What Does the Future Hold for Contact Centers?
By Yoav Guez, Head of Amdocs Services R&D, Amdocs and Sharon Alalouf, Consulting Partner, Amdocs
With the increasing pervasiveness of digital technology, the message from consumers is that they want it all: instant gratification, ubiquitous access, control and the ability to engage easily with the brands of their choice via any channel or device.
Today’s consumers routinely go online to purchase goods from Amazon, order rides via Uber and get advice on leisure activities using Yelp. Meanwhile, messaging has replaced email for most digital communications and disruptive applications such as WhatsApp are fulfilling our needs for both text and talk.
When it comes to their service providers, consumers expect a similar experience–timely, personalized access that is available 24/7. Access must be just a click or tap away – and interactions must be seamless so users don’t have to stop their online session to place a call from the keypad. And when they need to engage a service rep, they expect their experience with the contact center to be as seamless as it is via other digital channels.
So what will the contact center of the digital world look like?
At Amdocs, we believe it will be based on a combination of a data-driven approach, a high degree of automation and a highly flexible workforce. Agents will perform fewer tasks on behalf of customers, with their role shifting to one of resolving complex problems and facilitating customers to complete tasks independently.
Data, Data Everywhere
Every call, mobile web session, app usage and IoT device leaves a data “fingerprint”, containing information about the user’s experience, preferences and location. Service providers in particular have a treasure chest of such data from their customers, simply because they own the network. The challenge for them now and for the foreseeable future is how to make sense of this information, and make it work both to their own benefit and that of their customers.
What does this mean for the contact center operators?
When a customer engages with their service provider, regardless of from which touch point, the contact center should be enabled to access data in their systems to discover everything there is to know about that customer. This includes their profile, recent events, usage, transactions, lifecycle milestones, preferences and journeys.
Then using predictive analytics and data algorithms, the service provider can hone in on the most likely reason that led the customer to engage. Not only does this make the customer feel valued, it ensures that their needs are addressed quickly, while building a better customer relationship.
Making the Complex Simple
Automation in the form of “bots” is on its way to becoming a mainstream technology behind tomorrow’s customer interactions. Advances in natural language processing, automated speech recognition and artificial intelligence have already resulted in the ability for customers to engage bots using only their own voice.
And the capabilities of bots go beyond those of today’s virtual agents, which are generally limited to providing answers to frequently asked questions. Instead, they add a new level of intelligence through their ability to gather context from the customer’s device and other data sources in order to provide more personalized conversational exchanges using artificial intelligence. Smartphone users are already familiar with applications such as OK Google and Siri that allow them to interact verbally with the application.
When combined with additional intelligence captured from customer journeys and contextual database information, bots will be able to determine what steps in the journey have already been completed. This means that they will be able to evaluate factors such as purchase history and loyalty points to determine which actions should be taken next.
Bots will also be able to sense when to escalate to an agent. When an interaction is routed, contextual information will be provided to the service rep, regardless of channel, enabling them to seamlessly continue the interaction from where it left off with the bot – much like a warm transfer in today’s contact centers.
With bots, the need for traditional self-care mobile apps and IVR menus will diminish, enabling a richer, more personal customer experience by guiding the customer through the steps to the resolution they seek. The result is that bots will ultimately become the first automated layer in service delivery, further reducing the need for agents.
Communities, Crowd Sourcing and Virtualization
Some things never change. For service providers in particular, the challenge to create new cost efficiencies and increase customer satisfaction is perhaps the most common. A promising solution to help achieve this comes in the way of active community forums. The purpose of such forums is to enable knowledgeable users to provide answers to a wide range of enquiries, and as a result, significantly alleviate pressure on the contact center. These results in customers becoming accustomed to crowd sourcing; that is, consulting fellow users for advice to solve technical and other issues, as well as to evaluate new products and services.
However, crowd sourcing does not happen by chance. It requires nurturing and support from the organization to make it work. Furthermore, crowd sourcing is only one part of a complete social strategy that includes social channel monitoring and social engagement to encourage community participation and engagement. Importantly, service providers also need to provide the governance necessary to ensure that information provided is accurate, relevant and appropriate.
With increased digitalization, a new paradigm for customer care delivery is needed. It includes a significant shift in contact center operations, as well as the technology required to deliver care and sales support. This means that new levels of flexibility and agility are required to optimize services across all channels. With modern IP-based technology, the contact center no longer needs to be in a centralized, physical location. Rather, it can be entirely staffed or augmented by a virtualized team to create a truly shared environment similar to other operating models, such as Uber and Lyft, which have a flexible cost structure and where resources are engaged based on demand...
Creating your Future Engagement Center
By adopting data-driven personalization, automation of routine tasks and flexibility, gained through communities, crowd sourcing and virtualization, service providers can build a foundation for bridging the gap between the current contact center and a fully digital engagement center. Pursuing such strategies will become increasingly vital as customers expect to be able to engage freely using their digital devices and receive one-click agent support from every touch point. For the engagement center, this means dealing seamlessly with communications from customers around the clock via every possible channel. It also means that systems and agents now need to be “journey-aware” and provide personalized service regardless of robotics or agents providing the services.
Amdocs (NASDAQ: DOX) is a provider of customer experience software solutions and services for the world’s largest communications, entertainment and media service providers. Amdocs serves customers in over 90 countries including APAC Regions.