You Snooze, You Lose: Contact Centers Are Still Unprepared to Meet Digital Demands

Despite the continued explosive growth of digital contact---in the form of email, Web chat, social media, and self-service channels---as a popular customer engagement method, organizations are unable to keep pace with the digital demand. Moreover, with a wealth of knowledge available within their contact centers from customer interactions and customer preference data, the jury’s out on what organizations are doing to exploit this information, according to a new report from Dimension Data.

The results from the company’s 2015 Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report surveyed 901 participants covering 12 industries in 72 countries across the Americas, Asia Pacific, Australia, Middle East & Africa, and Europe.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • If the digital evolution continues at its current pace, contact centers will see digital overtake voice-based contact within two years.
  • Analytics is seen by a majority of contact centers as the most likely factor to change the shape of the industry over the next five years, but 40 percent of contact centers have no data analysis tools.
  • A majority of organizations (83 percent) believe their current IT systems won’t meet future needs, and some (33 percent) said that IT doesn’t meet their current needs.

Non-voice traffic (digital) is set to rise in 89 percent of contact centers within the next two years, and voice traffic (talking to a customer center agent on the telephone) will drop in 35 percent of contact centers during the same period. Based on the information Dimension Data has gathered over the last 10 years, digital will overtake voice in the contact center within two years because the new generation of tech-savvy consumers entering the market---mostly Generation Y---use the phone only as a last resort for queries that couldn’t be solved in any other way. Additionally, customers younger than 40 would much rather use social media and Web chat than any other way of achieving their desired service outcomes.

As contact centers reinvent themselves, customers can anticipate common access to seven different digital channels, in addition to the telephone. The capability for smart device applications will grow to 55 percent; Web chat will almost double to 69 percent, and social media presence is already at 39 percent.

It’s important to note, however, that the telephone channel is in no way obsolete. The reality is that the skills required from agents are growing along with the broadening scope of service coverage. Agent support of phone and assisted-service digital channels has become far more complex and critical, and the new demands will lead to 82 percent of contact centers maintaining (30 percent), or growing (52 percent), their current employee numbers.

Despite data analytics being voted the top factor to change the shape of the industry within the next five years, more than a third (40 percent) of contact centers has no data analysis tools. In addition, more than half (51 percent) of the participants said their contact centers don’t share customer intelligence gathered with the rest of the business, and 58 percent of core analytic systems aren’t integrated across the organization.

Another challenge for organizations is determining not just what works for the consumer, but also the impact that each new interaction channel may have on the business, and the positive and negative consequences. Ultimately, the goal should be to create genuine business value through improved customer experiences, and by optimizing engagement models to deliver the most value at the least cost. Analytics holds the key.

Customers want an easy and immediate journey on channels of their choice, and organizations are in need of a digital customer engagement model. But the industry is massively unprepared.

An average of 33 percent of North American organizations doesn’t believe their ICT systems meet their current needs, and 83 percent say that their technology won’t meet future needs. Add omnichannel to the mix, and the situation could get worse.

This is forcing vendors and consumers alike to explore new buying options and causing vendors to design innovative technology frameworks. The good news is that a new form of hybrid technology models, in which legacy systems work alongside cloud-based solutions, are providing alternative answers and some compelling results.

These systems are much quicker to deploy, so the return on investment for new technologies will be achieved faster. More than 93 percent of current users agree that cloud has reduced their costs. Additionally, 88 percent confirm that cloud offers them access to new functionalities.

“Systems in the contact center have fallen short of expectations year-on-year over the last four to five years,” said Scott Cruikshank, director, communications, Dimension Data, in a statement. “Organizations will need to refresh, change and adapt to the emerging digital revolution. The combination of technology that is creating an omnichannel environment, coupled with the ability to analyze and act in real-time, and personalize customer service, provides powerful resources for organizations to create a productive, digital customer engagement model.”