Everyone is anxious to return to normal life, but some things have changed since the start of the pandemic and might never go back to the way they were — particularly in the contact center space.
Looking back at the last 18 months, the early days of the pandemic seem like a distant memory. For contact centers, they scrambled to support teleworking while dealing with explosive growth in call volumes. During this time, organizations often implemented solutions that could be spun up fast without regard for long-term initiatives, strategic thinking, or process changes required to compliment the new technology.
Making the Contact Center Pieces Fit
Expanding interaction channels was one of the big pushes. The initial motivation was adding digital channels, so organizations quickly implemented email, social media, and chat queues, either upgrading their existing solution or rolling out standalone technology. This often came without considering how to take advantage of synergies created through implementing an integrated solution.
Let’s consider a hypothetical situation now. Picture an organization with exponential call center growth fueled by the pandemic that quickly implemented a framework to support work-from-home strategies. Pre-COVID, the contact center had a traditional, voice-only call center rather than a multi-channel or omnichannel contact center. Initially, the requirement was to increase call volume capacity and support teleworking agents. Over the next 18 months, the following services were added to the existing call center, each on a separate platform:
-Email interaction with resolution-tracking capabilities
-Service/ticket desk to tie interactions together, track comments, and report on the types of interactions
-A virtual assistant to allow automated chat interactions, which can then escalate a chat to a live agent (live chats will be also reported in the ticketing system)
-Call recording without transcription
The solution components were added piecemeal and not integrated with one another, and no common reporting or analytics across the platforms were available. Situations like these will most likely be discussed during my Enterprise Connect session, “Contact Center Tales from the Trenches,” next month.
While these disparate systems are inefficient and can’t provide a combined intelligence and overview of everything going on across all interactions, one might think simply that an omnichannel contact center is the solution. An omnichannel solution is a good starting point. However, what is needed is a recognition that the world is experiencing an exponential shift in technologies, which requires a corresponding paradigm shift in approach to contact center solutions.
The evolution of technology over the years has been described in various ways, including:
-The convergence of social, mobile, cloud (SoMoClo)
-The convergence of social, mobile, analytics, cloud (SMAC)
-The Third Platform — A model of computing that factors big data and analytics, cloud computing, mobile and social, as described in this ZDNet article
-The Fifth Wave — The first wave being the mainframe, second being the PC, third being information age, fourth being virtual and augmented reality, and the current fifth one, which includes the convergence of AI, mobile (5G), cloud computing, advanced micro processing (IoT), and edge computing
So, what does this the Fifth Wave have to do with the contact center? Social media, mobility, analytics, and cloud are converging to drive business innovation in the contact center, in short amplifying the effects of each of these technologies, with analytics unifying the investment.
Be Bold in Your Vision for the Future
Whether you call it the Third Platform, the Fifth Wave, SMAC, or SoMoClo, the result is the same. Distinct evolutionary technologies are now converging, revolutionizing the way data is used, making way for an exponential leap in the advancement of civilization. In the contact center, this means transforming to provide maximum reach with minimal overhead and specifically redesigning your business from the consumer’s point of view.
Organizations must think strategically about how those interacting with them prefer to connect. The advances of the Fifth Wave can improve efficiency, provide extensive real-time and historical information, and create a more customized experience — be it with a consumer, customer, constituent, citizen, or patient. Adding channels or components can’t be an afterthought. Processes and integrations that create synergy must be part of the strategic design and planning process for the entire organization, to avoid compartmentalization and to make the best use of the technology investment.
Some examples of enterprise-wide strategic planning initiatives, which might include contact center fulfillment, are digital-first initiatives with a complete digital ecosystem, mobile-first strategies, microservice architecture with automation, or leveraging analytics to gain insights across the entire entity (not just the contact center). Inbound engagement may include tuning social channel conversations through automatically generated scripts, screens, and applications or having customers interact with employees who speak from online scripts, knowledge bases and other guidance that is auto-generated by next-best-action script, orchestrated accomplish specific business objectives, such as increasing sales velocity.
As a result of SoMoClo, social, mobile, and cloud applications are generating enormous amounts of data, which requires a combination of more bandwidth and storage, microservices, and edge computing to process and analyze. With billions of gigabits of structured and unstructured data now available, privacy and security concerns become paramount, creating a new generation of zero-trust security models.
If you are considering adding digital channels or if your enterprise quickly expanded into new interaction channels without a view to the long term, then now might be a good time to see how a strategic look might benefit your business goals.
Elizabeth is writing on behalf of the SCTC, a premier professional organization for independent consultants. Our consultant members are leaders in the industry, able to provide best of breed professional services in a wide array of technologies. Every consultant member commits annually to a strict Code of Ethics, ensuring they work for the client benefit only and do not receive financial compensation from vendors and service providers.