The Many Facets of Change Happening Now in the Contact Center

By Chuck Ciarlo

Evolution, whether referring to biology or business, means a slow, gradual process. This is not an article about the evolution of the contact center; the industry is changing too quickly these days for that term to be accurate.

This is a pivotal moment when technology, the economy, and globalization are all exerting influence in how a contact center can best serve the needs of its customers and do so in a way that is both efficient and cost-effective.

What worked five years ago isn’t working anymore. What worked last year might keep a business functioning – but not at its full potential. Maintaining a competitive edge and meeting customer expectations (or better yet, surpassing them) requires attention to what the industry is doing right now and where it’s going next.

Help Wanted: The economy is improving. How much or how little is an argument best left to the pundits on cable news channels. But there is no question that business is picking up and, as a result, contact centers must scale up to meet increased demand. That means hiring and training more agents.

Instant Answers: Today’s contact center is being pulled in several directions by end users who want to reach out through the telephone, email, online chat, and even social media. At the same time, customers are asking tougher questions because answers to the easy questions are available online. That requires a greater emphasis on agent specialization.

Workers, Workers Everywhere: Telecommuting has changed the traditional contact center model, with its long rows of cubicles. But the more flexible modern professional environment is not just about agents working remotely; it’s about employees coordinating efforts in different sections of one company and maintaining the ability to oversee all of them.

While outsourcing trends may be reversing, offshoring continues to accelerate. Global call centers may have locations in the US, Europe, and Asia, which must be managed in the same proven way from a central authority.

Meeting the Challenge: What will it take to stay on top of the multifaceted, accelerated changes under way at the contact center? Of course you need good people in place: managers, agents, and trainers. But software is going to be where business can become proactive instead of reactive, flexible where it used to be fixed, and automated where it used to be manual.

As software becomes capable of doing more, contact centers must access these capabilities on a platform that can take advantage of how quickly technology now changes. For many businesses, that is becoming the cloud.

From a user base of just 269,000 in 2008, the cloud-based contact center infrastructure market has picked up momentum year after year. According to DMG Consulting, the number of cloud-based seats will grow by 20 percent in 2015, 18 percent in 2016 and 2017, and 16 percent in 2018.

These adoption rates point toward increasing awareness of the benefits of the cloud-based subscription model, including increased flexibility as priorities change, lower costs, easier access to upgrades, easier management of a less-centralized workforce, less burden on internal IT resources, and improved automation, scalability, and operational efficiency.

2015 is providing a turning point for companies to acknowledge the fundamental shifts now underway in IT services delivery. The cloud may hold the key to future industry development, but that also depends on the effort put forth by those who supply the platforms. Cooperative development by providers and contact center users can meet the challenge – as long as the focus always remains on customer service.

Chuck Ciarlo is the founder and CEO of Monet Software, Inc.

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2015]

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