Call centers may have been a staple of customer care operations for decades, but changes in communications culture will change their role as a primary channel. The following is a list of forces and factors that will impact call centers’ ultimate place in an evolving customer experience.
1- Cost. Maybe no other factor will have as great an impact on contact centers’ future role than cost. They are expensive and that makes them vulnerable in a market where price competition dominates and services keep increasing in complexity.
2- Time. We live in a society where things like Twitter dictate the pace. People expect immediate input and feedback. The idea of waiting in a queue for an agent seems archaic and distasteful.
3- Search. We all expect to find specific information immediately thanks largely to Google. An IVR’s inexact and impersonal method of call routing just can’t match up.
4- Self-service. Tools for self-service are becoming more sophisticated, capable, and integrated into service experiences. The more capable they become them more they negate the role contact centers play in solving common, everyday problems.
5- Online shopping. Contact centers play a major outbound role in sales for CSPs, but this too is expensive and inefficient. People are accustomed to shopping online and also to accessing better deals as a reward for doing so. If CSPs can improve their online shopping experiences they will do themselves a favor not only by reducing their cost to sell, but also by making cross-channel inconsistency less relevant.
So, what’s left for call centers? There are some problems and issues that more automated channels just can’t address. It makes sense to have experienced agents handling escalated problems, especially for higher value customers, when front line tools fail. But if CSPs are wise, they will continue to invest in making front line tools stronger in order to minimize escalations and to address the expectations customers have in a communications culture that makes typical contact center interactions look dreadfully outmoded.