Year in Review: What Contact Centers Learned in 2018

AI | 4 minute read

Welcome to January, a time that kick-starts a new year and inspires us to improve, grow, and set goals. This goes for contact center managers and agents as well; for them, January is certainly “reach for the stars and crush your goals” month (as is every month!).

We at Fonolo are certainly here to help them out on their overall journeys in 2019, this time by offering a rundown of the lessons we learned from the industry last year.

So, without further ado, here are the top three.

Lesson 1: CX Management, CX Management, and More CX Management!

In an industry driven by customer gratification, learning the difference between customer service vs. customer care vs. customer satisfaction became quintessential in 2018. Yes, we all know this is a tale as old as the call center, and we also know the importance of the customer experience. However, 2018 brought the importance of customer experience management into the spotlight. With the rise of the convenience revolution and clients expecting hyper-personalization, customer experience management is not just integral to success, but has become the pivotal factor in making or breaking the success of any brand. According to a 2014 Gartner study, “customer experience itself is proving to be the only truly durable competitive advantage”. It was expected that, by 2016, 89% of companies would be competing solely on the basis of customer experience alone (a 53% spike from four years prior). Today’s digitally-savvy customers have zero tolerance for bad customer experience; this certainly includes their experiences with contact centers.

Lesson 2: AI, Humans and Optimizing the Contact Center for the Digital Age

As Fonolo CEO Shai Berger wrote in 2018, “legacy” is often used in a negative way, and for good reason. This is not to say that legacy contact centers are a negative thing or that their time is nearly up. What 2018 taught us is that, with the rise of hyper-personalization, consumers expect omnichannel communication (and a seamless omnichannel experience across all those channels to boot). This serves to augment the need for contact centers to shift from legacy systems to enhanced networks (like cloud) to meet the demands of the digital age and its customers.

3 Pros & Cons of Outsourcing Call Centers2018 saw breakthrough developments in AI. Some hoped, or feared, that these advancements would either fix ongoing contact center problems or take over the contact center completely. But, as we learned, AI and bots will not be replacing real live human agents any time in the near future. (Alas, we won’t be making a movie version of Her for the contact center anytime soon.) In fact, what we learned from AI’s progress is that the sweet spot is when machines and humans work together to enhance the contact center agent and ultimately the customer experience. As CX expert Jeanne Bliss has suggested, “doing” human interactions well in an increasingly self-service world [is what] will set you[r contact center] apart” in the digital age.

This leads us seamlessly to the final lesson.

Lesson 3: The Importance of Employee Satisfaction and Retention   

Yes, we said it: Machines and humans working together to enhance contact centers is key. This comes as no surprise if we consider that human beings are customers and thus ultimately desire human interactions.

That being said, the technological advancements in the industry are consistently doubling in speed. With such a high disconnect between what digital customers expect and the rate at which contact centers can optimize to meet those expectations, it is no wonder that those working the frontlines are so easily forgotten.

How to Use Social Media to Support Customers

Too often the employee/contact agent experience falls to the wayside. Contact centers often forget the value of employee well-being and satisfaction. After all, frontline employees bear the brunt of force when it comes to bridging the gap between the digital-age customer and the contact center, and are in need of support from their organization. Thankfully, 2018 highlighted the importance of employee retention and, more importantly, the significance of employee satisfaction. We learned that providing the right support for agents is crucial, and that introducing methods such as gamification into the contact center only served to arm agents with a new set of tools to effectively (and more happily) carry out their jobs. High demands, spikes in call volumes, and the never-ending complexities of customer concerns mean real employee burnout. And as Bill Quiseng notes, “You cannot satisfy customers with disengaged (burnt out) employees. Start there first. Are you maintaining an employee experience just as robust as you want to deliver for your customers?” The struggle is very, very real.

The biggest takeaway for contact centers in 2018? The only thing we can be certain of is change. It is inevitable and will continue to occur (after all, we are in the business of technology). You can keep abreast of these changes by visiting our blog each week and getting the latest news and views about our industry.

Class dismissed.


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