As the year unfolds, call centers are readying themselves for the next big thing in 2017. While technology stays at the forefront of call center trends, they have been fine tuned to make agents' jobs easier and client experiences more personal.
The following are six 2017 call center trends to keep an eye on.
More agents will work remotely
With the ever-increasing availability, sophistication, and cost savings of cloud-based technology, brick-and-mortar contact centers are soon to become a relic of the past. In fact, it is predicted that 1 in 3 agents worldwide will work from home within just a few short years.
Online training modules for agents are becoming the norm even for in-person contact centers, and agents working remotely can easily access these modules from home. The cost reduction potential of this move is huge: no need to pay rent or an office space, nor to heat, furnish, or maintain it.
Better yet, most people who work from home are already well-equipped to do so, and cloud-based technology brings the complex CRM software of call centers right to the computers that folks at home already own.
Home-based agents are less likely to miss work or quit. “This is because at-home agents are more satisfied with their work, benefit from the increased flexibility and save time and money by eliminating their daily commute.” A global home-based workforce means call centers can operate 24/7/364, and employees who are full-time, part-time, and on call means managers can staff and handle call volume more flexibly than ever. Clearly, employees working remotely will be among the top 2017 call center trends.
Customers will help themselves
Customers like having the ability to help themselves when they can, rather than having to reach out to an agent. The call center industry is beginning to respond to this customer preference with much more than just the IVR account services function.
Customers of today want detailed, intuitive FAQ’s on a company’s website, along with video tutorials and self-service portals that allow them to click their way along a path to a solution. Customers can answer prescribed questions and select options along the way to navigate toward a solution, or, in complex cases, to a click-to-call button to reach an agent after all. Customers like the convenience of solving their problems themselves on their own schedule, without having to wait in a queue or speak with an agent.
And while the front-end work of designing such a system is certainly a complex and time-consuming effort on behalf of contact center administrators, in the long run companies can save money by freeing up agents to deal with only more complicated issues and “teaching” customers to solve some of their own routine problems.
The social media channel will (finally) be harnessed
Customer service provided through social media channels is by no means a brand new concept, but customers and companies themselves are realizing that the speed and pervasiveness of this channel have not yet been harnessed to reach its full potential.
Unfortunately, many companies are not meeting customers’ expectations for speedy, personalized, effective responses to customer needs via social media, and since media platforms are quite a visible place to make mistakes (or win fans), companies who are serious about topping their competitors will make this platform a top priority.
Training, staffing, and tapping into the available metrics of social media channels will be one of the top 2017 call center trends, offering companies who take advantage of this ubiquitous channel the opportunity to interact with customers and build their brand like never before.
Companies following 2017 call center trends will invest in workforce optimization systems
CRM systems are to omnichannel what WFO systems will be for managing agent teams. Especially considering the rise in agents working remotely, companies need an effective system for managing not only call volume across multiple channels, but agent productivity, metrics, training, coaching, QA, and employee engagement. Companies like Playvox offer a suite of tools to keep the contact center workforce cohesive, productive, and effective, regardless of the scope or size of a call center and its service offerings.
Chat and SMS will continue to gain popularity
Companies who are worth their salt will put more resources into the chat and SMS functions of their call center. According to a report from Forrester, customers’ use of these messaging channels increased 43% between 2009 and 2012. As digitally-native millennials fill out the consumer market, this preference will only grow. Although perhaps not as highly visible as the social media channel for brand building, customers can easily take screenshots and share positive (and negative) chat interactions with a company to their various networks and platforms. Thus, brand image stands to gain (or lose) according to this channel. And contact centers love that agents can handle multiple customers at once on this asynchronous channel.
Agents will become more highly skilled
As a result of self-service and tech gains, only the most complex customer issues will come to agents. Everyday issues will be resolved via self-service options. In addition, advanced chatbot technology will pave the way for the “cyborg” agent: a human agent paired with a machine-learning data-fed chatbot that advises the agent to make the best possible sales pitches or responses to customer issues or reactions.
As the line between human and machine in the contact center begins to blur, only agents with a firm grasp on modern technology will be able to compete for their share of the employment pie.
Customer service is more visible, more viral, and more versatile than ever. Contact centers need to stay ahead of the latest trends and technologies in order to compete in an ever-fierce, customer-centric service world.