Thursday, May 2, 2013

Next Generation Call Centers

Recently I came across a few articles about the future of call centers which included some controversial and troubling predictions. They anticipate that soon there will no longer be a need for call centers, as self-service, auto-responders and virtual avatars will take place of call center agents. It’s true that virtual call centers are rapidly growing, being very convenient for employees as most of them may work from their own homes with a flexible schedule.However, virtual call centers may not be the best solution for every business.

“Speaking to, or interacting with a dedicated person for service will still exist but it will be a niche activity that companies will charge for,” said Richard Kenny, Contact Centre Segment Manager at Plantronics.

Call Center Evolution
Let’s go back in time and examine how call centers have performed historically. A call center is subject to ongoing improvements and innovations. In the beginning, call center agents were simply answering customer phone calls, with the telephone as the only communication tool. Then, with the advent of Internet-based service, agents also started answering emails.  And quickly even more new technologies have become an integrated part of the service toolbox, such as chat, click-to-call, and more.

And now? Today social media became an active and inseparable part of the customer service routine. Why write an email and wait for a reply? A customer can put the same question on Facebook or Twitter and get a company reply even more quickly. Even better, another customer who had already used the product may answer the question and can help your customer even faster with his own feedback. Some organizations already base customer service strategies on customers collaborating with each other, according to BT Futurologist Dr Millard.

Call Center Future

In my opinion, real human interaction will always be more useful and pleasant than a virtual or technology-based response. Interaction is much more than just communication. It reaches customers on all levels: intellectual, spiritual, emotional and physical. Call center agents with a deep knowledge of the product/service are able to help customers while simultaneously driving satisfaction and brand loyalty. As Jeff Angus said: “Too often, people think of knowledge management as a noun. They’re mistaken: KM is a verb, a way of getting work done.”

Next Generation Call Centers
Innovation is our way of life. We’ll continue to see call centers evolve with new technology, but replacing them entirely with virtual resources would be a mistake. Personal, interactive service is crucial to a successful customer service strategy, and customers have proven time and time again that they will always do business with the company that provides it.

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