You walk around your call center with a smile on your face as you observe your call center agents fast at work. Hold times are down, calls are handled smoothly, you have a high success rate of sales, and your average call handling times are reasonable.
Close your eyes. Where do you think your call center will be in the next 15 years? Where do you think the call center industry as a whole will be in the next 15 years? While these are all just predictions and speculations on what may come, that does not make them any less fun to think about.
Conversational IVR is Coming
To some degree (depending on your budget), most call centers are partially automated. Automated systems are great for the call center. They bring down the amount of time a caller spends on hold and they bring down the overall call handling time. The problem with automated systems is that they frustrate the caller.
What happens when the automated system doesn’t understand what the caller is saying? The caller spends several minutes yelling at the automated system before getting transferred to one of your agents where they end up having to repeat everything the automated system did not understand.
With advancements and implementation of conversational interactive voice response (IVR) it will be easier for your callers to interact with your automated system. They will be able to communicate with the automated system and navigate farther through it. The conversational IVR setup will make it easier for your caller to talk to an agent who already understands the caller’s situation and is able to jump right into helping.
Focus Will Shift to Live Chat and Email Customer Support
In time, all call centers will be referred as contact centers or support centers. This is because the concept of calling and talking to a call center agent on the phone is a thing of the past. More and more people prefer to use live chat services or communicate with a representative by email than on the phone.
For some callers, communicating over the phone is just inconvenient. Imagine having a customer with children. In this situation, it would be beneficial for both the customer and your call center to have the customer contact you online or through email. When on the phone with a distracted customer, your call times will be longer through no fault of the agent who is handling the call. Naturally, you cannot fault your agent for long call times when it is your caller who is distracted.
What this means is you will need to hire call center agents who know how to work a computer. It is not going to do you any good to hire an agent that has worked for years answering phones, but has never touched a computer. In 15 years, you and your call center agents have to be ready to embrace technology. Technology is the only way you will be able to keep up with the competition.
Customer Values Will Change
In 15 years from now, what a customer sees as an important quality for a call center is going to be very different from what they see as important right now. For example, it is not going to matter how big your company is or how well known your company is. Your customers are going to be more concerned with how fast your company is. They don’t want to sit on hold or on a phone call for very long. They want to very quickly be pushed through the system and have all of their needs addressed.
Your Center Has to Go Mobile
It is no secret that mobility matters. Much sooner than 15 years from now, your call center is going to have to be mobile user-friendly in order to survive in the industry. Call centers that are not mobile user-friendly will not make it.
Statistics show that 26 per cent of call centers plan to integrate some sort of customer support and service mobile platform for their customers by the end of 2016. Where will your call center be?
Social Media Matters Too
A lot of people do not like calling or jumping online and spending time in a chat room. They would rather get on Facebook and send a message to a Facebook page or post a message on a Facebook wall and wait for an answer. This means you need to have call center agents who know how to work social media. By 2030, you could find yourself in a situation where nearly all of your customers are doing almost all of their business through social media. Will you be ready?
As you can see, advancements in the call center industry are largely about embracing the Internet and advancements in technology. Fortunately, the future of the industry is a very bright one.
Featured image – © Gajus / Dollar Photo Club