Last year, we published a three-part blog series* that talked a lot about the future of call centers. Much has been said over the past years about the “death” of call centers, but so far, emerging technologies (e.g., VoIP technology, Web/voice integration, etc. ), updated digital marketing strategies (e.g. CRM platforms, etc.) and healthcare’s movement toward ACOs, Population Health and its continual search for cost reduction have kept call centers in the picture, albeit in a different structure and appearance than 20 years ago. Often, in an elevated position of importance to the health system.
A recent Slideshare from Xerox again raises the notion of the call center’s demise. The first sentence states, “It looks like the call center’s days are numbered.” Really? Let’s look at the information presented in the Slideshare.
According to a Xerox survey, 42% of the survey respondents said that call centers will be nonexistent by 2025. Ironically, the respondents also say that call centers are their preferred means of communication with an organization (25% of worldwide respondents, 31% of US respondents).
So, what’s next? Survey respondents believe that automated systems will be the replacement for call centers. After all, everything else is headed towards automation – why should customer service be any different?
Considering that over one-third of call center volume is due to failure of digital channels meeting the customer’s needs, and that each call that results from a digital channel failure costs $10, if automation becomes the de facto replacement for call centers, then automation has to get it right. In the Xerox survey, while 56% of respondents said they’re fine with using a virtual assistant, the problem is when they can’t find what they need with a virtual assistant, it necessitates a call – ironically – to the call center.
The bottom line: Customers want to communicate with businesses and organizations in the fastest, most hassle-free manner possible. Businesses and organizations must keep an eye on costs while keeping customers happy. So until automated processes can meet or exceed human interaction, the call center will remain a viable option. And it may be that more call centers will evolve to a revenue-producing center.
How’s that, you say? As we noted in Part 2 of our series last year, as self-help options and user communities proliferate, only the most complex problems and issues will go to the call center. Thus, call center agents will need a wider range of skills – excellent communication skills, analytical problem solving skills, project management skills and technical training to be able to adapt to changes in technology. Today’s call center agents will have to become tomorrow’s “super agents,” able to assist customers with the most complex issues in the most efficient and effective manner. These super agents may help increase customer retention and may even provide a premium service for which customers are willing to pay because of the superior experience.
So, it appears that the end of the call center – as we know it – is on the horizon. But that’s not a bad thing, because its replacement will bring about quality, smart solutions, more and better relationships … and profit.
If your organization has a call center and you’re not already looking toward its future, you might want to start by identifying where your customer communication strategy is headed.
*Part 1: http://www.greystoneblog.net/the-call-center-sounding-a-death-knell-or-seeking-a-new-identity-part-1-where-weve-been-where-were-going/; Part 2: http://www.greystoneblog.net/the-call-center-sounding-a-death-knell-or-seeking-a-new-identity-part-2-moving-toward-the-call-center-of-the-future/; Part 3: http://www.greystoneblog.net/the-call-center-sounding-a-death-knell-or-seeking-a-new-identity-part-3-adapting-to-new-uses/