. A cloud-based omni-channel solution, on the other hand, provides a single streamlined experience, ensuring data from every contact point is integrated into the system, so service is as fast and responsive as possible no matter how the customer chooses to get in touch.
As omni-channel continues to grow in importance, new trends in service methods continue to emerge. More and more customers are choosing to use social media where available to lodge queries, seeing it as a quick, informal way to get an answer. Obviously, that creates an extra obligation on businesses to link their social media presence in with their customer service operations.
Aside from new channels, the Cloud is also enabling better contact centre analytics. The ready availability of affordable reporting and analysis software via the Cloud means even small companies can now gain robust, actionable insights into their customer service, covering everything from individual agent performance to customer satisfaction rates. And the wider the range of channels the data comes from, the more precise the level of intelligence a business can gain about the service they are providing to their customer base.
Finally, the flexibility of cloud technology is seen as a key driver of the increasing numbers of contact centres supporting remote working. With the ability to connect from anywhere via an IP network, and maintain reliable real time monitoring, the traditional location-based call centre model is being replaced by contact centres employing dispersed agents. This extra flexibility and mobility means contact centres no longer have to be staffed by dedicated teams – instead, customer service can become a shared responsibility across an organisation, with queries referred in real time to whoever has the right knowledge and expertise to handle it most effectively. It also means service can happen on the move, with staff able to handle queries even when they are away from their desk or office via a mobile device.
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