What does the future of contact centres look like?

Sitel Group recently took part in an Engage Focus Groups round-table discussion, hosted at the Hilton at Heathrow. Compromising of four tables, the aim of this event was to act as a platform within which like-minded professionals could come together to share their thoughts and experience around customer and employee engagement. As one of the sponsors for the most recent event, Sitel Group hosted a round-table discussion, with our Sales Director Keith Price moderating the session. Our chosen subject for the day? The Future of Contact Centres.

On the day there were attendees from a large range of sectors and brands of different sizes, from global companies to local businesses. Based on the discussions had, it’s clear that over the last 8-10 years much has changed in the contact centre environment and this change continues at a rapid pace. This leads us to think that perhaps having a strategy that is too embedded may not be the optimum way of doing things. As businesses we need to be agile and have the capacity to respond quickly to changes in technology, trends and customer expectations. Knowing our customers is pivotal. Every brand has different needs and there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. As one attendee put it; “the key thing for us as businesses is having the flexibility to deal with customers how they want to be dealt with, and that’s how we can provide the best customer service.”

Another takeaway from the discussions is that email, although a digital platform, has possibly the least scope for growth. This does not mean it should be discounted if it’s a platform your customers want, but having an open inbox for queries isn’t necessarily the most efficient way to go about it. Without any clear instruction on what details to provide, customers will most likely not think to include the information your business needs to react quickly to their query. This results in long AHT times and thus increased costs. A web form could be a better alternative, as your business can specify what details are needed to quickly move the conversation forward and promptly respond to the customer. By ensuring you have all the details you need, you can improve the customer journey as well as workplace efficiencies.

Another common question in today’s digital world is how will voice fit in to the future of the contact centre, if at all? Having discussed this at length at the Engage event, the most common view was that voice will still have a big part to play in the customer journey. The technology available to us can take away many of the basic and transactional calls, but there will be some circumstances in which customers will always want to speak to a person; when there is a high level of emotion. Depending on your business these calls may be more or less frequent, but they will always require a person on the end of the phone to provide empathy, give immediate responses, and show a high level of understanding that cannot be mimicked by a digital platform. Due to the nature of these calls, the agents will need to be highly skilled, with comprehensive knowledge of the product/service being provided and the ability to build rapport with customers and show understanding. This will likely require more substantial training, which brings us onto the next challenge. With many call centres roles being seen as a temporary job, how do we increase the tenure of our agents to ensure we don’t lose our best people 6 months in? How do we change the perception of call centres jobs and ensure our investments in training and more highly skilled candidates isn’t lost through a lack of employee retention?

Overall, with discussion around test and learn, automation verses human interaction and the impacts on our businesses , the key takeaways from this thought provoking discussion is that Voice is very much still alive and will continue to play an integral role in the contact centre industry. But we must still innovate and be agile in our approach, balancing the best of both technology and our people.

If you’d like to comment on any of the questions asked in this article or take part in future discussion, please connect with us using the form below. Join the conversation!

Sitel Group