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Let’s Face it, the Contact Center is Evolving and BPO Vendors Need to Keep Up

The past couple of months, I have written about my vision for contact center services being delivered from onshore and offshore locations.  But, this week I want to touch on the nature of customer experience delivery, which I think so many of us would agree has changed massively over the last three decades.  One thing is clear – no matter the industry, US consumers have adopted a multichannel approach to interacting with the companies from which they buy products and services; so, in order to keep these end-users happy, the contact center has to be ready to accommodate their preferences.

I recently attended the annual PACE Association conference held in Tampa and was intrigued by the presentation that Peter Ryan provided in one of the breakout sessions.  Peter’s talk was focused around how enterprises need to optimize their channel strategy in the current digital environment.  But, what was interesting was the context Peter drew around how the contact center environment has changed so much over the past three decades.

For example, thinking back to 1987 (was that really thirty years ago?), enterprises generally deployed reception switchboards and mailrooms to deal with consumer inquiries. There
was limited interest in customer experience, and lag times could be weeks. Flash forward fifteen years to 2002, and the story improves somewhat.  Proper contact centers had been established to take both landline calls and those from the emerging class of cellular users, the latter being most eager for rapid resolution to their issues.  Email was starting to pop up as a channel, but I think that there is universal agreement that in 2002 very few companies were using it well.

So where does this leave us in 2017? Well, according to Peter, enterprises and outsourcers face considerable expectations among end-users when it comes to which channels need to be supported.  Not only does voice still resonate (no pun intended), email can now be considered just as widely-used in the US.  The move toward digital channels such as SMS, webchat, video chat and instant messaging is clear and steady.  As per social media, with the number of networks being used by consumers, this medium opens a realm of opportunities and threats. One major threat that is real relates to the ability of enterprises to service their end-users across all these mediums.  Yet, this is now almost expected by channel-agnostic customers.  Not to do so means lost loyalty, falling revenues and limited scope for attracting new customer.

The bottom line is that in today’s dynamic multichannel environment, enterprises must be ready to interact based on what end-users want.  If they are not able to facilitate these expectations, new business models need to be found.  Working with a modern contact center services vendor removes the need for heavy capital outlays on technology and training.  In fact, it may be the best defense against losing customers and keeping up with new channel developments.

Written by Stephen B. Ferber