Contact Centre forecastsAs we transition from 2017 to 2018 now’s the time to look at the operational and technology themes that we expect to be at the forefront of contact centre thinking in the coming year.

Undoubtedly a big consideration across all areas of technology and customer interaction will be the GDPR but, as stated in the Information Commissioner’s Office latest blog GDPR compliance is an ongoing journey not a  process that ends on a fixed date. The UK is also planning to become a ‘third country’ in the GDPR context so we expect data management to be a common theme through 2018 and beyond.

But what operational change will we see in the contact centre?

It will still be about ‘doing more with less’

As contact centres continue to grapple with budget it will still be about ‘doing more with less’ but with increased use of automated technology to achieve it.

Using Cloud is a cost-effective way to test ideas in a pilot before rolling them out and it will be used even more in 2018.

Contact centre performance management tools providing greater detail will be utilised to enable staff to obtain a more meaningful measurement of productivity, whether in the office or working remotely. Blending of staff (switching someone from one role to another) to tackle peaks and troughs in contact volumes will become easier.

Channel shifting will become prevalent, with, for example, managers moving inbound call contacts onto the website, where customers can find quick answers or use web chat and increasingly look to automation and artificial intelligence.

Queue management techniques like offering customers the chance to hang up but retain their place in a queue will be used widely to provide better service and reduce the pressure on staff.

Outbound diallers will take up more of the workload traditionally done by advisors, whether that be sales, appointment setting, renewal notifications etc., leaving them to concentrate on other tasks.

More contact centres will be moving away from silos onto one, unified system.

A unified, real-time system improves productivity and customer service because staff can get to up-to-date information easier and faster. Advisors need this single view of the journey customers have taken to make contact – historically as well as in real-time.

This is vital in 2018 because a data-driven approach provides that valuable personalization that customers expect and it’s widely seen as the most successful strategy for connecting with them on a one-to-one basis. In this digital world, personalization demonstrates that your brand cares about a customer’s individual needs, and that you’re capable of (and dedicated to) meeting them.

Before investing in a unified system however, it’s important to fully understand what you need that system to do – both for your customers and your business. In 2018, companies will spend more time and resources on mapping their customers’ journeys more accurately. There will be many staff involved in a customers’ journey, at different touchpoints, so each of them must be involved to pinpoint the collaboration technology needed. We have consultants who are experts in the contact centre field who can help with this research.

More attention will be paid to utilising dark data

Dark data, which may be hidden unused in silos across the business but could be a goldmine of customer information– will start to see the light of day as contact centres invest in analysing and using it to engage better with customers.

Even anonymous information can be used if you measure emotions, for example, what mood was the customer in when you were on the phone to them? This will help you gauge your performance.

It’s about making data useful so that you can really understand individual customers – but ensure you comply at the same time (remember GDPR will be implemented in May 2018). That’s where ‘Precision Dialling’ comes in, where you use your clean data on the customer to contact them on the right medium, at the right time, with the right message to suit them.

Email and social media will still be important but not as vital as a call for that ‘human touch’

Email and social has shown itself to be resilient and useful as a communications channel, as it can be accessed by mobile, it isn’t hard or expensive to set up and can be automated to suit your business strategy. It’s particularly useful as a lead generation tool, as it’s easy to personalise and segment.

I can’t stress enough, however, that in 2018 customers will still want the option to talk to a human – it might be that your particular clients simply prefer a phone call – or it might be that you’re dealing with complex transactions or complaints, where everyone wants a fast and personal service. So be prepared and ensure that the advisors taking calls are skilled to answer these enquiries and have the correct, unified system to enable them to provide an excellent customer response.