Top Eight Trends Shaping the Future of Contact Centers
Survey Conducted by Dimension Data


Dimension Data, a $2.7 billion IT solutions company, with its North American headquarters in Hauppauge, New York, recently conducted a year-long study of the top trends shaping the future of contact centers.


1. The Role of the Contact Center is Shifting and Growing
Contact Centers are increasingly strategic business units rather than just cost center departments. Contact centers are also being more tightly aligned with the senior reporting lines they now have.


Along with the challenges of closer alignment, contact centers face the ongoing concerns of attracting, retaining and developing staff. Dimension Data sees ongoing issues in managing people in contact centers – contact centers continue to have high levels of attrition and absenteeism rates, which of course, negatively impacts customer service and has commercial implications. These are often exacerbated in offshore markets where scarce talent (particularly at management level) and a high concentration of centers are a reality.


2. Sourcing and Service Models
As the contact center market matures and grows across the globe, organizations are increasingly adopting global sourcing and service models that combine blended, flexible location and operational implementation options. Outsourcing and the blended models of in-sourcing and co-sourcing are increasing in popularity with many more organizations now evaluating and choosing to adopt these models rather than in-house implementation.


In addition, organizations with multiple sites across the globe are adopting a portfolio approach to managing the performance of their contact centers. Contact centers are being evaluated and managed as parts of a portfolio with performance, cost and risk taken into account. With this, offshoring will continue with different regions positioning themselves with different performance-cost-risk profiles.


3. Process Management Orientation
Essentially contact centers are about managing customer facing processes through several interaction channels and there is a growing realization that to improve productivity and customer experience, organizations must focus on process. Only when organizations streamline processes are they be able to gain efficiencies and manage resources to resolve calls effectively.


Many organizations’ process initiatives are focusing on automation and self-service, which is not surprising given the continued growth in call volumes. Although automation will assist somewhat in handling and resolving customer queries, the interfaces between the contact center and the organization still seem to need attention, with too few organizations using formal SLAs to manage workflow across these interfaces. This will need attention with increased organizational alignment and the need to improve first call resolution.


4. Self-Service
With automation of processes one of the top process initiatives for contact centers, self-service is set to be a priority for contact centers. Self-service technologies have matured to useable levels and are gaining acceptance by customers. IVR (Interactive Voice Response) is an easy and obvious answer to contact centers’ challenge to lower cost to serve and improve efficiencies. Next generation IVR platforms leverage existing resources (such as web self-service), address the requirement to refresh technology platforms, and prepare for speech applications.


Speech recognition technology is set to be more widely adopted in the contact center too. With just under a half of centers using or planning to use speech recognition in the next 12 months, contact centers are banking on speech technologies to assist them in dealing with more complex interactions through the voice channel.


5. Performance and Productivity
Performance continues to be top-of-mind in the industry with contact centers focusing on both operational and more strategic measures. While there has been some improvement in several of the fundamental KPIs, overall contact center performance continues to be disappointing.


Contact center productivity has not improved, with agent utilization at 59%. But the adoption and effective implementation of workforce optimization tools and processes may help to address this so that centers can gain more effectiveness and efficiency from their largest resource – their staff.


Contact centers continue to show too little capability to articulate and report on key commercial measures and performance. Until they do so, they will battle to gain financial autonomy and the independence to manage their centers strategically.


6. Integrated Architectures
A prevailing trend in contact centers is the significant and real transition to IP telephony systems. This has been an emerging trend for many years, but with the maturity and stability of IP technology, converged infrastructures will become more firmly entrenched in the contact center. By deploying IP, contact centers will be more exposed to integrated architectures requiring them to review process and structure.


However, the true benefits of integrated architectures will only be realized when business information and systems are tightly tied to interaction systems so that calls can be resolved by agents. The opportunity exists for organizations to adapt their business model to take advantage of the new distributed functionality that integrated architectures enable.


7. Procurement and Support Models
There has been a significant increase in renting contact center infrastructure. This is likely being driven by the continuous speed with which technology is changing, the attraction of accessing technology through an operational expense rather than a capital investment and the benefits of using a service that allows management to focus on key business objectives rather than managing an infrastructure.


In addition, there is a continued increase in the percentage of contact centers with a formal support agreement in place for their technology. Most contact centers now have or are in the process of putting Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in place. However, much of this support is still reactive support while few centers have proactive or preventative support in place.


8. Customer Experience
Contact centers across the globe are realizing that loyal customers and customer satisfaction levels have commercial implications and the majority of contact centers now have customer satisfaction as part of their strategy. They are moving away from a one dimensional cost focus to an approach that addresses quality and process improvements to deliver an enhanced customer experience through agent empowerment. This is a marked shift from last year’s Report findings that indicated budgets and headcount targets as key drivers for contact centers.