Published on MarTech Advisor
John Loughlin, Director of Business Insights at HighPoint Global, discusses how video, cloud, social media monitoring, and virtual assistants will drive contact center innovation in 2017
In reflecting on contact center innovation in 2017, I have to revisit the past. I remember watching The Jetsons, an animated sitcom produced by Hanna-Barbera in 1962–63 that reran on Saturday mornings in the mid-1980s and now lives on in perpetuity on Boomerang TV. The futuristic show featured houses on Skypads, cars that floated in the air, a robot who cleaned the house, gadgets galore, and a video phone. Imagine, a 1963 video phone! I often think of the visionaries who created this cartoon and how accurately they portrayed what would, eventually, become our own reality.
We may still be years away from floating cars, but technological innovation is already having a huge impact in the contact center. Although the contact center industry has seen gradual improvements in the past 10 years, this year will be different. Contact centers are poised for reinvention, marking a major transformation in how customers receive service.
With visions of a Jetsons-like future in mind, here are a few of my contact center predictions for 2017:
Video phones may not be on the wall, but they’ll be in our contact centers
Most of us have smartphones that allow us to see the person we’re speaking to, and this capability offers two advantages for contact centers. First, video creates a more personalized interaction. Customers will have the opportunity to visually connect with contact center employees—not just an imagined visualization of every random employee they have ever spoken with in every contact center they’ve called. A visual connection will personalize the transaction for both the customer and the employee.
Video interactions will also help employees see customers’ problems live, in real time. I remember, for example, attempting to replace a timing belt on my car. I’m not a mechanic, and I ran into a few problems. I contacted my father-in-law in Canada on a video call and he visually walked me through the solution. If I hadn’t made that call, I would still be under the hood. So visual interactions, whether via video or still images, will make a difference this year.
We’re not living in the cloud(s), but we’ll continue using cloud services to enable our businesses
In the spirit of The Jetsons, I felt it was only fitting to list cloud services and related technology next. Cloud-enabled contact center capabilities will continue to expand, because they provide a host of benefits, including cost savings, quick scalability, increased security, and ease of management. More and more contact centers will take advantage of these benefits.
Additionally, the cloud will continue to easily enable changes in the contact center workforce. We live in an age of remote workers, and cloud-based operations will make that type of culture increasingly possible. That’ll make contact center workers happy, and happy workers make for good customer service.
“Listening in” to public conversations will not only be okay, it will be expected
I can only imagine what Judy Jetson would have been like on social media. In the world of contact centers, when we talk about social media, we usually talk about “conversation” and “sentiment.” In its purest form, conversation is a two-way interaction that conveys a message or a story. But conversation in business applications on social media isn’t always a two-way dialogue.
More often, both conversation and sentiment are passive. Some businesses are listening to conversations happening on social media and monitoring them for sentiment. Others look to social media to identify themes for business intelligence. But we have the ability to use social media for more active applications—whether that means engaging in dialogue with customers on Facebook and Twitter, encouraging them to post on Instagram or Snapchat, or on using another channel.
I see contact centers using social media much more actively as part of the service ecosystem this year, as opposed to its past use, as a discovery decision tool. Social sites will become just as important to customer interactions as traditional communications – maybe even more so, thanks to how many users frequent these channels.
Omnichannel environments will give contact centers even more ways to connect with customers
True omnichannel environments will continue to grow and strengthen. An omnichannel environment creates a consistent and often flawless experience that leaves the customer feeling happy with their choice to do business with your company. Most contact centers can deliver good experiences on specific channels. Truly great contact centers consistently deliver great and integrated experiences through every channel whether it be phone, social media, or chat in which they interact with customers.
As contact center representatives further understand and embrace the importance of leading customers on a carefully orchestrated journey, they will continue to deliver choices that all lead to one goal: resolution. Transactions, no matter the channel, will be effortless, personal and expedient. The contact center will have a plan for service delivery in every possible situation that may arise, and, as a result, customers will feel like they are on Cloud Nine.
Rosie’s great-grandchildren—Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and others—will continue to evolve
Service bots, or intelligent assistants, are coming of age and will continue to develop into powerful service delivery tools. Virtual assistants are incredibly capable: they can recognize and interpret speech, and speak in return. As deep neural network algorithms improve, these intelligent assistants will respond in even more life-like ways, with improved levels of accuracy. The service attendant of the near future will be able to take care of many tasks based on customer request, no matter if the customer request comes over the phone, via text in chat, or through another channel. When we think of Alexa-type devices, we might conjure thoughts of asking questions, telling jokes or maybe capturing the current weather – all interesting and functional but only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. When thinking of self-serve of the past, the solutions were for the most part simple and if complexity was introduced it would require human intervention. Since the Alexa-type device is based on creating a skill to follow, the level of ability at this point is only limited to the imagination. So the evolution of skill development will have a significant impact on our experiences in the service center.
Technology definitely leads the way for the future of the contact center this year. We have made lots of improvements in the way service is delivered. By harnessing the power of technical innovation, contact centers can take huge leaps forward in delivering stellar customer service. It’s certainly the way of the present and will continue to evolve in the future.
I just wish I could have met the creators of The Jetsons, as they were truly ahead of their time. And if I could just teach Alexa to cook an omelette as well as Rosie did…