In this piece, Enghouse Interactive’s International VP Marketing, Jeremy Payne, talks about future market trends that are likely to impact the world of customer interaction and the new technologies that will help to facilitate them. He also evaluates the changing role of the contact centre over the next ten years…
Q: What are the top three factors or influences that you think will shape customer experience over the next five years?
The first key we are seeing today is the shift to self-service and digital channels and the associated need for organisations to strike a balance between attended human-based service and automated, machine-based service.
While the vast majority of interactions in the future will be through these channels, more complex or awkward engagements will need intervention by human agents and may also require businesses to leverage the resources of the ‘connected enterprise’ and connect with people from the middle and back office to solve complex enquiries. Real time data analytics has a role to play here, as factor number two, in shaping customer experience by helping to predict customer behaviour and build optimum customer journeys.
Finally, we see a growing role for artificial intelligence (AI). AI excels at triaging customers; interfacing with self-service applications and intelligently searching for information to help resolve queries quickly. But despite all of that human agents remain key, especially when it comes to offering empathy to high-value customers at what McKinsey calls the ‘moment of truth’, where the consumer has invested emotional energy in the outcome of the problem.
Q: How do you see the role of the contact centre changing over the next decade?
A: The contact centre will become more specialised. By definition, if more than 80% of customer interactions are handled in the future through self-service and auto agents that will just leave the more difficult, complex interactions to deal with. So, agents will become specialists in specific areas; the lines between front, middle and back office will continue to blur and the whole workforce will become involved in supporting customers at some level.
Q: What new technologies do you see on the horizon?
A: Artificial intelligence – The robots are coming and they will be able to do increasingly complex tasks and mimic human-like behaviour and responses more effectively. If you look at how speech recognition and analytics has developed over recent years, you start to get a glimpse of what the future might look like.
Q: What are the key drivers you are seeing in companies’ minds when upgrading their contact centre technologies and tools today?
A: The main drivers we see are focussed on cost, agility and the digital consumer. Companies recognise they can drive significant cost savings if they can leverage self-service and automated channels. They also recognise the world is changing rapidly. New channels are popping up all the time and the ability to change the way they work – reconfigure a queue or workgroup quickly on the fly – is what they need. And finally they know that connecting their enterprise, bringing the front, middle and back offices closer together, will allow them to service the complete range of customer needs.
Q: What do you see as the single biggest challenge customer-facing organisations are facing right now?
A: Culture – we use the analogy of trying to change the engine on a jumbo jet when you are half-way across the Atlantic. Most businesses are already serving customers every day and they have to keep doing that. Yet they also need to re-engineer their internal processes, systems, policies and sometimes people to work in a way that’s compatible with the needs of the digital consumer.
This is a tough ask. Businesses often have mature organisational structures incorporating vertical departments like sales, marketing, finance, etc. Yet, most customer journeys run horizontally across an organisation. That requires teamwork, trust and alignment to the customer’s needs. This is the particular challenge most businesses ultimately struggle with.