From being an industry in decline less than 10 years ago, call centres are now one of the UK’s largest employers. And it is one that is going from strength to strength, driven by the latest technology and changes in the way businesses and consumers interact.
It is amazing to think that 4% of the UK’s working population is employed in call centres.
The 730,000 or so employees in the sector are spread across 6,200 call centres up and down the country. This is a remarkable turnaround. As recently as 2009 the industry was in decline as centres were outsourced overseas to save costs.
With this growth has come ever-greater sophistication in how centres are run and managed.
So what trends can we expect as we move further into 2017? And what tools should switched on companies be using to improve their customer relationships?
1. Data and Analytics
This is the era of big data. Hard facts, not hard-nosed supervisors, are what drive call centre performance in 2017. Call recordings, screen recordings, chat and SMS message threads offer vital information that can be fed back to managers and agents alike.
Companies can now create dashboards to show the analytics that matter to them. They use these to improve agent performance and achieve greater customer satisfaction.
2. Omni-Channel Communication
When it comes to customers, one size does not fit all. Customers no longer want to simply talk to people. They want to text, instant message, tweet and post on social media. They expect seamless, fast responses.
Integrating communication across channels is vital for customer approval as well as opening the door for future sales.
3. Cloud Communication
We don’t have any stats for the number of remote call centre workers there are but we can guarantee the number is growing and growing fast. Staff demand flexibility these days like never before.
Cloud communication allows this as it enables managers to keep track of remote staff as if they were in the office. This is great for companies as well as staff as it allows them to grow and contract their contact centres as demand ebbs and flows.
4. Self-Serve Solutions
Customers expect answers quickly. They are happy to search FAQs online or watch tutorial videos and don’t always expect to speak to someone, but they want the answer, now.
Self-serve solutions to common problems save agent time and cut down on resources without alienating customers.
5. Social Media
Most customers spend a lot of time on social media. As well as serving a social and entertainment function, it has become a forum for resolving issues. People demand that brands take time to deal with problems raised using social media and expect them to do it in a warm and personal way.
Failure to do this causes grievances that spread rapidly across social media. The opposite is also true, brands that get their social media customer service right generate client loyalty and sow the seeds for future purchases.
6. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is becoming ever more refined. A recent article in Computer Weekly describes how AI can be applied by call centres:
“AI software has been developed that can listen to calls and decipher their impact on the customer, such as how the issue was resolved, whether the customer’s loyalty will increase in the future as a result of the call, and what could have been done to help smooth the situation if the customer gets upset. In this way, AI is helping to predict customer behaviour on the phone, to provide recommendations to the customer service reps on how best to deal with the issue.”
This may seem Big Brother-ish. But it will herald the next evolution of the contact centre as its growth continues in the UK in the months and years ahead.
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