Wednesday, 06 November 2013 06:03

Omnichannnel – the future of contact centres


Gen Y doesn’t use voice much. Phone calls are now only the fourth most important medium for customer service, after electronic messaging, social media and smartphone apps.

Consumer demands for seamless contact across different customer touch points – increasingly called omnichannels – are challenging organisations to change, or be left to lag behind.

“In fact, these omnichannel requirements will soon set a new benchmark,” says Dimension Data’s Rob Allman, releasing the company’s latest annual Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report. The main reason is changing consumer media consumption habits.

”While the Silent Generation (born before 1944) and the Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1960) prefer the phone as their most popular channel of engagement with a contact centre (63.1% and 66.2% respectively), the pace of decline in voice only contact centres – now down to 51.7% overall compared with 76.5% 12 months ago - demonstrates the continuing trend to multiskill telephone agents across emerging ‘non-voice’ contact channels.

“Generation Y is the biggest demographic group since the Baby Boomers. Its members are highly demanding, vigorously social, constantly connected, and blithely channel-agnostic, so for them, any conversation about channels is meaningless. Generation Y simply want to get things done, and will use a variety of electronic devices they have at their disposal to fulfil that need,” explains Allman.

But that is causing problems, as many contact centres try to do too much. “Many organisations have bowed to pressure to implement the fastest, lowest-cost solution. Now, the cost of this approach has begun to bite, leaving them unable to support their customers’ future needs.”

According to the report fewer than one in five (19.6%) contact centre professionals globally believe that their multichannel routing application systems will be able to support their organisation’s future needs and growth in web chat, email and other real-time  alternatives to the phone. Only a little over a half (57.6%) believe multichannel routing application systems meet their current needs.

“Given the complexity of many legacy contact centre environments, we were not surprised that integration, lack of flexibility and expensive upgrades are the top three most common problem areas identified by our annual contact centre survey participants as hindering their IT development,” says Allman.

Dimension Data surveyed 817 contact centres covering 11 business sectors in 79 countries across Asia Pacific, Australia, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas and Europe. There were 87 respondents in Australia.

“Organisations have never before had so many technology challenges thrown at them – and the contact centre landscape is changing fast. Cloud based solutions could be the game changer and offer alternative purchasing options to IT solution design.”

The research shows that 65.0% of organisations already using hosted or cloud based technology solutions agree that this has provided access to new and enhanced functionality. Cloud was reported by 64.8% of the survey participants as having improved flexibility, and 77.6% agreed that it has helped reduce cost-to-serve. Conversely, a low 10.4%, 11.1% and 3.1% disagree with these statements, respectively.

“While the research findings present a compelling picture for new cloud solutions, the success of a technology initiative is often down to how it’s applied to the business issue, and how it’s been operationalised to ensure that the solution stays relevant to the business,” says Allman.

“When moving to the cloud, it’s crucial to capture the operational delivery needs during the solution design phase – especially since 61.5% of the report participants reported that IT architectures now form part of the wider enterprise infrastructure. This approach poses the risk that the contact centre’s interests may become more isolated as control moves elsewhere.

“Already 40.3% (versus 30.4% in 2012) of respondents reported they have no, or only a limited involvement, in the design of business requirements for new technology solutions. For sourcing, as the enterprise-wide technology strategy’s become the norm, this figure is 48.0%.”

Allman says that the emergence of multichannel customer management is fuelling – and not curtailing - growth in the services sector. One in four (25.1%) participants said they expect to expand to a new facility, while 42.9% said they will be expanding within their existing facility. “Organisations will need to develop solutions for omnichannel interactions that can be started on one channel can be continued on another. This isn’t a choice, but a necessity, and will further complicate contact centre challenges.

“IT solutions, driven by the need for more dynamic commercial modelling and operational flexibility, will increasingly move to cloud.  Current users believe cloud is a real alternative to breaking down some of the traditional blockage points affecting contact centre technologies.  The big danger for now is non-action,” he says.

Read the Executive Summary of the Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report here.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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