For many contact centres today, the transition to digitised and highly automated systems and processes happen in a piecemeal fashion – with the underlying belief that certain business sectors and industries have varying requirements when it comes to digitisation and compliance.
The contact centre of a utility provider may place less emphasis on the digital experience than a contact centre servicing the retail sector, for example. Yet such an approach is fundamentally flawed: as consumers become used to seamless, mobile and self-service methods of interacting within one sphere of life (e.g. banking), they expect a very similar convenient – and highly digitised – experience when interacting with other businesses and providers from other industries (including utilities, medical providers, insurance etc.).
In other words, today’s contact centres have to embrace digital services and look to provide an experience that meets the expectations of every stakeholder within this dynamic landscape. This includes internal stakeholders (employees) as well as external stakeholders (customers, third-party providers, and industry peers).
A radically different workforce
One of the key drivers of change globally is the young workforce – with ambitious new entrants into the workplace bringing with them very different values and expectations. This affects how contact centres should not only run their businesses internally but should also shape the tone and style of the services they offer. Notably, a Deloitte study revealed that “Gen Y [Millennials] are 95 million strong across the world today and will comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025”.
According to current research, Millennials or Gen Y professionals are in search of meaningful work, and value purpose-driven careers over financial rewards and recognition. These workers also move around more actively in search of the right fit, and turnover rates are twice as high as those of older generations. For contact centres employing Millennials or interested in attracting Millennial talent, it is important to recognise that the Millennial worker values work-life balance and flexibility – and wants to improve society by the work they do.
Digitally savvy Millennial consumers
With regards to contact centre services and this new generation, the provision of seamless digital channels and self-service options is becoming imperative. Having grown up with the internet, social media and instant messaging, Millennial consumers expect immediate feedback when they log queries with contact centre channels. They prefer to interact over the Web with live chats or on social media, and will generally only turn to the telephone as a last resort or escalation.
Yet this is a trend going beyond the Millennials: studies show that over 48% of consumers would rather connect with a company via live chat than any other means of contact! This reinforces the importance of embracing a seamless omnichannel approach to customer experience management (especially when keeping in mind that Gen Y are so dependent on technology that businesses who do not support digital interaction channels run the risk of alienating an entire generation of customers).
This is not to say, however, that voice-based customer support will be abandoned. The need will always exist, but simpler queries may be funnelled to other self-service and digital channels, leaving more complex queries to be handled by skilled contact centre agents.
Authentic brand guardianship
In addition to placing a strong emphasis on efficient digital channels, contact centres also have to pave the way for a new and more dynamic contact centre advisor/agent. Indeed, given the critical role that contact centres play in developing and retaining brand loyalty today, contact centre advisors have to be powerful and authentic guardians of the brand or business in question. In practice, this will require incoming professionals to have strong written and verbal skills, deep product and service knowledge, in-depth customer service knowledge and finally, a strong ability to multi-task and work under pressure.
From a management perspective, leaders will need to ensure that they provide this workforce with engaging on-the-job training, continuous professional development and formal training. Leaders will also come under increasing pressure to invest in things like data analytics and cognitive computing, as Millennials want more of their work time to be devoted to creative, human and value-added work (as opposed to laborious data input tasks and administrative functions).
Looking ahead, no business sector or industry will be immune to these changes… primarily because customers’ interactions within one industry drives rapid change in others. For contact centres, this means that digital evolution is key to growth and sustainability – and failure to get it right will see them losing out to more digitally-savvy competitors.
Edited by Jenna Cook
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