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The Next Big Thing for Contact Centers: Flexibility

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Service Agent with headset using cell phone

As the bar for customer experience rises, does your contact center have the capabilities needed to adapt to changing expectations?

In the past, customers simply dialed a number to get help, ask a question or order a product. But as many businesses know all too well, this is no longer true. Today, customers may just as easily reach for the phone (most like a smartphone), but instead of calling, they email, chat or text. And while they are increasingly speaking less with customer service reps than they used to, they still expect a personal touch.

The diminishing opportunities to have a traditional phone call with an agent can make it more difficult for companies to deliver stand-out customer service. In its latest research on customer care, McKinsey & Company concludes: “Companies that balance the evolving value and complexity of transactions with the right levels of human interaction and automation stand to gain a durable competitive advantage.”

Yet, for contact centers, especially those with aging technologies, keeping up with ever-changing preferences can be a tall order. Today, some may favor Twitter, but tomorrow, it could be Snapchat – or something not yet on our horizons. Social media is just one of the trends transforming the contact center. Here are some of the others that indicate flexibility is the next big thing for contact centers.

Millennial Preferences Are a Major Force

Now that they are the largest generation in the workforce, Millennials are beginning to wield enormous financial power. This year, they’re projected to spend $200 billion on personal purchases annually. At the same time, they’re moving up the ladder at work and beginning to control organizational budgets. Millennials now have the leverage to demand the kind of customer service they prefer, such as self-service, crowd-sourced support, personalized care and simple, user-friendly technology that works. To win over Millennial buyers, contact centers will need to accommodate these preferences.

Different Channel, Same Customer Experience

Today’s buyers expect the customer experience to be seamlessly integrated across all channels. They want the ability to start a conversation on their phone and continue it in chat – all without having to start from the beginning with an agent. To deliver on this promise, contact center solutions should be fully integrated with both the company’s CRM and its phone system, as well as have the flexibility to add new communications channels on the fly.

Customer Service Is the New Sales Force

When customers rate their experience highly, businesses have more opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell. McKinsey believes “customer-care groups will become increasingly important profit pools, strategic assets or both.” Agents will spend more time with complex, service-to-sales calls as simpler requests will be handled by self-service and digital channels. This means contact centers will need to hire agents with sales, technical and problem-solving skills. But equally important, contact center technologies must provide a solution with sophisticated routing tools that will give managers the flexibility to direct calls to the appropriate agents.

A Shift to Work-At-Home Agents

For many businesses, the digital age has made the world their oyster. As companies seek to expand opportunities beyond traditional geographic boundaries, contact centers must find ways to support a customer in her own language, time zone and location. To meet this need, many businesses are engaging work-at-home agents. A contact center solution should be easily extensible, allowing contact center managers to onboard remote agents, without the need for special equipment or setup costs.

In a rapidly changing market, adaptability is key. The contact center of the future must meet the needs of changing demographics and preferences, evolving technologies, and new workplace norms. These trends make it clear: For contact centers, flexibility is the next big thing.

Learn more about ShoreTel’s contact center solutions.

 

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