How Smart Is Your Contact Center



Changes in customer behavior and expectations have created tectonic shifts for businesses. Innovative firms such as Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb, have transformed their respective industries through efficiency and customer-centricity.

Meanwhile, previously high-powered firms, such as Blockbuster, Circuit City, and Toys 'R Us, have disappeared because they weren't able to keep up with evolving buyer expectations. These changes particularly impact the contact center, where traditional ways of doing business are not enough to meet and exceed evolving customer expectations.

Between March and April, Aberdeen conducted a global survey of 302 businesses across all industries on the key trends and best practices influencing customer care programs. Findings show that the ability to keep up with newer technologies and channels—in other words, the pace of innovation—is the number one challenge impacting today's contact center programs, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Keeping up with Customer Expectations is the Top Challenge

Top Challenges

All Respondents

Implementing new technologies and channels to address changing customer behavior

36%

Delivering seamless customer experiences across all channels

32%

Finding and retaining qualified customer support staff

32%

Increasing contact center operational costs

29%

Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2018

Note: This question was asked as a multi-choice, meaning that companies might struggle with one or more of the challenges depicted above simultaneously.

Among the other challenges influencing modern contact center activities is the ability to orchestrate customer interactions across all channels (e.g. web, phone, and email). This isn't surprising, as the survey findings reveal that 55 percent of contact centers use at least seven channels in their customer experience (CX) programs. The ability to ensure the consistency and personalization of interactions across all channels—widely defined as omnichannel programs—is not easy. Successfully overcoming the challenges in Table 1 is what differentiates a traditional call center from those that transformed their activities to become a modern intelligent contact center.

What makes a contact center more intelligent? Aberdeen defines an intelligent contact center as one that exhibits mastery of using data (customer and operational) to deliver truly personalized and consistent interactions across all channels. Aberdeen gauges mastery of these skills by measuring company performance across various key performance indicators (KPIs). Those KPIs reflect the ability to meet and exceed customer needs and drive operational efficiency. Firms that excel across those KPIs are called best-in-class.

What does your performance say about your contact center status? Are you a traditional call center that's falling behind the top performers, or a best-in-class/intelligent contact center that leads the way in alleviating the challenges observed above? Compare your performance to that of the best-in-class in Table 2 below to find out:

Table 2: Intelligent Contact Centers Maximize Performance

Performance Results

Best-in-Class

All Others

Customer retention rate

85%

62%

Year-over-year improvement in customer satisfaction rates

19.0%

1.9%

Year-over-year improvement in first-contact resolution rate

17.8%

1.3%

Year-over-year improvement in agent utilization rate

12.9%

-0.4%

Year-over-year improvement (decrease) in average handle time

9.8%

-2.2%

Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2018

Transforming a traditional contact center into a more intelligent one requires several key ingredients. These include the right mix of strategies, processes, and technologies. The best-in-class firms in Aberdeen's study build and nurture the following building blocks to transform their activities:

  • Don't hoard data; act on it;
  • Weave omnichannel into your contact center DNA; and
  • Use reporting and analytics to drive continuous efficiency gains.

Each of the above building blocks includes various related activities and technologies for companies to successfully implement. Please read Aberdeen's The Intelligent Contact Center: Get Smarter to Drive Customer Satisfaction study for details.


Omer Minkara is vice president and principal analyst at Aberdeen Group, covering contact center and customer experience management.