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Panel Discussion: Will Technology Kill the Call Center?

Panel Discussion: Will Technology Kill the Call Center?

Research firm Software Advice recently conducted a live debate on Google+ called, “Will Technology Kill the Call Center?”

Experts from several technology and call center organizations fielded questions about contact channel utilization, technology and the impact of these factors on the future call center. The responded to queries from the audience via comments in the news feed.

The panel also answered four scripted questions including:

•    How have you seen consumer contact channel utilization change?
•    What role has technology played in this shift?
•    How do you see technology impacting the way customers contact a company in the future?
•    Will technology eventually render call centers irrelevant?

Here are several takeaways from their responses.

Leverage Contact Channels Together
Consumers are adopting newer contact channels, such as mobile text message, virtual agents and self service, faster and more often than ever before.

Etech Senior Vice President of Global Development Jim Iyoob said, for exampe, that his contact center clients have seen virtual agent traffic rise to as high as 30 percent of interactions. That’s up from zero just a few years ago.

This doesn’t mean customers are choosing these new channels instead of voice. Rather, they are using mobile, self service, FAQs and other channels in addition to the telephone; and vice versa. Companies use mobile text messaging – like that offered by Mosio – to send reminders, offers and other communications.

In response, companies need to do more than just make these channels available. They should leverage each to better serve the customer. This improves efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Respond to Customer Contact Channel Choice
“Technology can finally deliver on the promises from five or six years ago. … This has revolutionized the self service industry. Folks that are clinging to old methods of interaction are doing so at their peril,” one of the debate speakers, Mike Hennessy, said during the event. He serves as the Vice President of Marketing for IntelliResponse.

He says technology for new contact channels has leveled the playing field for user experience. The customer is empowered to choose the communication channel they want, when they want. It’s up to the company to determine which channels are most important to its customers and invest in those technologies.

Drumbi founder and CEO Shervin Talieh said companies should consider that the majority of customer contact will soon come from a smartphone or tablet. Companies should make sure to include a mobile customer service plan. This can include things like anticipatory text messages – send a reminder when a prescription refill is ready. Or a library operator might automatically notify a borrower if their book is due at the library.

Ready Your Call Center Agents for Change
The concept of a call center comprising phone agents has evolved into a contact center comprising ”command teams” who manage customer interactions through multiple channels. That’s because today’s consumer demands instant gratification, and the reborn center is expected to support those demands, whether they come through mobile, Twitter, live chat or a phone call.

This will continue to affect expectations from contact centers and their agents. Agents will need to be more skilled and technically savvy.

“At the end of the day it’s the agent behind the technology that’s going to make the difference. While technology will enable agents to be better, faster, more efficient. It will not replace the contact center,” Iyoob said.

Click below to watch the entire video.

About the Author:

Ashley Furness is a CRM Analyst at Software Advice.
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