TOP TEN TRENDS FOR CONTACT CENTERS IN 2013

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1 TOP TEN TRENDS FOR CONTACT CENTERS IN 2013 by Jeremy Puent, Clarity Consulting January 7, OF 6

2 INTRODUCTION: Humans resist change. Some organizations are slow to adapt. Change and innovation seem to be especially tough in the contact center world. Innovative organizations are taking charge of the technology and resources available to surpass the competition. In 2013, when technology continues to advance, falling behind your competitors will be tougher than ever on your employees, your business, and your bottom line. Stay ahead of the trends that really matter to increase your contact center successes in The world is changing, IVR capabilities have grown. IVR tools are becoming more powerful. The ability to understand how your users interact with your IVR is becoming a standard best practice in The following are the Top Ten Trends to expect in the Contact Center in 2013: 1. The Cloud: SaaS and Hosted Options 2. Remote Agents 3. Social Integrations 4. Emotion Detection 5. Truly Unified UC 6. Call-Back Options 7. SIP Continues to Displace POTS 8. The New KPI s 9. Cleaner, Leaner IVR s 10. The Focus on Chat 1. The Cloud: SaaS and Hosted Options As more and more businesses consider the benefits of moving high demand software to the cloud, the demand for Contact Center in the cloud is growing fast. Generally being one of the highest demand platforms in an organization due to its ability to generate revenue and drive customer satisfaction, the Contact Center is a definite cloud candidate. Moving to the cloud is a no brainer for organizations that have small IT shops and require a redundant solution that has options during disaster recovery scenarios. Off-loading the support and upgrades of a solution as complex as the Contact Center to another organization makes sense from a financial, resource, and expertise point of view. Software as a Service (SaaS) provides benefits at an affordable price to smaller groups of users, and can help cut annual costs for extremely large organizations. With the growing need for people to be enabled to work from wherever they are, the Cloud makes more sense every day. Private Clouds for businesses are becoming more affordable and more common as each day passes. " 2013 is going to be the year of the hybrid cloud infrastructure." Tracy Corbo - Principal Research Analyst, Enterprise Management Associates, Hybrid Cloud for OF 6

3 According to Gartner s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies we have reached the Tipping Point and mainstream acceptance of the Cloud is upon us. Will you be leading the charge, or following from behind trying to play catchup with your competitors? Next Evolution: Much like cell phone contracts, longer commitments to a platform in the cloud will start to gain discounts from the providers over the next year or two (I predict 2 3 year service contracts with early termination fees). 2. Remote Agents According to recent studies, an estimated 30 million Americans work from home today, doubling by As this shift continues in how Contact Centers are structured, you will see more and more companies allow work at home or otherwise remote Contact Center agents. This shift is driven by two factors. As previously mentioned it can help with Disaster recovery options (people are finally realizing what 'Don't put all your eggs in one basket means!), and allows for happier agents with flexible work environments and schedules. Today s world is not the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago, and the contact center traditionally has one of the highest turnover rates in any industry. It can be a very tough, stressful job. Providing better, flexible options for workers can help lower that churn rate, which in turn saves money on many fronts. The cost associated with training and onboarding new agents is significant when you add to that the cost associated with office space, furniture, etc., and it starts to be a no brainer when you have the right tools available to let agents work from remote sites provided it meets company standards and allows for proper oversight of the employees activities. Collaboration then becomes even more important when agents are distributed at many remote locations, and being able to collaborate on documents, presentations, and more in real time is a must have. Instant messaging, chat, call or video call with screen sharing provides this ability with almost no effort. 3. Social Integrations With the growth of social media and its fast paced landscape, integrations into the contact center have been tough. I expect these to be tweaked to make sense for actual use cases within the Contact Center, not just Demo well and have bells and whistles. Look for more platforms to have different hooks, or methods built in that allow various integration pieces or avenues, but may not have specific social media plugins yet. (Imagine using an component that your contact center already has to receive notifications when your company is mentioned on Facebook for example) Be cautious if you're moving into this arena, it s still finding its way, and a lot of the implementations to date 'demo well' but the practical application is lacking. My Advice: Build your business case first and go from there. Truly unifying communications means utilizing actual native solutions that are meant to work together into one solution or platform, not multiple different platforms forced to "work" together. 4. Emotion Detection This is a growing, but not yet truly mature, feature to be considered and to have on your roadmap. Emotion detection is heading in the right direction and has a lot of potential to add great benefit to your contact center. The trick will be making it smart enough or having the proper business process in place to keep people from using this as a shortcut to agents. This seems to be an issue with systems as they work today. There are two different places this may make sense, in IVR and when an agent is connected. They may 3 OF 6

4 require different actions depending on business requirements and should be treated differently. This powerful system when used properly can automate supervisor alerts, trigger recordings, or escalate a callers place/priority in queue are just a few examples of actions that can be taken when the system detects high emotions in a callers tone. 5. Truly Unified UC Truly unifying communications means utilizing actual native solutions that are meant to work together into one solution or platform, not multiple different platforms forced to "work" together. When you use nonnative, non-unified platforms designed to adapt to multiple environments, it will always lead to compromise. Be wary of software that runs against many platforms look for one designed to work specifically with your platform when integration is needed. Native is best here. It simplifies support, troubleshooting, use, and reporting. Also look for the ability to add collaboration into the mix. The ability to truly collaborate is what really empowers Unified Communications. I prefer to think of UC as UC&C Unified Communications and Collaboration. In a recent LinkedIn poll of Unified Communications professionals, 34% said they wanted UC to enable Dynamic Teamwork and 32% said they wanted it to enable Simple Communications. I believe combining these two yields the most benefits for performance and efficiency. 6. Call-Back Options Call-Backs will be playing a bigger role in queues and call handling, as well as getting web leads converted. Flexibility and choices for customers matter when it comes to customer satisfaction. When customers feel like their only option for interactions is to call and sit in a queue, they may not be as satisfied as those given options for other methods of interaction. Offering a callback option either from the web or while the caller is in queue can provide the customer more flexibility which they will appreciate. This flexibility shows the customer that you respect their time. In the event that you have long hold times, customers can feel empowered and save time by requesting a callback. Next Evolution: The next step beyond this will be to schedule a callback at a predetermined time and then receive a callback when you're up! Everyone loves options. Allowing customers to either hold in queue, offer a callback or allow scheduling a callback shows them you care. This will become more and more important as competing for customers dollars gets tougher. 7. SIP SIP continues to take control and replace PSTN connections. SIP has been around and growing for quite a while, it continues to grow and move to more of a standard than it has played to date. Carriers are finally starting to get it right. Though there may still be pain when moving to SIP Trunks, it will pay off. Pro-Active Monitoring of KPI s with System Level Alerts based on the ones that matter to you will be even more key. Instead of watching the board for key events, the system will notify you immediately if and when they occur. 8. The New KPI's 4 OF 6

5 Key Performance Indicators start to take center stage. Although they have always been important, a move towards more 'lean and mean' analysis of the stats is what really matters. Learning to focus on the KPI's and metrics that are important like Depth, Service Level, and Average Excess Time, rather than death by reports is going to become more prevalent this year. Next Evolution: Pro-Active Monitoring of KPI s with System Level Alerts based on the ones that matter to you will be even more key. Instead of watching the board for key events, the system will notify you immediately if and when they occur. 9. Cleaner, Leaner IVR's It s time for lean, clean IVR s to provide better customer experiences. Using updated features that take advantage of TTS (Text to Speech) and Speech recognition instead of just DTMF Entry. The world is changing, IVR has grown, tools that allow more powerful IVR's, and more importantly, better information about how your users interact with your IVR will start to be the standard. Make sure your tools and platforms can help you with this. Remember K.I.S.S. - Keep it Simple 10. The Focus on Chat Chat will be moving to a primary form of communications with agents. It may surprise many of you to learn that for the younger generations, the primary form of communications on their mobile phones is not making calls, but texting. This is becoming a more acceptable and expected form of communication every day. For the Contact Center the equivalent is chat, and it is growing in demand daily. Opening new avenues for your customers in the way that they are most comfortable communicating is key to staying ahead of the trends and keeping your customers happy. This doesn t mean go get chat, but rather see if there is a need and business use case for it. It does not work for all businesses, but for those that it does, the benefits may surprise you. First, think of how an agent can interact with a chat it doesn t have to be the only thing they are doing, and if they are talented, they can probably handle more than one chat at a time. This can t be done with inbound calls. As technologies like Lync and Skype, along with the prevalence of SMS Text messaging, continue to grow, calls and s take a backseat as preferred methods of communication. Make sure your Contact Center is keeping up, making sure you have a unified front for your contact center... Chat, calls, and more sent to a universal queue of your agents based on skill to answer the needs of your customers. People are becoming more and more willing, and eager to open a chat window and keep working on what they are doing to get an answer for their needs than they did previously, and more and more prefer this method to a call. SUMMARY: Planning for the future can be a massive undertaking when it comes to the Contact Center. Be sure you factor in trends that may come into play even if they are not things you re going to be doing today. Consider a flexible platform that can adapt quickly to encompass new integrations, or has tools for you to use when adding new components down the road. Don t just pick a locked down black box product. Consider the release frequency of updates, and if future version upgrades are included or need to be purchased. A well rounded, flexible platform that has upgrades included in the maintenance is going to be the best bet for a less stressful future in your contact center. Investing in the right tool that allows for future growth, improves communication, collaboration, and customer experience will result in a better work environment for your agents, more efficient results and happier customers. This will always help your bottom line. 5 OF 6

6 If you pay attention to these trends, and stay ahead of the curve, you will be able to beat out your competitors on more fronts and grow your business in new ways as the technology changes. 6 OF 6

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