Of course all contact center professionals know the Call Center Management Dictionary, written by ICMI president Brad Cleveland. But in this new era of web 2.0, voice/data integration and multichannel customer contact it sometimes seems that technological developments are going faster than experts explain what they are talking about. What are the new buzz words?

By Erik Bouwer

Two important developments are creating a whole new frame of concepts. The first trend is about sourcing – the decision making process of deciding what to do by yourself and what to delegate to others. These ‘others’ can be described as outsourcing service providers, who have developed a range of service solutions. Outsourcing we all know, but co-sourcing and insourcing are relatively young. By co-sourcing both parties involved choose to work close together for a limited period of time. Although the actual process is outsourced, the outsourcer himself stays in control and is responsible for the end results more than compared to classical outsourcing.
When deciding to outsource, you might choose for one provider (single sourcing). E.g. after a request for proposal you decide to outsource telesales, inbound service calls, retention calls and market research to one third party company. This company will have the advantages of economy of scale but also has to deal with interdependencies between activities and takes a much larger business risk. Outsourcers who would like to maintain the opportunity of permanent benchmarking and to spread their business risks, might choose for multi vendor sourcing. In this construction, you even might arrange that the two or more third party contactcenters have to cooperate together.
Insourcing is about asking your supplier to open up its own office within your company. You might think of IT-people or temp agencies that will operate within your building and deliver services that you used to do by yourself.

You probably know about offshoring, nearshoring and farshoring: when you decide to move your activities to another region, often because of labour arbitrage. Nearshoring means you decide to go to a region near your own country – for US companies, nearshoring is about the Latin Americas; for European companies it’s about countries like Russia, Poland, Hungary or even Turkey. Offshore and farshore destinations are typically on another continent.
Homeshoring is the hottest trend for the upcoming years. With respect to urgent difficulties in recruitment, new and simple to implement technology like VoIP and software as a service make it much easier to work with homebased agents. You don’t lose time to travel to far away destinations; you don’t waste time in traffic jams.

Sophisticated marketing
Not only is our world getting smaller, it’s also becoming smarter. New marketing models like unified multichannel communication (sending out messages to your audience in many different ways, like narrow casting, web casting, in store and online sales promotion, permission based street sales and behavorial targeting, all at the same time) are nowadays common sense. Each time you visit you most favorite websites, you can’t explain whether or not someone has been analyzing your online behavior and therefore has send you a personalized add (behavioral targeting).  Convergence between different media channels is growing too: like adverts in printed media that try to seduce and attract visitors to certain websites. On the webpages vistors are seduced again to leave their personal details. At another day, time and online place they will be confronted with new propositions, based on their left behind profile.

Social software
Web 2.0 will become integrated part of our business life and commerce will dig itself into web 2.0, which means that commercial activities will (again) enter into business environment. At the same level this is happening with consumer marketing. Social software like fora and blogs should be monitored by companies in order to be able to signalize problems, to analyse trends and  intervene when necessary.
The web confronts companies – and more specific, their customer service departments – with lots of unstructured data. Most customers explore the web before making any (buying) decision. Knowledge management, information retrieval capabilities and analytical competences are crucial for the new customer service agent.
When online customer service and online sales are fully integrated, agents should be able to inforce online up- and cross selling or even prevent customer from walking away, leaving their shopping cart unattended (shopping cart abandonment). Therefore technology and agents should be focused on instant messaging (chat).

Reject old concepts
Companies that still build their customer contact operation on scripting, should think twice. Is the process that scripting should support, too complex to handle for smart people? And how should agents interact with customers that are smart enough to ask new questions?
More and more contact center professionals have their doubts too on KPI’s like average call length or average handling time. Nice to know, but more important is so serve your customer in the most efficient way by making use of knowledge systems and intelligent agents.
Erik Bouwer is partner of Essentials, chiefeditor of Intellectueel Kapitaal, chiefeditor of Outsource Magazine.