The contact centre of 2014 is already almost unrecognisable from the call centre of 1984, 1994, even 2004. It is hard to think of a sector which has been through more change. Yet within the next few years we will witness another revolution in the contact centre world.
This matters to anyone in business. As more and more business processes are outsourced to specialist contact centres so increasingly the ability to find the best contact centre provider and then manage that resource is becoming a key business attribute. Your parents may have been evaluated on their ability to provide customer service, but you are more likely to be appraised on your ability to manage a customer service provider.
It pays then to be aware of how the sector is changing, and to be certain that you are working with a contact centre provider that is at the cutting edge of 2015 or 2016, not stuck in what is rapidly seen as the prehistoric days of 2012. Here then are five key changes to the contact sector that we will see taking place in the next few years.
1) Contact centres will be multinational
In the contact centre industry, only global players will be able to serve the multinationals. Globalisation is in full swing: in the contact centre field, as in many others, market integration and increasing international competition are realities. Successful contact centres are choosing to internationalise and become stronger financially in order to adapt to the new demands brought about by their clients’ international development.
Only global contact centres with platforms capable of serving dozens of languages, preferably from a single site, will be able to provide the global multilingual solution major contractors desire. In addition to this, the management of call centres has become more professionalised. Nowadays, this sector attracts more and more graduate managers and career consultants, compared to a few years ago when the field was occupied by small entrepreneurs.
2) Staff attrition will be yesterday’s problem
Staff retention has been a perennial problem for the contact centre industry. According to a study this year by the Everest Group Research, entitled The Business Impact of Contact Centre Attrition, it is possible to quantify the operational costs and loss of revenue directly caused by staff departure.
According to the study findings, "a typical U.S.-based 500-person contact centre with a 30 to 50% annual attrition rate could suffer a net loss of US$1-2 million in business value across cost and revenue over one year.” The issue of contact centre attrition rates is obviously not new to our industry. What changes, however, is industry leaders’ awareness of this topic, and ability to address it.
3) Generation Y has arrived
Generation Y (Gen Y) – those born between 1980 and 2000 – is the new labour force for the sector. These individuals already account for 80% of the total number of employees in some contact centres. This generation is also on the "other side of the phone", because its members are keen consumers, accounting for almost US$200 billion in spending per year worldwide.
Excellent multi-taskers. Generation Y grew up surrounded by computers, mobile devices and video games consoles. This generation is confident with technology but it also has a shorter attention span. The Internet puts everything at Gen Y’s fingertips. As a result, Gen Y has grown accustomed to rapid shifts in attention, with focus tending to wane after about 15 minutes.
Gen Y makes decisions based on consensus – usually by checking social media. Gen Y members are team players and love helping to solve complex problems collectively. Finally, for Gen Y the pay is not the only thing that counts. Understanding and being recognised for their individual value is what matters to most of them. Hence the importance of building a corporate culture that reflects the characteristics of this generation.
4) Corporate culture will be the key to success
Building a corporate culture that reflects the qualities of Generation Y is a major challenge for most companies. In contact centres we find many examples of highly motivated employees who have managed to positively affect the curves of certain brands’ customer satisfaction. Implementing a strong and consistent corporate culture is now taken more seriously by managers, since studies have shown its impact on profitability. Experience also teaches us that culture, to be effectively implemented, must be disconnected from service levels and purely financial incentive methods.
5) No longer a "sub-contractor", but a "value-adding partner"
To survive, contact centres can no longer limit themselves to being mere "suppliers" or "sub-contractors". Today, they must fully understand the processes of their clients and be able to evaluate and improve them. The goal is to deliver real economic levers to their clients, acting positively on costs, as well as on the quality and productivity of their work.
In addition, contact centres need to know their clients’ business and what their strengths, competitive advantages, weaknesses and challenges are so they can effectively serve and help them. Contact centres of the future will no longer be simple platforms mechanically applying procedures. A handful of companies in Europe have already anticipated this development, shaping their entire supervisory staff using Six Sigma methodology.
Welcome to the contact centre of the future, a multilingual and global player in which Generation Y will be the main driving force. Contractors’ search for a low-cost service and immediate gain will gradually fade, giving way to a more strategic model of outsourcing.
Based on the developments that we are gradually seeing taking place, the contact centre of the future will no longer be a "sub-contractor", much less a "mere executant": it will be a true strategic partner and an authentic brand ambassador.