Top Contact Center Trends to Watch in 2016
It’s January so I decided to dust off my crystal ball as I do every year around this time and take a look to see what’s in store for 2016. Once I got through all the obvious things like how many more billions Star Wars will make, who’s going to win the Super Bowl, and those two stocks that are really going to rock the tech space this year (Hint, one of them has the #8 in its name!) I found some key trends we can expect to see in the contact center this year.
The Big Boys
Let’s first start with the two uber trends that will shape the three trends below. These are trends that started before last year, but will continue well beyond 2016—so let’s take a look:
Cloud Innovation: The move to the cloud is now real and well-established. The innovation that cloud deployments enable is starting to take hold in ways far beyond moving costs from capital expenditures to operating expenses. Innovation is coming to the forefront, and the very concept of what a contact center is starts to sub-divide, from a single, monolithic group stuck in a warehouse in Nebraska to a set of smaller, department- based groups that are now integrated into the company and considered a critical component of the business.
The Global Contact Center: It used to be that companies would find an outsourcer overseas for agent support outside of the US who would work for inexpensive wages and help expand global coverage. We’ve seen off-shoring, on-shoring, and of course, all that continues, but the trend of being disbursed around the country is now expanding to being disbursed around the world. At 8x8, we now have two offices in the UK and an office in Romania, with employees taking customer calls in two continents to better provide local, around-the-clock 24/7 support to ensure true global reach. If your contact center isn’t global, you may be compromising company growth opportunities.
Let’s move onto the main 2016 trends we can expect to see. Here are my top predictions for what will take center stage in the contact center:
The Rise of the Non-traditional Contact Center: With the complexity and limitations of an on-premises contact center, your only choice was to have a large, single group of employees taking calls in a warehouse in Nebraska or wherever you could derive cheap labor. As contact center capabilities move to the cloud, the definition of what truly constitutes a contact center continues to evolve. More and more, we are seeing individual departments looking for better ways to support their customers – whether it’s a marketing department wanting to offer a helping hand online at just the right moment, or a helpdesk looking to make it easier for employees to get to someone who can solve their problem.While these groups don’t see themselves as a “contact center” per se, they do appreciate the help they get from solutions such as Virtual Contact Center to make them more efficient, productive and accountable. And, as companies become more global, these different groups can pop up anywhere around the world. Innovative IT departments are embracing this trend and looking for efficient, flexible tools to support the quick stand up of a system that allows call recording, reporting and other key contact center functions for teams across the organization. So now customers can get help from the real experts who are directly involved with issue management and customer resolution.
The Death of Stand-alone Quality Management: Quality Management systems were born of the same monolithic, centralized call center that the cloud is now breaking apart. So if you have 5,000 –10,000 agents, you may still need the sort of complex quality management solution that has been available for decades in the market. But now, the cloud is opening up a variety of innovative options for traditional and non-traditional contact centers. 8x8 plans to offer quality management capabilities that can provide important insight into agent performance with a much simpler, more integrated approach.
Closer Integration between CRM and Contact Centers: The cloud has already revolutionized CTI and the relationship between CRM and contact center solutions. Without a doubt, two of the most critical technologies in your contact center are your CRM system and contact center solution. But needless to say, there is more work to be done. An out-of-the-box integration typically solves a specific, limited problem, but every company has its own approach to CRM, and it can often vary by department need and geography. For example, the support department might want to start each interaction by looking at tickets for that customer, while a sales interaction will likely start with the opportunity that was most recently updated. We all agree that more flexibility and options are needed across the organization, and I expect to see a new wave of solutions emerge this year to help improve the customer experience.
Of course, I’ll track these trends over the rest of the year and check back in, but you can expect to see some interesting progress on these fronts. Let us know what you think 2016 will bring for the contact center!