It wasn’t that long ago that industry drums were rhythmically beating – a war cry resonating the impending demise of call centres slow in embracing the digital revolution. Like the build up to Y2K (remember that?), a revolution was coming, a graphical trough, a truncated period of dramatic change for the call centre industry that would see customer exodus en-masse and decimate non-adherents.
It was widely heralded that digital interactions in the contact centre were set to essentially replace voice calls as the preferred method of customer engagement, with voice traffic expected to fall drastically over a very short period. The shift was forecasted to be seismic, cranking up the pressure on call centres to urgently address the massive technical undertaking to ensure customer convenience, and remedy staff skills shortages.
Soothsayers aside, PSTN calls are down, mobiles are up, SMS is way up as are WebChat and other channels, so actual numbers and analysis do confirm the trend. But that’s just it – it’s a trend and It’s more an evolutionary process, a meandering rather than a hard right. Understanding that evolution is important – especially in our industry. I get the whole ‘revolution’ bit – sales teams and targets, sausage and sizzle, a light peppering of urgency that encourages a lead to sign on the dotted line in fear of customer attrition.
Realistically though, asking customers to load up a suite of channels all at once and in a short period of time can be a real challenge for them – I’ve seen it, and it can go quite badly wrong. Consider also that the success of a specific channel can be linked to a certain type of campaign and often the dependency is on industry, demographic, geography and a whole raft of other factors that determine a fit that works in that given time but does not always transfer to future activity and different campaigns. Human factors are also at play, especially within the contact centre, and these are key in determining the rate and extent of this evolution in my opinion.
There are now more and more people able and willing to work, from young teens keen to make it in the world, through to pensioners, who rightly enjoy working in the contact centre, all generating and receiving communications. The post war generation, baby-boomers, millennials, and generation-X, Y and Z, – Contact centre teams now comprise all and sundry. That is a good thing and these groups have differing views and attitudes toward communication, styles, service expectations and levels of interaction.
Note that all these groups are also customers, some preferring the comfort and personal nature of a phone call with others preferring succinct, light touches like WebChat – and most important, each will rate the customer experience differently depending on who they are.
We also know the point: offering customer’s the choice, from a broad spectrum of communication options has a positive impact on customer satisfaction and critically, retention. And, once sufficient data is acquired about your customer’s choices, channels can be prioritised, added, or even removed.
Just some food for thought…
Michael is CEO at iNet Communications Group Plc and a member of the board of Directors. He joined iNet initially as Group CTO in 2007, bringing more than 20 years technology & telecoms experience, combined with a wealth of executive management expertise to support his key role at iNet.