• January 26, 2010
  • By Donna Fluss, president, DMG Consulting

Contact Center Innovation: What to Expect in 2010

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In considering the concept of innovation, we generally think about technology—new and beneficial systems or applications. Contact center managers certainly depend on vendors to deliver continually improved technology as an effective way to reduce annual costs while enhancing the customer experience and service quality. Even with the recession, many system improvements will find their way into contact centers in 2010, particularly emerging analytical solutions—speech and real-time analytics, customer experience analytics, desktop analytics, and predictive analytics. Managers are demanding solutions that are easy to implement and use as well as applications that are actionable and that deliver rapid results. Fortunately, some vendors are actually listening. 

Technology is always going to be a critical enabler for contact centers; complex operating environments require systems to help handle millions of monthly transactions. True innovation, however, is driven by the changes that organizations make to their mission and culture. This year will mark the beginning of a major shift in the service world. For the past decade, the market has discussed the need for contact centers to become revenue generators, but we’ve seen little movement in this direction aside from the adoption of upsell and cross-sell programs (of varying degrees of effectiveness). 

Due to the recession, 2010 will be a really tough year for most companies. As a result, enterprises of all sizes will have to shift more resources into retaining existing customers so they can increase sales to their most receptive audience. Contact centers are ideally positioned to identify opportunities and close deals as they constantly interact with customers. But contact centers can take on a more active role only if they are empowered by senior management and supported by marketing organizations. 

The first step will be a change in enterprise goals, such as assigning contact centers targets for customer retention and revenue. This will require changes in fundamental aspects of contact center culture, including goals, responsibilities, staff, training, rewards and recognition, key performance indicators, processes, and systems. 

If successful in achieving these goals in 2010, there will be no going back, even after the recession ends. Contact centers will continue to be responsible for customer inquiries and incoming orders, but they’ll be asked to do more: identify specific sales and marketing opportunities, and play a lead role in identifying and retaining at-risk customers. (See the accompanying figure.) Contact centers also will be instrumental in creating and managing a repository of transactions that provides a holistic view of each customer, regardless of channel (including social networks). Contact centers, however, will not demand that all inquiries be routed to its organization—this approach has always failed. Instead, they will capture and track interactions enterprisewide so that decision makers have any necessary information. 

Contact centers will become the primary source for customer analytics, supporting all internal and external departments that require this data. This responsibility is not going to be handed to the contact center without major political battles. For years, marketing organizations have attempted and failed to address this need; when they ultimately realize that they are not well positioned (and do not have the resources) to handle the transactional and real-time needs of organizationwide analytical repositories, they will welcome the opportunity to pass the mantle on to the contact center. This represents a new level of maturity and innovation within enterprises. The complete evolution will take years to achieve, but 2010 will introduce a new era for the mission and culture of contact centers.  

Donna Fluss (donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com) is founder and president of DMG Consulting LLC, a leading provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis, and consulting.

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