The customer experience is not what it used to be. Today, consumers have greater expectations, greater demands, and a completely different mindset when it comes to products and the companies that offer them. Driving all of this change is the rapid advancement of technology, widespread access to the internet, and smartphone culture, and while companies at every level are finding ways to adapt to the changing market, the contact center is on the front lines every day. In order to stay competitive in today’s market, your needs to be able to ride the waves of innovation and be prepared to respond to evolving customer needs.
Half of that battle is knowing where the customer experience is headed. We sat down with our solution architects and consultants for the contact center space to try to get a sense for what to expect in 2018. With these predictions and assessments in hand, your contact center can better prepare itself for the customer experience in 2018.
The Customer Experience in 2018
What was the toughest challenge for 2017 in the contact center?
Rising customer expectations was the largest challenge of 2017. The modern consumer expects companies to meet them on the channels of communication they already use. Companies need to support social media, chat, voice, SMS, and more channels in an effort to meet expectations. At the same time, each channel needs to maintain an exceptional service level. For small, medium, and enterprise companies alike, this proves to be a continuing challenge.
Why was this so challenging?
The companies that are doing an exceptional job with the modern customer experience are setting the standards for the rest of the industry. Not every company can afford to support the same level of customer service as Amazon, but more and more that appears to be the expectation.
In the coming year, what are the top priorities of the following professionals?:
Contact Center Directors:
Contact center directors should focus on creating a more data-driven operation. The analytics of your customer interactions can provide tremendous insight into where your operation excels and where it can be improved. Use better analytical tools in the contact center to try and understand the needs of your audience and improve your customer experience.
More and more, the customer experience proves to be the deciding factor between competing businesses. Company executives should continue to evolve their organization towards a customer-focused approach and support the contact center director by doing so.
IT directors should focus on answering the cloud question in 2018. Will your organization shift towards a cloud-hosted contact center or stay with their on-premise approach? If you choose the latter, you will need to figure out how to accommodate the expanding needs of the consumer with your existing environment.
HR directors should try to broaden their recruiting efforts outside the local area. Remote agent capabilities provide a wide array of benefits to the organization, including a larger talent pool from which to hire. From there, they should ensure that their onboarding programs are fleshed out to quell some of the turnover common in the industry.
What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the customer experience in 2018?
As cloud providers continue to win larger deals with enterprise companies, cloud contact center deployments are going to become more realistic for companies of all sizes. Eventually, data center hardware needs to be upgraded, and when that time comes, IT directors are faced with a sizable bill. For many companies at that point, the cloud may be a more cost-effective or financially convenient option.
How has your company adapted to the changing contact center industry?
As a contact center consultancy firm, we’ve seen the shift to cloud happen first hand. We’ve responded to this market interest by adopting a cloud-first strategy.
What industry technology or other innovation is the most exciting right now?
The most exciting technology on the frontier of the industry is artificial intelligence and its ability to promote self-service initiatives. Chat bots are smart enough today to answer basic questions, and if a user asks a question outside the bot’s scope of knowledge, they can intelligently escalate the call to the agent best suited to handle that particular situation.
In your opinion, what was the most important topic for the contact center last year?
The most important topic in the industry right now is the cloud. As customers with on-prem solutions approach refresh and upgrade dates, it’s time they consider a viable cloud solution. Cloud can offer companies more out of the box functionality, a better omnichannel approach, and a more predictable pricing model.
What is going to be the focus for 2018?
The big buzz word for the year will be AI, and this is due to a few interesting trends in consumer behavior. Customers have been shown to pay a price premium for companies with a superior customer experience. The largest factor in determining what makes a good customer experience is the amount of effort expected of the consumer. For example, consumers outright abandon online purchases if they cannot find a quick answer to their questions. It’s completely understandable. Customers value their own time, and as a result want quick answers.
With these dynamics in play, voice and chat have become escalation channels in recent years. Customers would much rather find the information themselves. FAQs, self-service, and virtual agents improved by AI technology stands to make a huge impact in the buying experience by expediting the entire process.
What’s in store for the contact center industry in 2018?
I think we have a lot to look forward to in the contact center industry. The good news is that we know what needs to be done. We know that omnichannel strategy, cloud, and AI technology can give companies that competitive edge they’re looking for. Now, it’s a matter of execution. I think we’ll see companies of all sizes embracing the cutting-edge and reaping the benefits of doing so.
The Age of the Customer
The primary difference between competing businesses today is their customer experience. Manufacturing and distribution issues have been largely solved, and if you have a website, consumers have access to your product or services. The best way to stand out in 2018 is through an exceptional customer experience, and that is the challenge presented to us. The route to that customer experience will be different for every company. Perhaps the cloud or artificial intelligence is that path for you. Mindsight can help. Our consultants can help you craft a contact center roadmap to reach your goals.