What are some of the key trends that will mold business and customer service operations in 2019? Dick Bucci of Pelorus Associates, a market research, consulting, and marketing communications firm that specializes in the contact center industry, dives into 5 trends impacting customer service and which companies need to stay on top of.
Pelorus Associates has authored comprehensive market research reports on workforce management software since 2011. Our latest report, 2018 World Market for Workforce Management Systems, examines 30 individual trends affecting business and customer service. Here are five trends that we believe will continue to have a broad impact on contact center management practices and technology deployment.
1. Declining brand loyalty
If you think you’re getting a little more love from your bank, you might be correct. Big banks and, to an even greater degree, the smaller community banks, are listening to their customers and trying a little harder to dissuade you from wandering off to their competitors.
Customer retention strategies are most vital for products and services that involve frequent repeat buying. Successful customer retention initiatives benefit the firm in two important ways. One is increasing the lifetime value of a customer. The other is increasing the likelihood of up-selling or cross-selling to existing long-term customers. These individuals have built trust in your company and will be more receptive to offers that provide greater value and higher revenue.
2. Pending labor shortages
United States unemployment dropped to 3.7 percent in September 2018. Unemployment has also been sharply declining for European Union nations since 2013. Job seekers have more options today and this is certain to exacerbate the already difficult job of recruiting and retaining qualified customer service representatives. Management must strive for a collaborative and even fun workplace and review recruitment and compensation practices to be more competitive with other job opportunities. Agent software must be easy to learn and easy-to-use.
3. Growing complexity
In 1917 Danish mathematician A.K. Erlang developed a model for predicting how many circuits the telephone company would need to serve the city of Copenhagen. While useful, the model was designed for a world where the telephone was the only practical way to communicate over distance.
Today’s customer service operations are much more complicated. Contact centers are expected to operate at peak efficiency 24/7 while achieving multiple and sometimes conflicting goals such as achieving high levels of first contact resolution while keeping handle time down. Multi-skilled agents must seamlessly communicate in different channels and even different languages. And increasingly “agents” may not be people at all, but computer-generated voices powered by artificial intelligence.
Dr. Erlang could never have anticipated a communications environment like this. Today and into the future a customer service must deploy modern workforce scheduling and forecasting software that can accommodate this ever-changing and increasingly complex environment.
4. I want it my way
Businesses seeking to win over today’s consumers need to have a thorough understanding of customer preferences and possess the agility to respond faster than their competitors. The same desire for personalization extends to customer service employees who seek more control over their training, schedules, and career growth. Self-service apps provide employees with access to their schedules and include empowerment tools for work-hour preferences and self-assessment via mobile app and all web-based devices.
5. Gig economy
A generation or two ago (depending on your age) it was not unusual for individuals to spend their entire careers at just two or three employers – all in the same industry and often performing the very same or similar jobs. Not so anymore. “Secure employment” has become an oxymoron. Economists are now talking about the so-called “gig” economy where workers become Independent contractors that sell their skills on an opportunistic basis.
A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors (think Uber). The millennial generation has embraced the gig economy. Customer service work is ideal because scheduling can often be arranged to accommodate their other part-time “gigs.” Since this generation virtually sleeps with their smartphones, contact centers must adopt technology with powerful mobile interfaces that permit contract workers to learn about shift opportunities and respond from their smartphones. Workforce management and other customer service applications should be cloud-based to reach potential employees who prefer to work remotely.
With brand loyalty on the wane and the convenience of the Internet for price shopping, delivering a superior customer experience is a major point of competitive differentiation. As the front door to the enterprise, customer service personnel and technology can greatly influence the quality of the customer experience and consequently the economic health of the organization. It is very important that companies deploy management practices and leading-edge technology that both anticipates and capitalizes on significant trends.
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Founder and Chief Analyst