In the world of call center outsourcing many factors will shape future trends including technology and economics.
Here we take a look at 5 trends that will have the greatest impact on how businesses like yours will handle your call center.
1. Call Centers Moving Toward Cloud Technologies
Over the last 20 years we’ve come a long way from locally hosted software applications to the vast world of cloud-based apps we have today. In fact, every area of business has been affected by the cloud. From the back-office to the front lines, the way you conduct your daily operations will increasingly rely on technologies you access over the internet. Web-based call-center apps that incorporate everything from your phone system to CRMs tracking customer engagement to order taking is gaining traction and becoming the new normal.
There are many advantages to this including increased scalability, ease of implementation and adoption of new features and versions. Also, costs are spread out over months and years instead of requiring large, upfront capital expenditures. Most cloud-based systems also come with deep support in the forms of chat, a knowledge base, and FAQs integrated into the system itself. For many companies, cloud solutions are the way to go.
With newly adopted technologies come new challenges. Being connected to the internet can create potential security issues. Keeping hackers and cyber criminals from your customer data has to be a priority for you and your vendors. Be sure you understand the measures taken by your partner vendors if you outsource your call center. It may be a good idea to leverage the expertise of an outside cybersecurity firm to ensure the safety of your data. Also, if internet connection is cut it can mean your operation is down. Make sure that there are always backups for when such problems arise.
2. Multi-Channel Customer communication As The New Norms
There was a time not too long ago when the phone reigned supreme as the main technology communication tool. Now there are a myriad of choices including email, text, social media, and various mobile apps. Expecting everyone to communicate in the same way is naive, and eliminates opportunities for you to engage with clients and prospects.
The solution is to have an integrated system that allows for customer engagement on their terms. If the preferred method of requesting support is text then your system should allow for, track, and enable SMS messaging. It’s the same case if it’s Facebook, Twitter, email, and even good, old fashioned phone calls. Your system must accommodate your clients and prospects regardless of the tools used. Call center operations and functions must now take place across channels. Over time this will be expected by consumers as a basic way of engaging with any company they conduct business with.
Providing customer service and call center functions using a variety of tools will be difficult to manage. Be sure to address responsibilities in terms of who handles the different types of communications coming in and going out. Decide if reps will specialize in an area or particular channel, or if you will train employees across some or all channels. Post hours of operation by channel, and ensure that there’s coverage during those times. Just as with phone calls make sure that you’ve established best practices, standard scripting, and processes for responding to customer service issues. If you outsource your call center your vendor partner must address all of these same issues, and have adequate systems, processes, and trained staff in place.
3. Video Chat Usage To Improve Customer Engagement
One channel we didn’t mention in the last section, but would like to focus on is leveraging video chat in customer communication. Consider these stats.
- As of September, 2016 Skype had 74 million worldwide users.
- Snapchat had 166 million users as of Q1 2017…and it’s growing.
Video is considered the best way to interact behind face-to-face and in-person. What this means for your business and call center is that there is a tremendous opportunity to engage customers on these and other video-based tools. Make sure that this is addressed and that top tools are part of your call center strategy.
4. Social Media Support on The Rise
We’ve all heard and seen the stories about how customer complaints have gone viral because they weren’t addressed quickly or at all. Think “UPS Drivers Gone Bad On Youtube”, “Customer Service Meltdown (unedited)” and some of the more unsavory stories you’ve heard from popular fast food chains. A customer problem this morning can turn into the trending hashtag by noon, and into an evening story on national news at 6pm. Social media and its use and impact are here to stay. That’s why it’s critical to include social media engagement in your customer service and communication mix. Define response times, staff ownership, and processes for handling brand mentions, hashtags, and direct messages. Keep the simple problems innocuous, and if a crisis does arise respond swiftly with all the facts. This can keep it from becoming a PR nightmare.
5. Leveraging Big Data Even In Small Call Centers
In the words of Peter Drucker, “What gets measured, gets managed”. The data that used to be a challenge to record and track is now captured by the systems you use. To improve your call center performance it’s imperative to record, analyze, and optimize your operations based on inputs and the feedback your systems provide. You must do this in key areas including customer surveys/feedback, call data, and pipelines and sales. Define call center goals and objectives. Review the information with managers and team members. If your data reflects that you’re missing the mark then ask why and analyze further. Use these insights to improve performance and achieve your goals and objectives.
The future of call centers is full of challenges, but very promising. Various forces will impact the decisions you make, and overall direction of your organization. Despite potential issues, technology offers ways to enhance efficiency, improve effectiveness, and grow your profits. All of this can be achieved whether you keep your operations in house or decide to outsource to a trusted vendor. Regardless, make sure that these recommendations and guidelines are followed.