Contact centers are evolving: 5 capabilities you need now

Mike Asebrook,

Ten years can go by in a flash. Our lives, work, technology – all can evolve in a surprisingly short period of time. Consider your experience when you contacted a company for service a decade ago – if I had to guess, it was probably by phone … and the call center that responded had you wait in a queue before entering repeatable steps to serve each interaction.

Now, fast forward 10 years – and consider all of the recent advancements that are common in today’s contact center: AI, virtual assistants, natural language processing, robotic automation – these are just some of the newer technologies that have re-shaped how work is performed in the contact center, enabling brands to proactively service their customers more efficiently.

But let’s discuss how this evolution came to be…

The evolution of contact centers – the innovation period 2010 to 2020

Aside from the impact of the internet a decade or so earlier, this period could arguably be considered one of the most innovative periods for the contact center ever … as it raised the bar on operational efficiencies, opened the door to new revenue opportunities, and identified customer experience (CX) as a key differentiator to long-term customer loyalty.

And if you consider how contact centers have evolved – from physical to virtual, from manual to automated, and analog to digital – this evolution has paved the way for the contact center to become a true digital customer engagement center, discovering new ways to proactively service customers in a digital-first world.

What’s behind the innovation wheel that’s driving this change?

There are several drivers that have impacted this change over the past 10 years, including:

  • The demand for digital set the CX bar high in how we engage with a brand for self- or assisted-service. Contact centers needed to react rather quickly – rolling out numerous digital engagement channels (chat, chatbot, social, text/SMS, Messenger, etc.) to meet this demand.

  • The wealth of CRM data and decision management tools to enable data-driven outcomes based on individual customer preferences for personalized level of service.

  • The general acceptance of AI and automation in the workplace to intelligently guide, predict, and automate common service interactions for increased operational efficiency.

  • The shift from reactive to proactive service – using AI and outbound channels, contact centers have been able to move from waiting for customers to call to more proactive levels of service. In fact, our recent Pega Global Customer Service Insights report , “ The good, the bad, and the ugly ” confirmed this trend stating that 95% of customers want providers to contact them proactively with help and support.

What are the Top 5 contact center capabilities you need now to stay ahead?

In Gartner’s annual “Critical Capabilities for the CRM Customer Engagement Center” report , it highlights several key capabilities that are must-haves to stay ahead of the curve for delivering optimal customer service. These include:

  1. AI for Real-time Guidance: In order to truly understand your customers, you need the ability to have real-time intelligence with an always-on AI “brain” to sense what your customer’s needs are at any given point. Ideally, you would even have a proactive view into these needs before the customer reaches out to you. You’d also be able to figure out in real time what actions will drive the best value for your customer and for your business.

  2. Automation of Outcomes, not just tasks: Real-time insights and decisions from AI are invaluable. But so is “doing the work.” That’s why end-to-end automation is vital to help service organizations become more operationally efficient once you decide what action to take from each engagement. And it needs to be done in a way that is both easy for the customer and self-service ready for your business.

  3. Channel-less Digital Engagement: The ability to engage with digital channels to communicate with your customers’ preferred channels is certainly important – but only with a unified, omni-channel experience. With a centralized digital brain behind each interaction, service organizations can avoid the siloed channel effect that exacerbates when context is required to remain intact during escalations or general channel switches.

  4. Dynamic Case Management: Orchestrating the actual work across channels with end-to-end case management provides the necessary visibility and accountability across the entire service journey.

  5. Contextual Knowledge Management: Capturing that tribal knowledge within your service organization and customer community with a centralized knowledge management and troubleshooting solution to enable your agents (and customers) to find contextual answers to common issues quickly.

The importance of having a CRM Customer Engagement Center

Digitally native customers deserve frictionless, personalized experiences every time they contact your organization for service. And it is by no means an easy task to keep pace with all the new channels and technology trends emerging. Instead of adding every shiny new communication channel that exists, your service organization needs to adapt more quickly and adopt more advanced processes and technology in the backend – like the top five key capabilities above. This will help service organizations shift away from a siloed, channel-centric approach to being truly customer-centric and become proactively closer to your customers’ needs.

In Gartner’s 2019 “Magic Quadrant for CRM Customer Engagement Center,” Pega was recently named a leader for 10 years running – playing a key role with evolving the contact center over the last decade. Having a digital CRM Customer Engagement center like Pega Customer Service™ optimizes engagement and efficiency across all customer service touch points, including the wide variety of digital messaging channels such as Twitter, Facebook, SMS, chat, and beyond.

Clients are realizing real success with a digital, CRM Customer Engagement Center approach

Clients like Cisco, Anthem, and Great American Insurance Group are all great examples of how their contact centers have evolved into a CRM Customer Engagement Center, realizing success with changes over the last decade. For example:

By digitizing and automating their customer service model from end-to-end, Cisco reduced waiting and handle times, improved consistency, accuracy, and resolution times, and realized an 80% cost savings.

Anthem created a “Solution Central” service that analyzes a variety of data, including the context of a customer’s current interaction, and applies decisioning technology to recommend and guide service reps on their customer interactions.

Great American Insurance Group simplified its customer service by consolidating 15 systems into one unified CSR desktop that uses AI and intelligent process automation to deliver exceptional CX.

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About the Author

Mike Asebrook, director of product marketing for customer service, is passionate about helping our clients revolutionize their customer engagement and realize outstanding success.