Contact centres are changing from simple telephone call centres to multimedia ones, covering chat and email. Here I outline why multimedia should mean exactly that, and offer three trends to ride for even more routes into contact centres.
1. Everyone is online all the time
Mobiles are ubiquitous and overwhelmingly smart – seven out of 10 consumers now own a smartphone. It goes without saying that any online presence should be designed with the presumption that users are as likely to be viewing the website via a phone as a PC. This also opens up chat possibilities, and with two thirds of all online mobile usage being accessed over Wi-Fi, phone calls via apps such as WhatsApp or using WebRTC become easier, cheaper and offer a smoother transition than switching to a standard mobile call. The need for contact centres to handle customers quickly, efficiently and effectively is not lessened though – in fact because the apps are slick and streamlined, the agent needs to be equally smooth and professional.
2. Broadband penetration is complete
With 88% of adults having access to broadband, online activity is similarly ubiquitous – from ordering a new recycling container, tickets for events or travel through to ordering a simple takeaway. The changing use of mobiles and the position of landline primarily as a carrier of broadband rather than the prime method of communication means that increasingly people have the choice of being online – or on the phone.
This means that again, an invitation to call an 0800 number and chat is less attractive than talking via the computer using the built in microphone and speakers – especially for millennials who practically live with their laptops in front of them. In fact, given the renowned short attention span of millennials, the need to adhere to aggressive call answering and handling will increase in the online contact centre as the transition from initiation to agent resolution becomes shorter and shorter.
3. International calls are dying
In the UK the number of international calls made from landlines dropped by 18% in 2016 following a trend going back several years. With FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp and now Facebook all offering the ability to make calls at no extra charge, the benefits of crystal clear audio with low latency are sacrificed on the altar of zero cost.
For businesses this means that complex inbound international numbers and routing can also be reviewed – do you really need an 0800 in Italy routing back to Reading when the consumer is probably just as happy using web-based audio? First time exporters don’t necessarily have to establish a network of inbound numbers around the world for consumers to ring in with queries and complaints – simply publish an email and a web address and handle inbound enquiries by whichever media the consumer chooses, whether email, chat, call or full video. However, the new model still needs to provide the customer with a feeling of intimacy; that the agent knows them and cares about them.
The moral here is we must use the new social and technical routes to consumers – but without losing sight of the primary objective which is that outstanding customer service will always save more money than any single technological innovation.