From Contact Centers to Consumer Engagement Platforms:A Vision for the Future
Visual communications make interactions more human, and real time multichannel communications make interactions more convenient for consumers, and more intelligent for enterprises, especially brands who are increasingly aware of the impact instant and high quality communications can have on their reputations – and revenues.
As everything from sales to service becomes more social, and as millennials grow into the “spending power” that comes with graduating from college and moving into the workforce, hundreds of Fortune 500 companies are investing in “omni-channel” sales and service solutions, from their websites and social websites, to their “toll free” numbers, to their contact centers in the consumer space, to help desks, and professional services in the B2B space.
There are billions of dollars invested in existing infrastructure supporting traditional “800 number” contact center solutions, and we know from our decades of experience with network transformation, TDM to IP evolution, session border control technologies, SIP routing and trunking, that ensuring customer interactions with live agents is and will always be a high priority particularly for large brands, even as the “self service” world continues to grow (with no human intervention as consumers “help themselves” through online FAQs and “help each other” through forums).
What we are seeing from our visionary customers is a desire to reduce the complexity and costs of “phone” based customer care, and move towards a more cost efficient “cloud” which also frees up resources to match high value customers to their best experts. Many new innovations are being created that use software, big data and analytics to “sense” consumer behavior and “encourage” more spending and loyalty, and providing an expert human to help sell large ticket items, for example, to qualified prospects based on the underlying data (think Amazon on steroids) is one direction the contact industry is headed in.
Using the Internet to intelligently route work to customer service agents 24/7 is not new. In fact it is getting close to twenty years old at this point. What changed the game? “SMAC” – Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud.
Suddenly, there were more channels to manage, including the very risky social channels, where a single customer complaint can balloon into a corporate crisis when sharing goes viral.
On the other hand, a brilliant customer experience that converts a consumer into a true believer can also be shared, driving stronger brands and the unmatched “ROI” of “earned media” when social ignites in a positive way.
Another tectonic shift? Customer Care came out of the shadows of “operations” and something companies “had to do” into the light shed by “marketing” who picked up very quickly on the opportunities for both inbound and outbound interactions and campaigns.
“Chat” for things like solving computer and software problems moved into more markets, and then two years ago Amazon “changed everything again” with the introduction of Mayday.
How does the contact center industry – which is huge – as it starts to blend with the martech industry – also huge – make decisions about how to move their human interactions to the cloud while also harvesting even more important data that allows them to continually improve service with real time analytics?
While WebRTC, which is simply a new standard enabling people to communicate browser-to-browser, whether on fixed or mobile endpoints, may not be for all contact centers – it makes sense for those who wish to truly manifest their omni-channel strategies without breaking the bank.
We have been working closely with one of the largest contact center systems integrators in the US to develop an offering which reflects the needs of consumers and enterprises who serve those consumers, by deconstructing the heavily siloed world into more of a seamless, flowing approach, for inbound and outbound sessions.
This includes a web-based visual IVR.
Over the next several years the most enlightened contact center companies will become marketing companies, martech companies, and will succeed by enabling “hyper-personalization” and customization making support simply amazing. They will enable new business models – for example, in a Best Buy store, Best Buy’s vendors could provide experts to help their products to consumers in the store. Everybody wins – Samsung, let’s say, gets to interact directly and compete more ably when their specific expert in a specific device helps a consumer when that consumer simply taps his or her phone to the display, or engages with a life size kiosk. Best Buy wins because they don’t need to staff the store or risk consumers walking out and buying the same products online. Consumers win because they get the friendly, expert help they need, when they need it, with no need to wait for somebody to help them, to dial a phone number, to go online.
The expert sitting in Samsung’s contact center cloud can even message the check out desk at Best Buy to pull that device from inventory and make the sale – along with some Samsung accessories – to the consumer. Imagine the amount of valuable data that is collected from millions of such interactions.
Whether to go down the road with WebRTC-based live customer support will, like any technology shift, require a cost-benefit analysis. It won’t happen overnight – but we believe it will happen. It is happening in trials. 2016 may turn out to be the breakthrough year.