The contact center industry is starting to experiment with new business models and customer interaction methods which could profoundly change the way outsourcers delivery services to clients. The economic slowdown of the last few years actually accelerated this process, as contact centers discovered the potential of software-based data analytics to maintain their margins and deliver improved brand management. The fact is that transitioning to cloud-based operations, developing mobile customer service capabilities and implementing robust workforce optimization suites have all moved from the back burner to front and center in 2013.
2013 is going to be a year of increased use of cloud computing in the contact center industry, at least according to consulting firm Interactive Intelligence. In a recent webinar, Joe Staples, Chief Marketing Officer of Interactive Intelligence, advances the argument that 2012 was a watershed moment in the trend toward contact centers moving to cloud-based operations, and points out that contact center operations of all sizes are projecting at least 15 to 20% annual expansion in cloud-based operations versus around 2% annual expansion of on-premise operations through 2015.
Staples argues that this movement toward the cloud has truly become a sea change in 2013. “Twelve months ago we saw a lot of interest, there were some early adopters and a lot of tire-kickers, but now what we’ve seen this year is a major shift toward the cloud from on-premise solutions.”
Staples also emphasized that contact centers are actually moving core contact center communications to the cloud. “As of the middle of 2011, only 20% of contact centers had moved core communications to the cloud; a year later over 30% had done so, which is annual cloud deployment growth rate of greater than 50%.”
According to Staples, the flexibility of cloud operations is one of the greatest benefits of cloud-based operations. Cloud-based solutions also typically offer significantly faster deployment times, lower capital costs, and reduced IT requirements.
Mobile Customer Service
Mobile customer service is another growth area. According to the Forrester Q4 2011 Global Mobile Maturity Online Survey, eBusinesses nearly doubled the size of their mobile teams from Q4 2010 to Q4 2011.
Art Shoeller, principal analyst at Forrester Research, points out that the insurance, financial services, hotel/motel industry and transportation industries have been leading the way toward developing mobile customer service capabilities, especially since 2010. That said, many companies in other industries have not yet embraced mobile customer care, for various reasons.
Shoeller further argues that companies that are enjoying success with their mobile initiatives have enjoyed senior leadership support for these projects, and by the same token that senior leadership support for mobile initiatives is essential to make them happen.
Shoeller sums it up. “Success breeds success…So it is very important if you haven’t started yet to not panic, but to build a track record, to build success, to build leadership support, and perhaps start modestly and build on that leadership support.”
The new technology shifts are clearly influencing the path outsourcers will take, as they look to grow their capabilities to meet new types of demands from client customers.
Workforce optimization continues to gain relevance and importance as technology transforms the contact center industry. Two trends have dovetailed to bring WFO to the fore in 2013 — WFO suites have matured and the value of analytics is becoming more obvious, and the increasing importance of measuring employee productivity.
Up until the last couple of years, WFO had been largely the purview of larger companies, but Interactive Intelligence’s most recent surveys show that use of WFO is trickling down to medium-sized and even smaller enterprises. The surveys also indicated that the trend toward the cloud applies to WFO as well, as a growing number of businesses are migrating to the cloud for workforce management solutions.
Joe Staples offers a thought-provoking example of how the real-time analytics aspects of WFO can impact contact center operations. “With the introduction of real-time speech analytics applications, it’s a new tool that now allows you to effect the actual customer experience — because you are learning about key words and trends about things that are being spoken in real time in a conversation before that customer slams down the phone on the agent and goes and buys somewhere else.”