By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
In mid-June, I enjoyed attending Call Center Week, the premier call center conference, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. I talked with attendees and heard about the latest innovations from vendors. In addition to the other coverage of Call Center Week in this issue, here are some of the things I learned.
The trends I observed are not new developments, but instead they reinforce what we’ve seen in recent years – and their momentum is increasing. Lest anyone remain unconvinced, these aren’t fads that will disappear; they represent an emerging reality for the call center industry.
Continued Shifting to the Cloud: The call center industry used to be full of vendors that provided premise-based equipment, some of whom also offered a hosted solution on the side. Things have changed. I talked with several vendors who are entirely cloud-based, with no premise-based options. Most other vendors touted their hosted services first, with premise-based equipment as a footnote. Their focus is on the cloud. Only one vendor talked about their premise-based product first and then mentioned their hosted option; no vendor I talked with had only a premised-based solution.
This tells me two things. First, the shift to accessing services online through the Internet has passed the tipping point, proving it’s the new way to do business. Second, vendors have fine-tuned their cloud-based business model to the point where it not only sustains their company but is also their preferred way to do business. In talking of the old days with one vendor, he shuddered at the thought of selling premise-based equipment, glad for that era to be over.
Serious about Social Media: We’ve been talking about social media in the call center for years. While there were some early adopters, overall there was more talk than action. Similar to cloud-based solutions, social media in the call center is maturing, turning phone-centric operations into true contact centers. Many past solutions were more of an interface, often cumbersome and clunky, but several new offerings are truly integrated, so that all contacts receive uniform and holistic treatment without any special consideration or extra steps needed.
In addition to bringing social media into the contact center, other companies offer social media support and analysis services. Not all posts and tweets are equal, so determining which ones are priorities is essential to working smarter, not harder.
More Integration: Although interfacing two disparate services or platforms is a good first step in merging newer and older technologies within the contact center, an interface is not without its limitations. A true integration removes these restrictions, allowing multiple systems to work together as one unit without the need for agents to make special accommodations or even be aware of what’s happening behind the scenes.
These integrations fall into two categories. One category integrates social media, chat, and IVR information into the historic call center platform. The other brings new services or additional data into the call center infrastructure from third party systems. Some of these integrations are quite creative.
Don’t Forget Mobile: With more and more people walking around with smartphones, it’s increasingly critical that call centers are able to interact with these devices by any means their users wish. Obviously, phone calls are covered, but texting may be the more critical consideration. There are also apps to interact with, passing information back and forth. What about tapping into a user’s GPS, offering assisted browsing, or pushing coupons and special offers? Lastly, with the increased complexity of smartphones comes the need to support users’ hardware, apps, and online experience.
New Products and Releases: Every trade show is replete with product and service announcements. Call Center Week was no different, and several of these items are in the News section of this issue. All the vendors were understandably proud of their new solutions: offering improvements to existing services, providing new modules or add-ons, or representing completely new products.
Call Center Week was an exciting show, and with about one hundred vendors present, there was no shortage of ideas, information, and innovation. Plan to attend next year’s event, June 16–20, 2014, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.