Paul Scott discusses the contact centre’s future in light of findings from the 2103 Dimension Data Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report.

For decades customer management leaders have argued that the contact centre should sit at the heart of business strategy and structure. That seemed fair enough while the telephone remained the dominant customer interaction channel, but less so now that more than two thirds of all customer interactions take place via digital channels. Unless contact centre leaders can raise their game to address omni-channel customer journeys rather than telephone calls in isolation the contact centre as we know it risks becoming an irrelevance.

Channelled thinking
Today, far from being ‘the biggest’ or ‘the only’ customer interface, the contact centre is only one of a plethora of contact channels that, typically, operate in isolation. That isolation is dangerous. Today’s consumers want to get things done on the channels that suit them at any particular time. They expect the organisations they work with to keep up with them as they hop from channel to channel and get frustrated when they don’t.
Organisations need a strategy to integrate customer contact across all channels. If contact centre leaders can raise their game, they can be the ones to drive it. After all, they have thirty year’s or more experience of managing large volumes of customer contacts; assuring their quality, reinforcing their efficiency and reporting their impact on customer satisfaction, loyalty and tenure. The 2013 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report tells us that organisations are failing dismally to monitor the performance of digital channels or to measure their impact on customer experience. As a result they’re not achieving the cost benefits that self-service channels can offer. For three years in a row organisations have failed to achieve the migration from phone to self-service (and the attendant cost benefits) they have targeted.

The disciplines of measurement and analysis so sadly lacking in self-service deployments are second nature to contact centre leaders. They can take the processes and methodologies they have used to measure telephone interactions and adapt them for all channels. This has to be done the context of a fully thought out customer contact strategy, closely affiliated to the organisation’s overall goals.

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A customer contact strategy
It is, in fact, this customer contact strategy that deserves the place at the heart of the business that the contact centre has long aspired to. It captures who an organisation’s customers are, what channels are appropriate to serve them, why they make contact and how their needs are met. Most organisations operate on three or five year strategic planning cycles and should do the same for customer contact.
It goes without saying that technology is a key enabler of multi-channel service delivery. In order to deliver an omni-channel customer experience organisations must be able to achieve a 360 degree view of the customer and integrate all channels, the latter being an achievement managed by only 9.5% of our benchmarking respondents to date. To optimise the omni-channel customer experience they need to apply analytics across all channels, have the ability to draw management information in real time and use the insights they gather to build a rigorous programme of testing, learning and improving.

The dislocated approach most organisations have taken to channel deployment is partly due to the dislocated and fragmented technology infrastructures that exist in many contact centres. The need to integrate is paramount, if omni-channel customer management is the goal. Hosted or cloud-based services as a low-cost, low-risk means to access advanced technologies offers a viable escape route from the ‘too difficult’ or ‘two expensive’ box. We forecast that these services will become the dominant technology adoption route over the next three to five years.

Omni-channel not multi-channel
Preparing for an omni-channel future is a necessity rather than a choice. To date customer management professionals have focused on adding channels. In the future they must focus on integrating them, managing their performance and maximising their potential to generate positive outcomes, both for their customers and their organisations.

The telephone-focused contact centre may have lost its dominant role, but its skills, disciplines and processes offer a backbone capable of supporting the omni-channel customer experience. It’s time for contact centre leaders to raise their game.

paul scottPaul Scott is Director of Benchmarking at Dimension Data contact him on paulm.scott@dimensiondata.com.

Find out more and download your free summary report at www.dimensiondata.com/microsites/ccbenchmarking.

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