Contact centers can't be stodgy. They need to keep up with the kinds of technologies -- email and IM -- their younger customers rely on.
Posted Nov 1, 2007
The customer is changing. The contact center? Not so much.
Customers today, particularly those under the age of 30, want to communicate with a contact center using the same methods they favor in their day-to-day lives. Unsurprisingly, these include text messages, emails, and calls from mobile phones. But contact centers aren't getting the message, according to research recently released by contact center software provider Rostrvm Solutions.
"Your customers are beginning to demand multimedia communications," the report says. "Twelve percent of all call centers, rising to 17 percent in larger call centers, report that a current problem is customers want to use multimedia communications."
For its report, Surrey, England-based Rostrvm surveyed 118 contact centers; 111 fully completed the survey. Survey numbers showed that while 97 percent of contact centers already use email to communicate with customers, only 30 percent use text messaging. Based on survey responses, however, Rostrvm expects to see that messaging figure to rise to about 50 percent in coming years.
"We expect text message to increase in importance," the report says. "However, other media cannot be ignored. The diversity of communication channels available to consumers presents challenges for all call centers."
Contact centers have been slow to develop the capability to communicate via newer methods such as email and instant messaging because the centers continue to be burdened by basic operational issues. Implementing new technology to allow for multimedia interaction is relatively low on most centers' to-do lists, according to the survey.
But, ironically, deploying these technologies could ease the selfsame operational issues that contact-center executives say they're distracted by. "Resolving today's issues and addressing the new consumer aren't different problems," the report says. "Linking all communications channels: traditional telephone calls, mobile phones, and the Internet in an effective, homogeneous manner, can reduce agent workload while increasing customer satisfaction."
Most contact centers surveyed are equipped with core-call routing technology such as automatic call distribution. But that style of software can't merge telephone call information and computer-text-based multimedia transactions, Rostrvm says. That kind of streamlining is the purview of computer telephone integration (CTI), a level of technology that less than one-third of contact centers surveyed currently have in place.
Beyond new-technology hassles, contact centers may not be keen on IM'ing simply because many executives don't have a clear handle on their customer demographics: "It is notable that call centers in general are unaware of their customer profiles," the report says. The younger the customer, the more likely the need to offer email, Internet, and text-messaging options for communications. Female customers from 18 to 34 are the most likely to turn to these types of technologies, according to information from Ofcom cited in the survey. (Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the communications industries in the United Kingdom.)
"Call centers can't avoid the new consumer," the report goes on to note. "Now is the time to draw all the call center technology strands together to form a solid platform for diversification."
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