Yesterday’s call center is today’s contact center — a sophisticated, adaptable, multi-channel suite of technology and services that can engage customers, clients and sales prospects in ways never before imagined.
In decades past, a call center was built on consistent and predictable technological foundations. From the earliest era of switchboards and telephone banks in the 1950s to the late 20th-Century era of computer-based automatic call distributors (ACDs), the traditional call center was, for decades, generally static and easily defined — and easily integrated into the most basic business model.
But that was before the era of “disruptive technology,” a now well-known term encompassing the recent and revolutionary upheaval in business-to-consumer (and business-to-business) communications relationships. These technologies have literally disrupted markets, dictating a new protocol not just for customer service contacts, but also for how people interact with their preferred brands on a day-to-day basis.
The number of communications channels represented by these disruptive technologies seems almost infinite. From instant chat to social media interaction, from in-app messaging to voiceover Internet protocols, an almost bewildering variety of technology is in play in today’s contact center.
Bewildering, at least, to the uninitiated — and to business managers who try to shoulder the burden of modern contact center management on their own, without outside expertise. For them, this may very well be an era of disruption, apprehension, uncertainty and unpredictability.
For the experts, though, this is the era of the “omnichannel strategy,” full of opportunity and promise. All-new paths for customer interaction have appeared, with many more on the horizon. Barriers are falling. Gaining meaningful feedback is no longer a process of awkward, hit-and-miss solicitation, but simply a matter of knowing when and where to listen and engage. And anticipating the next technology to take center stage isn’t a burden, but a challenge — and an exciting one, at that.
Some businesses choose to avoid this technology altogether, to the detriment of their long-term viability. Don’t want to bother with an online chat option for your customers? Then many of those customers likely won’t bother communicating with you at all. Prefer to avoid engaging on social media? Just be aware that, in your absence, your competitors are working to win over your customers—who most assuredly are on social media.
Just as the savviest old-school business leaders embraced online selling at an early stage and leveraged it for their own growth, instead of being defeated by it, today’s businesses have the same choice: Embrace the new trends in contact center technology, or be left in the dust by the competition. Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis calls this process “digital Darwinism,” with the mantra “adapt or die” as the new reality.
Of course, a certain level of intimidation by all this new technology is perfectly understandable. There’s a lot to unpack, at every level. New hardware often needs to be purchased, put in place, and then maintained. The appropriate software for that hardware—and for your business model—then needs to be selected and used. The right personnel need to be found, then trained, then nurtured, to make the best possible use of these tools. And so on.
It isn’t a big surprise that some business leaders balk at the prospect of all these investments, of allocating precious budget dollars toward purchasing and developing a huge variety of technologies they don’t really understand and aren’t sure they need. The risk of falling into this mindset is all the more reason to entrust the process to a dedicated contact center specialist.
After all, it takes real, dedicated expertise to get a handle on modern contact center technology in all its shapes and forms—to know where to focus attention, and where to take a lighter approach. And as this technology becomes more esoteric and segmented, that need for expertise only grows—as does the gap between the early adopters and the businesses that delay their decision to engage.
Indeed, in an era where technology and its pervasiveness by general society are evolving faster than business models can keep up with, choosing a specialist to handle your contact center technology management isn’t just a good idea, but practically a necessity—to make sure you’re making the right decisions, as well as achieving economies of scale.
After all, this isn’t just about communicating with customers using their preferred methods, as important as that is (and it definitely is). It’s also about making the best possible use of the contact center technology that’s available today, each and every aspect of which can be a powerful tool for business growth and development.
And that toolbox now appears to be almost limitless. Collectively, this technology is rapidly evolving into what’s called the Internet of Things (IoT), a network of cloud-based consumer connectivity that extends beyond normal channels, such as phones and computers, to include devices that people use every day, controlled via increasingly voice-controlled mobile apps. (Hello, Alexa!)
Extending this trend even further is augmented reality, where everyday consumer devices are used to access an immersive experience that can include, but is not limited to, interactive product guides, video-based customer service, on-demand instructional videos and lots more. (QR code scanning, solidly in place already, is a precursor to this.)
Another important feature of cloud-based contact center technology is its capacity to track every interaction, every point of contact, every Facebook like and every retweet. This practice, known as analytics and tracking, can—and should—be leveraged to discover what aspects of a contact center strategy been successful, and what can be improved.
All of this adds up to a powerful bundle of opportunities. But it takes a sophisticated perspective to take full advantage of it—and half measures won’t cut it. Today’s consumers have high expectations; they’re savvier, more informed, more in control than ever before. They want a personalized experience. They want honest interaction with their preferred brands. They want immediacy and an effortless experience.
If that sounds like too much to offer, it may be time to entrust the process to a contact center provider that specializes in customizing a contact center technology experience to best meet your unique goals. If you’re interested in learning more, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have. We invite you to contact us here to learn more.