Emerging contact center technology trends
Emerging contact center technology trends
By Donna Fluss
The recession may be temporarily slowing purchases of contact center software, but R&D in the industry is continuing at a rapid pace. When the recession ends, prospects will find an even better set of applications, underlying contact center platforms and more deployment options than ever before. This is not a reason to wait to make a purchase or investment, but it is something to look forward to.
Contact center technology and business trends are intertwined, and it has never been clear which is leading the way. Here are six contact center technology trends that will have significant implications for your business over the next few years:
- Contact center software will reside as applications on the enterprise data network:
The days of standalone contact center systems and applications are coming to an end. It’s too costly to implement and support these applications with dedicated resources; it is more cost-effective for enterprises to physically locate and maintain them with the rest of their applications (see Figure 1). Having contact center applications reside in the enterprise data network is also advantageous for contact center and enterprise managers, as it can facilitate sharing of data and benefits. For example, speech analytics applications can capture and analyze contact center transactions to find enterprise trends. Using this software in enterprise data centers can make sharing of information faster across business units.
Figure 1: Future Contact Center Topology
- Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and presence will eliminate the physical boundaries and constraints of the contact center:
SIP is an application layer that facilitates the movement of multimedia-based communications, including Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)-based calls, emails, video, Internet messaging, and so on. Presence is a feature of SIP that allows users to determine the availability of the people they want to reach before attempting to contact them. Processing calls and other contact center interactions with SIP simplifies the handling of customer communication across channels and allows organizations to route calls anywhere that is convenient. Presence allows users to find the people they need, regardless of where they are and what they are doing. VoIP and SIP have made it much easier to set up contact centers anywhere in the world and to eliminate the need to route calls and other interactions through expensive carrier networks. Contact centers are just starting to take advantage of the flexibility and cost savings opportunities that these technologies offer.
- Service-oriented architecture (SOA) technology framework will facilitate interoperability, integration and the rapid delivery of innovation:
Contact centers are complex operating environments with many technologies and systems that must be integrated to facilitate the handling of interactions. SOA provides an architectural roadmap for facilitating system development and integration, dramatically reducing the time required to connect diverse applications and deliver new products to the market. SOA enables organizations to take advantage of new software functionality quickly and can shorten application integration time, reducing the cost of maintaining contact centers.
- Enterprises will migrate an increasing percentage of customer interactions to self-service channels:
Reducing operating expenses is a goal of contact centers during good economic times; it’s a strategic imperative during a recession. Tools like interactive voice response (IVR) systems and Web self-service environments automate the handling of calls, emails, chat or collaboration sessions that would otherwise have to be handled by expensive agents. Since it costs approximately $5 to handle a short call vs. $0.1 to $0.25 to handle a self-service transaction, senior managers are pushing contact centers and other operating groups to automate as much as possible, so customers can help themselves.
- Contact centers will be driven by analytical solutions:
Contact center managers receive dozens, if not hundreds, of reports from the systems and applications required to operate their environment. They receive a great deal of data but little practical information. Analytics takes this data and converts it into actionable recommendations that can be used to improve the performance and effectiveness of the contact center. There are two primary categories of contact center analytics: internal analytics, which is targeted at optimizing the performance of the contact center and its agents; and externally oriented applications, which concentrate on improving the customer experience. Internally oriented analytics applications include quality scoring/assurance, IVR analytics, performance management and desktop analytics. Externally oriented analytics applications consist of speech analytics, predictive analytics, real-time analytics, Web analytics, customer feedback (surveying), customer value analytics, and customer experience analytics.
- Over the next seven years, the composition of live customer interactions will shift from being predominantly voice to a range of channels:
Web 2.0 is altering the servicing landscape. Web 2.0 is the broad term used to describe the evolving use of the Internet as an interactive technology platform to enhance functionality, communications and collaboration. It encompasses the explosion of Web-delivered content, interconnectivity, new applications, and the way that always-on always-connected people have built relationships with one another based on shared content and like interests. It involves enhancing communications and information sharing and the way that companies, customers and prospects interact. The most prevalent Web 2.0 applications are incorporated into social networking technologies (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook), blogs (LiveJournal, Xanga, MySpace), online communities (Yahoo! Groups, Del.icio.us, Google Groups), user-generated content (YouTube, Epinions, CNN iReport), widgets (WidgetBox, Snipperoo) and wikis (Wikipedia, WikiWikiWeb, WebPaint).
The contact center is the front line for the customer experience. As new forms of communication alter the business landscape and new technologies influence how customer service is delivered, organizations including companies large and small, government, higher education and nonprofits have an opportunity to innovate to meet the changing demands and expectations of their customer base. All contact centers and customer service organizations should be developing a technology investment plan that will rapidly give their organization a strategic advantage. The technology and applications that each organization should acquire will vary greatly. But for the first time, flexible acquisition models licensing, hosting and managed services allow all organizations, from a five-person inside sales department to a massive contact center with thousands of seats, to acquire the technology they need. This is true whether the tools are core systems like the automatic call distributor and IVR or cutting-edge analytics applications.