Text: Karin Van De Velde, Business Consultant at Newtel Essence

Young persons of this day and age, also called screenagers, are today’s customers, tomorrow’s colleagues and the managers of the day after tomorrow. Compared with older people, the so-called ‘babyboomers’, they live in a culture that contains more sounds and images than texts. They have the ability to multitask and communicate 24 hours a day, making use of several (social) networks. In other words: screenagers communicate differently and use other kinds of media to inform (themselves). Someone in his thirties or forties bases his decisions on ratio and facts and screenagers are more impulsive and driven by emotions. These developments are determining factors for the client contact of the future and the contact centre of 2015.

Changes in interactions

The screenage employee and the screenage client will use different communication methods and search for different cooperation forms: as well inside as outside the working environment. If this does not work via private networks and the company’s ICT-means, then they will use public means. Their frame of reference is: ‘technology is there for me and I can use it the way I want to.’ Screenagers are not computer illiterates like many babyboomers; Games, Hyves, Text Messaging, Skype, MSN, MMS, mobile phones, blogs and chats are all part of their social environment.  They do not hesitate to share knowledge and information. The contact centre of the future needs to take these new developments into account in order to respond to the wishes and needs of tomorrow’s client. The ‘new’ client wants to communicate through all available channels at the moment he wants to and where he wants to and he expects a fast and ‘first time right’ answer. The conventional call centre will migrate to an ‘interaction contact centre’ where there is no need for a fixed location and where social networks are a part of the work field.

Phase 1: Conventional call centre (past until present)

  • isolated business units that are separated from the rest of the organisation and that have their own automation applications, concentrated on their own needs;
  • systems and applications are not linked to the call centre (and vice versa) and specialists present in the organisation contribute little to the improvement of the client service;
  • applications often use a different hardware platform, different software and a separated administration. Processes overlap in multiple applications, each with their own reports and administration.

Phase 2: IP contact centre (present until near future)

  • contact centres apply IP telephony and are a part of the IT-infrastructure. In case of peaks the contact centre can use all the applications and resources available in the organisation;
  • definition of ‘centre’ has changed. IP telephony makes it possible to deploy agents everywhere (also at home), something that has become a strategy for many contact centres in the light of cutting costs.
  • business applications and communication work together but a lot of applications are still silo-applications.

Phase 3: The interaction centre (in the future, maturity in 2015)

Real integration – implementing intelligent communication in business processes – is a revolutionary concept. It stands for new innovating methods to win clients, to be competitive and to gain profits. Because of intelligent communication the whole organisation is involved in the client service process, while the functionalities of the contact centre are being used by the entire organisation. This form of integration makes sure that certain events in a certain part of the organisation urge the right systems to take action. For instance: a delay in the fabrication of a certain product leads to systems starting up an outbound call in the contact centre so that customers waiting for this specific product will be notified about the delay automatically.

Necessary changes

Some techniques will change the client contact significantly. And the whole organisation will become a part of the client service process.Everyone in the company will have something added to their job description:  employee client contact.

1.    The use of Unified Communications (UC): UC finally offers multichannel possibilities. Regardless of through which channel the question is asked, the client receives the answer fast and ’first time right’.

2.    Location Based Services offers big opportunities for contact centres. On the basis of the location the client calls from and the communicational channel he uses, the contact centre can offer suitable services. Think about an alarm call, ordering a pizza or the broken part of a dishwasher. By knowing the location the client is communicating from, the contact centre can immediately offer services  that fit the location, time and used communication model.

3.    Front- and back office integration: client information and knowledge is easy accessible for everyone in the company and its goal is helping clients faster (‘first time right’). The client will always be transferred to someone that knows his history and can act on the basis of that knowledge.

4.    Presence on de desktop: to make sure the client can find everything fast, right and immediately. Time is being used more productive and efficiently.

5.    Mobile Communication is a part of the client contact. Lots of clients approach the contact centre via a mobile device. The contact centre of the future can respond to this trend; text messages and text become part of the client contact and the client receives graphical information (film, video, promo and so on).

6.    Self service becomes an essential part of that which is offered to clients. The client does not have problems with searching for answers to the more easy questions via user-friendly websites, chatboxes, communities, etc. Live agents become ‘specialists’ for the more complex questions. This means that the profile of the contact centre agent will change. He/she will need to be good at vocal and written communication, have a large learning capacity and he or she will need to be flexible. Apart from this, new developments and innovations on the product and communicational level cannot put the agent off.

7.    Adding value the contact centre can add value by using social networks LinkedIn, Hyves and Netlog. You can involve a satisfied buyer of a service 3 or 4 times a year with a question received by the contact centre. This creates an extra shell around the contact centre: ad hoc agents based on a social network community. These ad hoc agents deserve a reward and this has two advantages: an extra community is created and the contact centre becomes a strategic part of the marketing strategy. The contact centre will also be relieved by using ad hoc agents that have lots of knowledge about specific domains.

8.    Speech recognition and -analytics and recognition of emotions are used in the client communication: smart software provides information about the question on the basis of word recognition and gives feedback on how clients experience the service and what they are calling for. This way, the agent receives real time tips and he can thus react even better to the client: the script is adapted during the conversation and it takes into account the question as well as the emotions of the client. This makes the communication with the client more proactive and personal. It puts an end to rattling off a pre-dictated script. With the help of speech analytics, contact centre managers will be able to react better to unforeseen peaks and analyse the root cause better. The data can also be used to analyse marketing campaigns.

The contact centre of the future will thus be an interaction centre where by means of intelligent communication, clients get the right information fast and via the means of communication they have chosen.

Karin Van De Velde is Business Consultant at  Newtel Essence – http://www.newtelessence.be/