In Back to the Future 2, the filmmakers predicted that kids would be flying around on hoverboards in 2015 – and they were nearly right, as the first prototype hoverboard was created by Lexus earlier this year. So, as a follow-up to my article that looked back over the past 30 years in contact centres, I thought I would try to predict what might happen in the industry over the next 30 months.
The future is here
Let’s cover the three most obvious trends first: webchat; video chat; social media. These three are a given as the technology is there and proven. Adoption is more the issue here. As more and more people use web pages for communication and information, having a working web chat service is fast becoming a non-negotiable communication feature.
Video chat is also already here and available, often as part of web chat solutions offered by technology providers, but it reverts communication back to a 1-to-1 relationship (as opposed to the 1-to-several of webchat). There’s also the challenge of what your agents look like. I’m not talking personally, but how they are dressed, what’s in view of the camera, what’s happening behind the agent, etc.
Social media is of course also becoming ubiquitous – and any arguments from late-to-the-party companies that their customers “don’t want social media” are starting to sound either naive or lazy. A friend of mine recently carried out a test of Facebook. He posted a comment that said simply this: “I am carrying out a test. No catches, but if you read this can you please ‘like’ it.” He had around 400 friends on Facebook. Within 10 hours he had over 500,000 likes. Still think social media is a ‘niche’ contact channel?
When (not if) customers post complaints about your company online, you simply have to be there to address it. Equally, you need to see it if customers are posting praise about you in order to capitalise on it.
Using the ‘smart’ in smartphone
So what else is around the corner? The obvious one is mobile phones. Again, the technology is already here and available, but the way they are used is what is going to change. Pretty soon, everyone in the UK will own a smartphone, and obviously this allows customers to contact companies wherever they are. However, the difference we will see in the future is more companies using smart phones to contact individual customers. Of course we are using text messages, and outbound dialling to talk to these phones, but how about being “smart”? As we move forwards we will issue apps that allow the customer to use their smart phone as a mobile IVR. To secure their place in queue and request a call back, without them needing to make a call. (By the way, that’s already available.)
Or how about when you walk into a shopping centre and enter a particular shop? Maybe a clothes shop for example. Wouldn’t it be great to for your phone to tell you, based on previous buying patterns, where specific brands can be found and what special offers are currently on?
Or what if you’re driving to an appointment and your car’s service light comes on. The relevant car company could send details of the nearest garage to your phone and, if required, arrange for your car to be booked in. You drop off the car and the garage takes you to your appointment. Pick up your car later and the smart phone will also have paid the bill.
Make the future relevant to your customers
The important thing to remember is that the future is all about what you want to offer your customers. What do your customers want? Just think about what you want when you contact your suppliers, shops, or when you’re buying something. Think about what would make your life easier. That’s what your customers want, so think about how your company can offer to fit into the lifestyle of the future.
None of this is brain surgery! We can learn what’s going to happen (in general terms) by looking back at what’s been changing over the past few years – and remember that the rate of change is accelerating, so you need to act now to keep your future customers happy.