Rethinking the Value Proposition of the Contact Center

The past few years have seen a lot of changes in the contact center, but one thing remains constant: service leaders are constantly under pressure to minimize costs while improving quality. As we look forward to 2024, there are a number of changes happening in the contact center that require leaders to rethink their traditional operating models. Staying ahead of these trends will help leaders drive more scalable, consistent, and cost-effective service quality.

Changes in pricing and cost structure

The adoption of artificial intelligence and automation will mean more successful customer interactions that are solved without agent intervention, meaning the traditional per-seat pricing model simply will not make sense moving forward. We're seeing new pricing models such as cost-per-resolution, from technology vendors. For service leaders, this means getting a good handle now on the time and cost of resolution per channel and the tradeoffs between each in terms of customer outcomes.

Changes in agent training and time to productivity

The arrival of AI-driven agent assistance and automated case classification and wrap-up will mean fewer lower-level agents are needed and the time to bring those agents up to speed will be reduced. We've seen early AI adopters reduce the average time to productivity by 30 percent. At the same time, agents will have to be trained in other areas, such as empathy and critical thinking skills to enable them to both handle more complex customer issues with more human sensitivity and evaluate whether AI recommendations are valid.

Changes in key metrics and agent incentives

In a contact center world where more complex customer issues can be handled without agent interaction and agents get automated recommendations in real time, traditional metrics like time to resolution or average call handling time are too simplistic and only focus on the cost side of the question. They also focus agents on the wrong goal, prioritizing ending the call as quickly as possible over ensuring the recommended resolution is truly the right one for the customer. Instead, incentivizing agents based on overall quality scores measured in real time with language and sentiment analysis can reinforce the use of empathy and critical thinking skills.

Changes in the pace of technology change

With most cloud contact center vendors now delivering innovation on a per-month or per-quarter basis, service leaders who have moved their operations to the cloud now have the opportunity to introduce new capabilities on a regular basis. Those who don't take advantage of those new innovations are like streaming services subscribers who don't watch anything: they're not getting their money's worth. It can be a challenge to digest the latest upgrades from vendors and determine where and when adopting and training agents on them will deliver value. Smart service leaders will demand metrics and predictive diagnostics from their vendors that help them not just understand the potential for additional value from enhancements but plan, benchmark, and track those results in their operations in real time.

Changes in how we think about telephony

Historically, we've treated the call center differently from every other channel of customer service and built complex architectures that tie workforce management and telephony together. While the move to cloud reduced the cost and complexity of managing telephony, it's time to fully decouple telephony from the contact center. From an architecture perspective, this means thinking of telephony as just another channel that is really a commodity and looking for vendors with open architectures that enable contact center leaders to orchestrate and optimize all channels interchangeably.

Fully taking advantages of the changes in the technology, economics, and humans in the contact center can help service leaders deliver on the goals of minimizing costs while improving both customer and employee engagement.

Rebecca Wettemann is founder and CEO of Valoir.