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How the Adoption of Recent Technological Advancements has Transformed the Contact Center Space
Jacobo Dominguez-Blanco Fernández, VP of Customers Ex. & Operations, Cabify
Few may remember articles from 2015 and 2016 of several technological multinationals forecasting the end of contact center agents by 2020. In particular, I am thinking of an article that I read together with my work colleagues while launching the first RFP (request for proposal ) of virtual assistants in my previous company: “[...] in 2020 these jobs will have been replaced entirely by smart chatbots” (1) We cannot say they were right—I am not sure about their motivation, if they were just guessing or they wanted to give a message to the market - but what we can be sure of is that the contact center industry is undergoing a major change closely linked to technology.
Therefore, these annual double-digit growths in terms of contact center software market (*) are not surprising: “Contact Center software worldwide revenues are expected to reach USD 38.6 billion by 2024, rising at a market growth of 14.0 percent CAGR during the 2018-2025” (2) ; while the industry, excluding technology, will certainly remain stable for the following years growing slightly over the CPI (consumer Price Index) forecasted in 2.2% 2019-2025: “In 2018, the ‘Global Contact Center Market’ size was USD 27.7 billion and it is expected to reach USD 40 billion by the end of 2025, with a CAGR of 4.7 percent during 2019-2025” (3).
In my opinion, technology within operations always serves a purpose above it. This means that, in its implementation, the company should have a clear strategy, structured processes, and clear responsible (preferably one) for maintaining and exploiting it. If it has not, the company will have obtained, in the best of scenarios, a low ROI and, at worst, will have wasted a huge sum of money and have left the short straw to our substitute. Therefore, the application of technology in contact centers serves to structured processes and what the company’s strategy requires of them.
I especially enjoy when customer service is one of the main pillars of company differentiation – I have always been lucky working for this kind of companies. This greatly simplifies the objective, since it leads to serving a single purpose: maximizing customer satisfaction, but it makes the path to it complex and challenging. My vision is that we must transform the contact centers into revenue or investment centers as nowadays, most of them are cost centers, and, of course, with the maximum possible efficiency. Here there would be a nice debate:
Is it better onshore vs. offshore and outsourced vs. in-house models to achieve this transformation?
Technology is the driving force behind the change in contact centers; 2. The purpose of its use must be clear and aligned with the strategy
- 24h agent availability for customers.
- Arbitrariness, as not all the responses are the same.
- Productivity, taking advantage of the cost already incurred (the time of the agents is not used to handle simple and general queries but complicated ones) and reducing the average handling time (AHT) by helping the agents with the complicated tasks.
- Scalability both for channels: N channels / 1 Bot; and use cases: N knowledge bases / 1 Bot. This former scalability follows an exponential learning curve if we provide these robots with self-assisted learning systems: Artificial Intelligence (AI).
There are also certain risks. The first is that if the robots are poorly designed or configured, which is normally an underestimated risk (**) – the scalability makes the impact much larger; the second is that if any reconfiguration or actualization of the systems are needed, the robots must be reconfigured too.
In addition, let me share a small review of other technologies that have an impact, directly or indirectly, on the contact center.
- Cloud. This has a huge impact in terms of scalability, flexibility and agility. Very necessary in companies that have uncertain growth around double-digits (10x; 20x). Foreseeing everything that is to come, the relevance of the cloud will be increasing; mainly to able the deployment of new functionalities safe and footprint-wide in seconds. If we take data security into account, we would have a nice debate too: cloud vs. on-premise according to compliance regulation (4)
- IoT and Big Data. It is difficult to assert one without the other. On the one hand, IoT multiplies the information on the other hand, BigData organizes it. Both have a direct impact on the Contact Center since all the relevant information from all available sources is delivered on a structured visualization, which is important to provide a better service. However, most organizations do not put enough efforts in the analysis of it as a qualified source of qualitative information (including texts and voice), which it’s contextualized output known as Voice of Customers (VOC) is the most relevant path to transform the contact center into an investment center.
- AR / VR. I have seen very few use cases. I remember a demo of a virtualized point of sale. In any case, I see it as a continuity and improvement of bots, which started dominating the text (chatbots), now are conquering the voice (voicebots) and have still a while to start mastering with the visual world.
- Help Center software. These must be able to handle all these advances and new sources of information in order to present them to the agents, so versatility and integration capabilities should be the “driven decision” while analyzing different vendors.
Summarizing: 1. Technology is the driving force behind the change in contact centers; 2. The purpose of its use must be clear and aligned with the strategy; 3. Don’t underestimate the implications/risks derived from the benefits of technology. If I can give one single tip, it would be: the responsibility of contact center technology is going to be very important for the coming years, hire someone qualified and trustworthy.