Fonolo Blog is Customer service and customer experience blog for call center professionals. Fonolo provides call-back solutions for the call center. Replace hold time with a call-back, regardless of the channel - web, mobile and phone.
The Enterprise Connect conference is one of the largest events in communications technology. It’s often the venue for major announcements from the biggest vendors. It was here that Twilio announced Flex. It was here that Avaya announced Breeze, SnappIns, and Zang. It was here that Amazon launched Connect.
Big announcements this year include the launch of two new cloud contact centers called Edify and Thrio; a new contact center from Vonage called CX Cloud Express (based on their acquisition of NVM which we covered here); and the rebranding of Polycom/Plantronics as “Poly.”
But as for the big call center vendors, their announcements were less dramatic, and all revolved around AI.
AI is a problematic term. This is partly because it’s an umbrella that covers several unrelated genres of products:
We use AI to refer to the natural language processing that powers chatbots, like 24-7.ai (check out this awesome coverage they got in The New York Times) or Helpshift (although many chatbots deployments succeed without any AI at all.)
We use AI to refer to speech recognition and transcription services like Call Miner and Voicebase (although the industry only recently started applying the AI label to this category.
We use “AI” to refer to companies like Afiniti that try to match up callers with agents best suited for their problems.
It’s not that any of those uses of the term is wrong. It’s that, as a result, if you say “X is an AI company” or “X has added an AI feature,” you can’t tell which of those technologies are implied.
In a broader sense, “AI” is problematic because it’s not clear which specific technologies qualify to be called AI. Years ago, optical character recognition (OCR) was considered AI, but it’s no longer challenging enough. It’s almost as though AI is “whatever is borderline difficult for computers to do” at the moment. More here: “The Undead: AI Can’t Die Because its Definition Keeps Changing.”
In the CPaaS realm, VoIP Innovations unveiled a CPaaS marketplace, based on their recent acquisition of Apidaze. AT&T announced a CPaaS offering, powered by Ribbon’s Kandy platform. There’s an interesting pattern of carrier-plus-CPaaS: Vonage-plus-Nexmo, BICS-plus-Telesign, and VI-plus-Apidaze. But Twilio, the CPaaS mega-gorilla, breaks this pattern.
Our friends at WebText announced CXHub and are rebranding the company around that product. The concept is to have a single queue for requests coming from any customer service channel (and IoT as well). It reminds me of Twilio’s TaskRunner, which became the heart of Flex.
Talkdesk released a Workforce Management (WFM) product (which is “AI enhanced” of course). We did a webinar last week with cool WFM vendor Injixo. You can watch on-demand here.
Zailab was back, but their famous space truck was absent (apparently one of the warp nacelles had an oil leak). Luckily their space capsule was available. If Trump’s Space Force needs a call center, they HAVE to go with these guys.
Utility companies provide people with critical and valuable services: Heat, hydro, and other essentials that consumers have come to rely on. Given the increasing number of customers they must support, these companies would certainly benefit from implementing strong customer service offerings. Poor customer service and disorganized call centers can not only be frustrating for consumers, but also have a negative impact on the company’s revenue, customer retention, and business acquisition.
Utility companies have a huge opportunity to improve their customer service strategies and reap the rewards. By embracing modern customer service technology as a must-have ‘utility’, these brands can set themselves apart from their competitors.
The Benefits of Improved Customer Service
Industries like retail, hospitality, and healthcare have continued to raise the bar to meet customer expectations. To do so, they have taken advantage of advancements in customer service technology. Whether its social media, call back technology, or chatbots, digital solutions have allowed companies to provide faster response times and multi-channel customer engagement.
Utility companies, however, have traditionally lagged behind such other industries. A study by J.D. Power found that utility companies “are among the lowest-performing industry groups when it comes to delivering distinct digital customer experiences.” These findings have not escaped the notice of customers who are not shy about vocalizing their disappointment. A study by IBM found that negative sentiment towards utility companies was very prevalent on social media. This is likely because utility companies rely primarily on call centers that don’t make use of voice and call-back technology. This limits the avenues that customers have to engage with the company and increases wait times.
Poor Customer Service Means Poor Business Results
When it comes to a company’s bottom line, poor customer service is no joke. A study by American Express showed that 78% of customers have chosen not to make an intended purchase due to a poor customer service experience.
Not only does poor customer service prevent utility companies from acquiring new customers, it can also cause them to lose current customers to competitors. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that 74% of customers who had a positive experience with their utility company were still members after a year. On the other hand, less than half of customers who had a poor experience were still members after a year.
The Good News for Utility Companies
The good news is that a strong customer service strategy can easily help set utility companies apart. A few simple changes can dramatically improve a brand’s reputation. Allowing customers to easily make changes to their memberships, implementing 24/7 access to multichannel support, and implementing call-back technology can have a positive impact on customer satisfaction levels.
Utility companies would be wise to set themselves apart from their competitors by embracing modern customer service technology. It’s a win-win for customers and companies alike.
The buying experience often gets the most attention in customer service. Conversions are the name of the game for most businesses, so it would make sense that importance is placed on the process leading up to a purchase. For example, retail brands focus heavily on ensuring that sales associates help shoppers find the right sizes, greet guests warmly, create quick and easy checkout processes, and include thoughtful touches like water bottles in change rooms.
These are all important components of a great customer service experience, but so are the processes that take place after the fact. Indeed, the post-purchase experience can be just as important, if not more so, in securing customer loyalty. Customers want to feel that they are important even after they have handed over their money. So, how do you ensure you make your clients and customers feel valued after they’ve purchased something from your company? Here are a few strategies that can help.
Set Up Great Post-Purchase Policies and Processes
Just as there are policies and procedures set up for sales associates and live chat agents, there should be policies and processes set up to ensure a smooth post-purchase experience for customers.
Firstly, maintain communication with your customers after they have placed an order or made a purchase at your store. For digital brands, this might involve an e-mail pathway that confirms the transaction, sends a shipment notification, provides an estimated delivery date, and seeks feedback about the customer’s level of satisfaction with both the service and/or the product.
Secondly, sales associates, call center agents, and live chat agents should know what to do when an order is delayed, or when a customer is dissatisfied or seeking an update on order status. If customer service agents are empowered with the tools to find answers and solve problems, customer satisfaction and retention will likely be improved.
Seek Feedback from Customers
Another important component of the post-purchase experience is the collection of feedback. Companies brands should reach out to customers after they have made a purchase to gauge how satisfied they were with the product or service they purchased. Not only does this help brands improve their own customer service, but posting reviews can help convert future customers as well. According to Invesp Consulting, it is five times more expensive to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one. So, pay attention to your existing customers and get their feedback to improve and refine your customer service skills and product offerings.
Seek Out Dissatisfied Customers to Provide Help
Nobody likes confrontation. However, ignoring dissatisfied customers is poor business practice. Brands should seek out customers who are complaining about their product or service on social media or in the reviews section of their website and then offer a resolution. For example, offering exchanges, returns, discounts, or even a simple ‘Thank you for the feedback’ can have a significant impact.
Additionally, it is helpful to have efficient ways for customers to reach a real person they can talk to about any concerns they may have post-purchase. This is where call centers with well trained agents and call-back technology are incredibly important. They ensure that customers can reach a real, live human without spending hours on hold.
Encourage Brand Loyalty
Finally, post-purchase is the best time for brands to start to work on customer retention, brand loyalty, and creating brand evangelists. Brands can do this by sharing special offers and incentives with their existing customers. For example, birthday gifts or discounts, early access to sales and new products, and loyalty or referral programs can all help ensure customer happiness.
Implementing policies and procedures, seeking feedback, helping out dissatisfied customers, and encouraging brand loyalty are all key components of creating a successful post-purchase strategy. With a strong focus on these strategies, you can set your brand apart and create a great community of happy (and repeat) customers.
Text-based communication plays a growing role in customer service. There are several big questions around how it will evolve. The most important one, in my mind, is how text should work alongside voice. What is the ideal arrangement between typing and talking?
The second big question is: What channel will carry the messages? We have four broad categories: Web-based chat, SMS, social media (e.g. Twitter DMs), and proprietary networks (e.g. Facebook Messenger, Apple Chat). I know that other people divide things differently, but this structure makes sense to me. On that second question, there’s been quite a bit of news in recent months. Let’s go through it.
SMS is Still King of Deliverability
The only text channel with truly broad adoption is SMS. The other channels all have areas where they are strong, but nothing can touch SMS in terms of reach.
Apple’s chat offering (iMessage and its new sibling Apple Business Chat) has very powerful integration with the mobile OS. It wins for most frictionless experience for the user. But, best case, you can only address iOS customers, and that’s about 50% of the US.
Facebook has multiple platforms (Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram) and is cross-platform, but you still have a limited install base combined with a new distaste for all things Facebook.
Some companies have had good success in adding chat functionality to their mobile app. But that’s a tall order for most companies. App development is expensive and time-consuming, and getting app install rates above single-digit percentages is a challenge.
SMS has its own weaknesses, but in terms of reach, SMS continues to hold the crown. I don’t see anything on the horizon that can touch it.
The bullish case for proprietary messaging channels is how many billions of messages are sent or how many millions of people are “daily users.” But the problem with those metrics is that most of that usage is person-to-person communication, not business-to-person communication. It’s hard to know who’s winning for that particular use case.
Even if you use overall usage as a proxy for business-to-person usage, you still have serious fragmentation, as you can see in the below image:
Even if Apple, Facebook, Google, or Twitter executed perfectly on business-to-consumer messaging, they won’t get to such a dominant position that you can ignore the others.
The situation is even more complicated if you look globally, as shown in the image below:
I talked about this same issue about a year ago, saying “Facebook … is bloodied from weeks of bad press over privacy issues.” Well, the “weeks of bad press” has turned into “months of bad press.”
There’s a lot of discussion about how consumers are souring or even leaving the social network. But, surely another impact of the bad headlines has been the slow adoption of Facebook’s “Messenger for Business” program.
Then last week, Facebook’s CEO dropped a major announcement focused on a renewed commitment to privacy. One of the promises was encryption across all the messaging channels it owns: Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. This could re-energize interest by businesses.
Baer writes: “This isn’t a time-specific move forced upon Facebook by market conditions and a skeptical public. This was ALWAYS THE PLAN. If you want to be the conduit for global communications (which Zuckerberg has admitted is their aim), what are the only two communications modalities that are bigger than Facebook is today? 1. SMS and 2. EMAIL.”
Apple Business Chat
Apple’s roll-out of Business Chat has seemed slow and deliberate. I get the impression they’re playing a long game with this. The first UK company to use it (possibly the first outside the US?) is Npower, an electric and gas utility. The deployment was done by IMImobile, who announced it in October.
Google has cut a confusing path through this landscape. In December, it retired the product Allo, the latest in a long list of fizzled messaging apps. On the business-to-person front, they have announced (quietly) a product called “Google My Business” to rival Apple’s “Business Chat” and Facebook’s “Messenger for Business.” TheNextWeb put together a good overview here.
In parallel, Google is betting on a system called RCS, which is supposed to be the successor to SMS, created by the telecom industry. The siren song of RCS has led to a lot disappointment, but maybe Google can make it work.
The Two Greatest Words in the English Language
I have to admit that, looking back at my notes and blog post from last year, it doesn’t seem like much has changed. If you’re really watching the horse race closely, you could make the case that vendor A or vendor B has pulled ahead, citing various stats. But from a big picture perspective, it’s hard to point to a winner. We still have the major vendors all fighting for adoption as the future for business-to-person communication.
SMS benefits from this lack of a clear winner. It’s true that overall global SMS volume is declining (it peaked in 2012). It’s lost a lot of the casual person-to-person communication to the proprietary messaging channels. But its importance as the go-to channel for business-to-person (a.k.a. application-to-person) has only gotten stronger.
SMS is winning by de-fault. Like Homer said, they’re the two greatest words in the English language.
After graduating from university, I spent a sun-soaked 18 months living in Southern California. Having moved from Ireland, my family and friends back home were interested to hear what I liked and disliked about my new life “state side.” They did not expect to hear about my adoration for the supermarket chain Trader Joe’s, which happened to be conveniently located two blocks from my apartment.
I never considered trips to supermarkets to be transcendent experiences. So, why was I suddenly enjoying this erstwhile chore? It’s because Trader Joe’s (or “TJ’s” as it’s affectionately known) is no ordinary supermarket. It’s quirky. It’s affordable. It stocks good products. There is an essence of good vibes, partially attributable to the Hawaiian-shirt-attired employees and handwritten signs. Plus, when you’re in a crowded store after a long day of work, the friendly folks that work there lighten your mood.
I’m not the only TJ’s fan. In fact, there’s a dedicated fan club for people who are as equally smitten as me. TJ’s has also picked up some notable awards for customer experience, most recently ranking first among multichannel retailers in Forrester Research’s 2018 U.S. Customer Experience Index. So, how has TJ’s turned CX into its competitive advantage?
They Don’t Ignore the Importance of Employee Experience
There is an undeniable link between employee experience and customer experience. Forbes found that companies with highly-engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147%. TJ’s provides further evidence of this.
In 2018, Glassdoor named Trader Joe’s as one of the best places to work in the U.S., no small feat in the often grueling world of retail. Not only does Trader Joe’s starting salary average well above most states’ minimum wages, employees consistently emphasize the sense of freedom and flexibility the chain fosters. In a study of TJ’s’ employees carried out by Pepperdine, “Crew members indicated that they felt empowered to make decisions, were collaborative in their relationship with others, and were motivated to high levels of performance. These characteristics were demonstrated in the extent to which they were enthusiastic, hardworking, outgoing, team and customer oriented.”
This goes a long way in creating a friendly atmosphere where employees take the initiative to be helpful. Being helpful saves customers time and money and greatly impacts customer satisfaction. I can vouch for this, having had cashiers suggest pairings for certain products or run to get me an ingredient I forgot while I unloaded the rest of my cart.
They Provide a Seamless In-Store Experience
Consumers have increasingly high expectations when it comes to their shopping experiences, which has consequently resulted in the experience “bar” being set very high for retailers. From entering the store to waiting in the checkout line, creating a positive memorable experience in the retail environment is a great way for brands to achieve differentiation and thrive in the long run. This is exactly what TJ’s has done.
Beyond the friendly staff, the in-store experience has been optimized with the customer in mind. For example, a typical supermarket has 40 to 50,000 SKUs (stock-keeping units). A Trader Joe’s store typically has about 4,000, so only about 10% of the total number of products. This difference is important. Psychologist Barry Schwartz says that reducing choice not only simplifies the shopping experience but reduces the stress of selecting from an overwhelming array of largely homogenous products. Forrester Research reported that 87% percent of TJ shoppers noted that their experience of shopping was easy.
Another element of this seamless in-store experience is the consistency across locations. You’ll see an almost identical inventory from San Diego, California, to Salem, Massachusetts. Not only can you get the same product in every TJ’s, you probably already know where they live in the store. This eliminates the frustration of finding yourself in a new grocery store and spending an inordinate amount of time searching for a few items.
On a recent trip to Florida, my girlfriend could not understand how I could be excited by the prospect of visiting a grocery store. After all, buying groceries is not supposed to be fun. Therein lies the genius of TJ’s’ approach. They make it fun by offering great products and friendly customer service that is unparalleled in the supermarket world. As the importance of CX becomes clearer to brands, retailers have started to focus on providing customers with a seamless, enjoyable experience. They should look to TJ’s as an example.
Anyone who works in the customer service arena has witnessed an explosion in the hype surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP). Why is this the case? Popular AI tools like chatbots use NLP (or, the ability to understand human language) to interact with customers on a more sophisticated level than the IVRs of old. There is no doubt that these technologies will play an important role within the industry in the years and decades ahead. However, as the hype grows, and the bandwagon gets bigger, it’s easy to become confused.
Demystifying AI and NLP
Gartner predicts that within the next two years, 25% of customer service operations will be catered by forms of AI. NLP is at the heart of this, working to process and understand human language. This is vital for technology that is, among other things, programmed to answer frequently asked questions and enable customer self-service. While it is clear that AI and NLP are important tools for forward-thinking customer service executives, there is a lot of confusion surrounding the different uses of NLP and how the technology works.
It’s imperative that these technologies are clearly understood. If you’re uncertain about any of the above, you need to watch this live conversation unfold, as subject-matter experts demystify both AI and NLP.
When I first stepped foot into the Fonolo office nearly a year ago, I was also knowingly dipping my toes into the customer service ecology. With the abundance of experts, thought leaders, Twitter handles, and publications that make up the DNA of both the customer service and customer experience industries, it quickly became clear that the learning curve would be steep. Luckily, though, there exist a host of organizations whose resources caught me up to speed in fairly short order.
Are you new to the customer service space and currently seeking a) some fundamental orientation information; and b) membership in some pivotal circles where important CS knowledge is shared? One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself in your education is exposure to some vital organizations that offer resources, events, and other educational pieces that will make you an expert in no time. Read on to learn about (and bookmark!) eight customer-focused organizations, acronyms and all, that you should be following this year and beyond.*
The Contact Center Network Group supports a vital part of the customer service industry: Call centers. Since brands acknowledge that customers still make significant use of the voice channel and have responded by keeping call centers in place, they require professional support and information exchange to keep them in the know on best practices and latest trends. CCNG does just that. Follow along as they provide webinars, events, and resources that will up your contact center game this year.
This Canadian customer experience-obsessed organization is a vibrant and integral part of the North American CS and CX verticals. Providing frequent and fruitful networking, training, and consulting opportunities throughout the year, CSPN also hosts an annual conference that brings together important voices in customer service leadership. If you’re looking for a quick education on these industries and get to networking, be sure to sign up for their weekly newsletter, brimming with tips, tricks, and resources care of its strong member network.
The Greater Toronto Area Contact Centre Association, also operating out of the Great White North, supports brand leaders in improving customer and employee experiences across the board, with an emphasis on the contact centre. In addition to hosting an annual conference, and paying homage to outstanding leadership with its Customer Service Excellence Awards, GTACC is a useful resource for knowledge-sharing in the CS and CX spaces.
The International Council of Customer Service Organizations is worth bookmarking: It offers members standards, education, and certification that ensure consistency in customer service and experience operations. The Council provides brands with a measurable, up-to-date foundational framework that ensures both employees and operations are up to snuff and aligned with larger business goals. To learn more about membership, take a look here.
Another global network, the International Customer Service Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the professional development of leaders in the customer service industry, and mobilizing positive customer experience management. With a membership representing small, medium-size, and Fortune 500 companies, ICSA provides excellent networking and educational opportunities. Learn more about it here.
The North American Customer Service Management Association is a must-follow for contact center professionals. With outfits in Georgia, Arizona, and Texas, it’s a professional organization providing knowledge and opportunities for service centers, call centers, and other business operations. With a membership representing multiple verticals including finance, technology, healthcare, and BPOs, it provides resources for mapping out goals and operations for contact centers. You can learn about their upcoming events here.
The National Customer Service Organization boasts chapters across the United States, all of which support a membership in reaching its potential in customer service excellence. The NCSA is an optimal educational resource, and also offers a job board, advertising opportunities, and a seemingly endless pipeline of resources, article, and networking opportunities. Don’t believe us? Check it out here.
The Customer Service Institute of America supports companies and people in the US of A in strengthening their respective customer experience offerings. Recognizing that customer service continues to be a vital piece in customer retention, it provides its membership with valuable resources such as certification, education, and general support. You can sign up for their newsletter here.
Do you have other organizations or relied-upon networks to add to this growing list? Comment below!
Customer service is a difficult job at the best of times. However, when your customers are patients, the dynamic becomes all the more challenging. Dealing with patients who are in crisis or pain, and on top of that, are emotionally drained, can create increasingly sensitive scenarios for call center agents to handle.
This is why handling call center conversations within the healthcare field requires a unique set of skills. In order to ensure that communication is as positive and productive as possible, here are a few tips we think all call center agents working in the healthcare space could benefit from.
Communicate Healthcare Terminology Clearly
Most call center agents working for healthcare companies will likely be comfortable with medical terminology. However, it is always important to remember that the patient or consumer may not be as familiar with that industry lingo as the agent is. This is why it’s important to ensure that jargon is avoided. Call center agents should use plain terms that patients are likely to understand so that they can get crystal-clear answers to their questions.
Speed of communication is also important. Patients are often reaching out to call centers because they are in high-stress or crisis scenarios. Tactics like call-back technology should be in place to ensure they have their concerns addressed as quickly as possible, and without being exposed to wait or lag times (which ultimately increase stress, regardless of the severity of a situation).
Communicate Empathy at All Times
Some patients may be coping with a high amount of anxiety, pain, and/or uncertainty. Customer service teams should expect these sensitive types of interactions and be prepared to manage them with tact and integrity. While this may be difficult for a customer service team to handle, always employing empathy towards the patient, or their family members, can help diffuse difficult or sensitive situations and ensure customer satisfaction both in the moment and in the long-run.
Have a Healthy HR Strategy
A strong human resources department is an important part of helping call centers in the healthcare field run smoothly. Firstly, proper protocols should be in place so that call center agents are not left scrambling to handle difficult situations. Ideally, there should be clear steps to follow for each type of inquiry and interaction. This ensures that the customer service agent is prepared for whatever happens.
Secondly, a high calibre training program should be in place for call center agents. Crisis management training can help customer service teams handle difficult situations. When staff is properly trained, they will be better at diffusing these situations and have more productive conversations with patients. These types of interactions are more likely to result in a speedy resolution of the patient’s concerns.
Following Up with Patients
Following up with patients after an interaction with a call center is crucial. When dealing with individuals who are often battling some form of illness, following up, even after a problem has been resolved, can make a big difference. It provides an opportunity for the patient to give feedback that can help improve the customer service team’s performance in the future.
While all call center agents deal with challenging interactions with their customers, those that work in healthcare have an especially difficult job to do. Customer service teams dealing with this population must be prepared with proper training, efficient protocols, and lots of empathy. These techniques and skills can help ensure that patients, who deserve a high level of care and service, can effectively resolve their problem or receive a quick answer to their inquiry.
This year, the only transmission that companies should be ‘tuning in to’ is customer experience (CX). We are firmly in a CX renaissance: 89% of companies now compete on the basis of customer experience alone. So, in 2019, breaking through the noise coming from the competition and providing a static-free customer experience are both increasingly important.
Companies are striving to take customer experience more seriously than in the past and, as a result, are realizing that CX is what makes the difference in ROI, sales, customer loyalty, and overall success. However, this is easier said than done. The customer of today is informed, connected, and possesses more product and service knowledge than ever before. To succeed, companies must continuously meet the extraordinary demands and expectations of today’s connected consumer.
If you’re starting to forge your customer experience strategy for 2019, you are not alone. Join us as we adjust your set and help you dial in your CX strategy with our annual report on key CX trends. We have done the channel surfing for you, and have found six important customer experience trends for you to monitor in 2019.
Read on as we discuss them in the following sections:
Live Better Electronically: AI and the Customer Experience
Breaking the Fourth Wall: “Doing” Interactions Well
Control the Remote, Control the World
Change the Channel: Prioritizing Omnichannel in Customer Experience
Be Kind, Please Rewind: Experience Overtakes Price and Product
Tuning your Antenna for Personalization
Please stand by.
Live Better Electronically: AI and the Customer Experience
The best way to embrace AI is to implement it strategically, allowing it to assist in solving problems, improving processes, and making the contact between employees, agents, and customers optimal across the board. AI is nothing new: Many companies have implemented it across multiple channels and are reaping the rewards. For those brands who have yet to embrace AI, ask yourself: What am I waiting for?
As noted by martechadvisor.com, “When applied strategically, artificial intelligence can enhance a customer’s interaction with a company (brand) and, in some cases, even humanize it.” AI provides companies with the opportunity to better interact with customers – this is vital, as customers value connecting with their favorite brands in the most convenient ways possible. Still, it is imperative that AI not be viewed as a simple CX shortcut or a mere cost-saving opportunity, as this would detract from customer-centric communication, would then increase friction between customers and companies.
Ideally, AI should be capable of incorporating human interactions at key moments in the customer experience journey. For instance, when designed thoughtfully, AI can better support human agents on the front lines who are readily assisting customers, and can make the handoff simple and seamless for both parties.
Today (and in the foreseeable future), the best results are achieved by humans and computers working together. Even those interactions that are inherently relationship-based and carry emotional weight work best when machines are assisting humans. Take for example the doctor and patient interaction: According to a Medscape survey, 56% of doctors in the U.S. spend 16 minutes or less with each patient during an office appointment.
However, when technology (AI) is used by a physician, it helps doctors predict whether a patient has a high near-term risk for becoming sick, allowing doctors to prioritize attention and necessary resources for the patient instead of doing a more cursory assessment in under 16 minutes.
No, AI is not a substitute for human contact, but its greatest potential lies in helping us better understand customer behaviours, expectations, and desires.
The cloud has radically transformed the call center industry. The shift, now firmly in its second decade, is accepted as conventional wisdom. You rarely find people arguing the merits of premise-based call centers. But there’s no denying the fact that many premise-based systems are still sold and deployed, especially for larger call centers. It seems companies are fearful of touting any non-cloud successes because the knee-jerk reaction is to label that as anti-progress.
What is the reality on the ground? Are we accelerating towards an all-cloud world? Or reaching a steady-state balance between cloud and premise? Unfortunately, it’s hard to get clear data. Let’s take a look at what data we do have.
Cloud Use, by Vertical
This chart come from Contact Babel’s US Contact Center Decision-Maker’s Guide, available here. This was one of the reports included in our last report round-up post.
Outlook for Specific Cloud-Based Features
This chart comes from the same report.
Compare that with a similar chart from the IDC report, “Cloud-Based Application Transform Customer Service” (also in our last round-up post).
Research and Markets released a report in March of last year. Their estimate is that the global cloud-based contact center market is expected to grow from $6.80 billion in 2017 to $20.93 billion by 2022 (CAGR of 25.2%).
IDC however puts the 2022 number at about half that number:
Going back to that MZA report, they expect a CAGR of 18%, lower than Research and Markets, but higher than IDC.
As you can see, one of the problems with reconciling all the predictions is that some talk about revenue growth, and some talk about seat growth.
Research firm MZA released a report in September putting the current world-wide cloud install-base at 12%. That’s on a per-agent basis.
That lines up with a statement from Avaya CEO Jim Chirico: “… the contact center industry is on the front end of the transformation to the cloud — maybe 10% of the way there.”
Reasons Companies Choose On-Premise
There are many reasons large enterprises are still choosing a premise system. Those reasons may fade with time, but they are not irrational. (See “Weighing the Cloud” section in this post.) It’s misleading and simplistic to think that the only reason not to adopt a pure cloud strategy for your call center is “fear of the future.”
From the Contact Babel report:
You can see a lot of recurring themes between those two results.
Why is there a tendency to down-play non-cloud news?
Compared to the rest of enterprise software, the call center industry was a laggard in adopting cloud, so maybe there’s a sense that it has to play catch-up. The industry’s giants, Avaya, Cisco, and Genesys, were indeed put on their heels by the cloud transition. So, anything non-cloud became synonymous with being slow-moving and out-of-touch. For the last five years, they have been emphasizing everything cloud-related as a way to show that they are no longer behind.
Another reason is that the fast-growing cloud call-center upstarts have the loudest voices. They have that start-up passion and a lot venture funding to help amplify their message. Consider this quote from Talkdesk’s CEO: “The shift is inevitable … cloud-based contact centers [will] become the rule more than the exception … it’s only a matter of time before the ease of management and low set-up cost persuade the last old-fashioned holdouts to switch.” As explained in the section above, portraying anyone choosing an on-premise system as a “holdout” is simplistic.
Whatever the reason, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that premise-based contact centers remain an important part of this industry. That’s not just because there’s a huge install base, but because vendors are still selling hundreds of millions of dollars of premise solutions today!
How to Efficiently Manage Service Levels with the Right Technology
Given that two thirds of customers are willing to pay a premium for excellent customer service, it is clear that efficiently managing your contact center’s service level is crucial. Join us for a joint webinar powered by Fonolo and injixo, where we will discuss how technology aids service level management, as well as share experiences and success stories.
Charles Watson has over 20 years of experience in Workforce Management and Contact Center operations. Charles was VP of WFM at American Express and Unitedhealth and has worked with dozens of Fortune 500 companies.
Simon Waldron is a well-established contact center professional with over 15 years of contact center operations and workforce management. Currently, Simon is part of the Customer Experience team for injixo WFM at InVision AG in North America.
Shai is the Co-Founder and CEO of Fonolo, a leading provider of cloud-based call-back solutions. As an innovator in the space, Shai is on a clear mission to educate the call center industry on how to improve the customer exp