One of the biggest challenges for any organisation today is knowing what technology to invest in. After people, technology is the biggest investment an organisation can make. With new technology constantly being touted as the “next big thing” to transform the customer experience, it is hard to know what technology will have a positive impact on your organisation and customer and what is simply a fad.
There is no denying that technology has had a revolutionary impact. Many industry veterans will recall the days when we recorded our customer interactions on handwritten cards. Today, we have real-time access to multi-channel customer information, instant measuring of customer satisfaction, and artificial intelligence powering just about everything. The strides our industry has taken in the last 10 years are extraordinary, and I’m sure it will continue to transform at least the same pace, if not faster, over the next decade.
As an industry, we’re not about adopting technology for technology’s sake; it has always been driven in two ways. Firstly, by organisations, both large and small, realising the importance of the customer experience, how technology impacts buying decisions and, ultimately, an organisation’s bottom-line. Secondly, adoption is driven by customer expectations, which, with the help of technology improvements, are constantly rising. With the pervasiveness of the Internet and the prevalence of smart devices, access to information is always at a customer’s fingertips, and they expect the same from contact centres.
Customers today expect organisations to have a real-time 360-degree view of all their information and interactions regardless of channel , and/or interactions with other departments in an organisation, customers expect this information to be available to enable a fast and efficient customer experience.
What technology have we embraced as an industry?
Based on the insights from the 2018 Australian Contact Centre Industry Benchmark Report, we know that over 70% of contact centres have embraced IVR; call recording (voice only); automatic call distributor; and customer relationship management tools. These are followed closely by knowledge management/content systems and customer survey tools, which have been adopted by 65% of the industry.
Perhaps surprisingly the outstanding technology gap is that 43% of contact centres don’t have workforce management tools (WMT) in place, with only 15% looking to purchase these in the future. Adoption rates for WMT are obviously higher for larger organisations (91% in 100+ seat centres), but for medium size centres (21-99 seats), only 53% have WMT in place and just 17% are looking to purchase in the next 12 months. With resourcing and efficiency flagged as common challenges for contact centres, it is surprising that the adoption rate for WMT isn’t higher in this segment, as optimising resources is key to improving efficiency, managing the cost of operations and, ultimately, the customer experience.
What technology are we looking to adopt?
The benchmark report shows an increased focus on contact centres providing self-service, with the number of organisations offering this functionality expected to grow from 38% to 53% this year. This isn’t surprising with the younger generation of consumers being comfortable online and more likely to navigate through video tutorials, FAQs, and web forums for answers to their questions before picking up the phone.
Of course, this won’t be suited to all contact centres, for example, if you’re dealing with complex issues or sensitive information, self-service might not be suitable.
With a focus on promoting the self-service channel, the technology that is projected to see the most growth this year is webchat, with 31% of organisations planning to purchase in 2018. This will result in 81% of contact centres utilising webchat technology in the near future, compared with only 22% in 2014.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and chat bots are constantly being discussed as the next big thing in the contact centre industry. The benchmark report reflects this, with 14% of organisations expecting to offer chat bots in 2018, compared to just 2% in 2017. We are seeing more businesses getting deeper into predictive analytics, using AI to optimise the experience for both the customer and contact centre staff.
Are these investments right for your centre?
Before jumping in feet first to invest in the latest widget or technology trend, first look at whether this aligns to your overall business strategy: Will it increase efficiency, create a better customer experience, improve customer satisfaction or staff engagement?
The technology you choose to invest in today will depend on various factors, from the size of your contact centre and the industry you operate in, through to how your customer wants to interact with your organisation.
Over the last five years, there has been a rise in the multi-channel customer experience, but the shift away from phone interactions has been slower than predicted in the Australian market. This year 71% of interactions were still handled via the phone channel, only down by 3% since 2014. The remaining 29% of interactions were handled primarily via email (16%). This clearly shows that while multi-channel interactions are becoming more popular, we shouldn’t be turning our back on phone interactions or the human touch just yet.
As an industry, it is important that we continue to be open and adaptable to new technology. This allows us to constantly improve our customer service and keep up with customer expectations, without deploying technology for technology’s sake. I look forward to seeing how our industry evolves over the next 5-10 years.