Contact Centers: The Next Big Thing
April 28, 2022
By Donna Fluss
It’s amazing that contact center technology is now considered “hot.” Seemingly out of nowhere, software vendors of all sizes have decided that they need to offer contact center functionality.
It’s funny because little has changed in the contact center industry in the past 40 years. Despite what generates the most buzz, it is still phone calls, rather than digital transactions, that represent the largest percentage of interactions handled by contact centers, many of which are applying policies and procedures that are more than 10 to 15 years old. Contact centers are still one of the least preferred departments in which to work, and their staff is among the most underpaid in any company. And enterprise executives, while showing more appreciation for these departments due to the great job they did during the early and most difficult times of the pandemic, are still trying to squeeze them to be more productive.
Yet enterprise and contact center leaders are highly committed to improving the performance of their contact centers, as they know that delivering a great customer experience (CX) is an important differentiator. This has been a goal for the past 10 years, but it is not one that has received enough attention or investment to make a measurable difference in most companies.
There are many highly innovative and practical systems and applications that can be applied to contact centers to help improve their performance. But despite good intentions (and some great solutions), not much changes. If anything, the perception of consumers is that the quality of service delivered by live agents has gotten worse, not better. Part of what makes this situation a serious industry trend is that it is not limited to one geography.
So what is attracting established vendors to offer their own contact center solutions when they have traditionally sold other products to the contact center market? The obvious answer is that each one believes it can attract a significant portion of the rapidly increasing total addressable market (TAM) money that enterprises are going to spend on contact centers and their systems and applications in the next five to 15 years. The increase in spending is being driven by a major round of investments as enterprises migrate existing systems to the cloud and are spending on artificial intelligence (AI) and automation initiatives. A second factor is that the traditional market is expanding, as contact center systems and applications are attracting the attention of other enterprise departments. And a third reason is that contact center systems and applications are considered “sticky”—companies tend to keep these cloud-based systems solutions for a minimum of three-plus years, and five-plus years for on-premises applications.
It’s great that leading global cloud services vendors, with huge research and development and marketing budgets, are getting into the contact center market, as this will bring this underappreciated industry a great deal of needed attention, but it comes with its share of challenges. Much to the surprise of many vendors, the contact center market is more complex than they anticipated, so it takes a few costly attempts before they typically get it right. Exacerbating this challenge is the need to complement their technology offerings with the best-practices expertise that is key to the success of contact centers.
The contact center technology market is primed for a renaissance, and the influx of vendors and investments is a step in the right direction. Technology providers that want to succeed in the contact center industry are strongly encouraged to identify the underlying factors that make contact centers great and come to market with offerings that will improve the industry along with their bottom line. The TAM is almost unlimited for vendors that come to market with innovative offerings capable of enhancing CX.