The maturing of the contact center market appears to be a looming reality for the industry, requiring companies to refocus on providing positive customer service through more than one communication channel while reducing overhead costs.
The question remains, however: how will contact centers adapt as the industry experiences changes to the standard business model that has worked for the previous few decades.
The total number of contact center seats is estimated to shrink from 4.1 million in 2012 to four million by 2017 in North America, according to market research from Frost & Sullivan (News - Alert).
This decline may partially be due to the focus on agent efficiency, which includes inbound and outbound call blending, improving performance to shorten call time, increasing first contact resolution rates and forecasting call volume for more efficient staffing.
But there’s more potential for contact centers to cut overhead by taking advantage of the same unified communications solutions and cloud hosting applications that have taken root in other industries.
“Companies should also abandon brick-and-mortar facilities and go to a home agent model to cut costs, add flexibility, and obtain the best talent regardless of agents’ locations, or agents’ ability to commute, and also provide business continuity/disaster recovery,” wrote Brendan Read, Frost & Sullivan industry analyst for information & communication technologies, in a company blog.
“There is no longer a valid reason why contact center employees (or knowledge workers for that matter) must commute to employers’ places of business,” he continued. “The communications, computing, HR, performance management/QA, and security methods and technology have reached a point where it no longer matters where an employee like a contact center agent or supervisor is in order for them to work productively.”
Mobile technology is another area where contact centers can offer value-added services to key clientele, helping to maintain their competitiveness in a shrinking market.
As mobile device use booms, more consumers are turning to self-service mobile apps to initiate contact with companies. Social networks also are likely to grow in popularity as a means to solve issues and discuss problems, meaning companies will need assistance to address customer contacts via this form of media as well.
“Millennials and Gen Yers are entering the consumer mainstream, but they will only contact companies’ staff if they cannot obtain satisfaction on the Web, in mobile apps, on text-based automated channels (chat, SMS/text and virtual agent), and on social media,” Read wrote.
However, Read suggests there’s a benefit to incorporating new media channels into the services offered by contact centers: “Chat, SMS/text, and social media permit agents to engage in several simultaneous conversations, whereas live agent voice (and video) is one-to-one.”
Edited by Alisen Downey