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March 26, 2017

Live Google+ Debate: Will Technology Kill the Call Center?

By michaelpace on October 15, 2012

Contact Center DebateRecently, I participated in an live Google+ debate hosted by Software Advice that asked, “Will Technology Kill the Call Center?” The research firm basically wanted to investigate trends in consumer contact channel utilization, technology and the impact of these trends on the future call center.

The event featured a panel of experts that answered scripted questions, before the discussion was opened to the audience. The prepared queries included:

1.    How have you seen consumer contact channel utilization change in the last decade?
2.    What role has technology played in this change?
3.    How do you see technology impacting the way customers contact a company in the future, and the kind of service they receive?
4.    Will technology eventually render call centers irrelevant?

Click on the video below to watch the entire recorded debate hosted by the talented Ashley Furniss.

I was able to send comments directly to the panel during the live event. One of the speakers, IntelliResponse Vice President of Marketing Mike Hennessy, made a statement that questioned the value of social media for customer service. He argued that according to analysis he’s seen about social customer service, the return on investment for time spent is not there. I disagreed:

Here are some other key takeaways from the responses.

Become Truly Multi Channel
All of the speakers agreed that consumers are embracing newer contact channels, such as virtual agents and self service, at a pace never seen before in the contact center world.

This doesn’t mean customers are choosing these new channels instead of voice. Rather, they are using self service, FAQs, mobile and other channels in addition to the telephone.

In response, companies need to do more than just make these channels available. They should leverage each to better serve the customer. For example, can you tell what a customer was looking at in your FAQs before they called your 1-800 number? Do you know if they interacted with a virtual agent? Having these answers can bring context and personalization to the live response experience. This increases efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Accommodate the Customer’s Contact Channel Choice
Technology advancements have had a huge impact on the way organizations interact with customers. Advancements such as intelligent virtual agents and self service can finally devlier on the promises from five and six years ago.

These contact channel improvements have leveled the playing field as far as user experience. The customer is now empowered to choose the communication channel they want, when they want. It’s up to the company to “right channel” their business–to determine which channels are most important to its customers and invest in those technologies.

Ready Your Agents for the Reborn Contact Center
All of the speakers agreed that customer contact preference is shifting away from voice. But this won’t kill the call center because it’s already dead.

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 Twitter, live chat or a phone call.


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  1. 3 Comments

    I don’t think that technology can actually kill all the call centers. Customers when calling for solving query would expect that a human is listening to that request rather than any auto answering machine. It is a fact that technology is growing at a very rapid pace, but it is almost impossible that a robot can take position of human in call centers.

  2. 3 Comments

    The book gives a lot of attention to the need to constantly keep call center employees busy. It emphasizes that especially inefficient are the so called “down times” when an operator is waiting for a call to come in. These periods of time could be used instead for training and planning, which will be done by all call center employees. Call centers are committed to provide your customers with around the clock answering service, whatever your location or business target.

  3. 3 Comments

    What an excellent collection of expert opinions and insight! Fantastic post and video! You mention that customers are using self service, FAQs, mobile and other channels in addition to the telephone. Many of our clients in the manufacturing and retail space are finding that instructional animation is becoming a huge plus. Not only for customers — but for the call center reps. Both can watch specifically how to install that component, fix that wire or troubleshoot that maintenance issue.

    If a caller does reach the call center, the rep can call up the animation, see how it works and describe it in detail to the customer. Here’s are some case studies on how it helped Whirlpool and Black & Decker:

    Do you think customers will be more inclined to pull such animations up on their mobile devices before calling a call center? I’d be interested in the group’s thoughts!

  4. 3 Comments

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