future screen

Getting Ready for Contact Center 2020

At the 9th Annual ICUC conference in Orlando, FL, September 23-25, the theme is Innovation Unleashed. Separate tracks for IT and contact center managers, as well as WFO specialist and executives, are designed to give attendees great ideas and strategies for taking customer experience to the next level at their companies.

I had the opportunity to unleash my own kind of innovation when Chief Marketing Officer, Mariann McDonagh, asked me to work with her to create a session titled Contact Center 2020: Envisioning Your Future. The exercise involved thinking about technologies and strategies that may be just becoming available today, and forecasting which of those was most likely to be standard fare six years from now. But, we didn’t think predictions alone were enough – we then came up with steps that companies can start taking today to prepare for that presumed future world.

Some of the attributes of Contact Center 2020 were fairly easy to identify. More and more, even small centers are not run as single-site operations, but with agents and supervisors located in multiple cities and often several countries. The resources customers require are far-flung across the enterprise and the term “contact center” will be even more of a concept than a reality by 2020.

How companies develop and bring their products to market is also changing. There are new product development models, such as crowd-sourced design. There are new licensing models, like moving customers from Freemium to fee-based.  And there are new ways companies are engaging with their customers, from self-service communities to gamification. Many of these new business models will require a re-imagining of how the contact center supports products and services for customers.

Last week’s announcement of the Apple Watch highlights yet another change that 2020 will bring. Already contact centers are grappling with the impact of mobile and smartphones. Beyond watches, IDC estimates there will be 40 times more devices than people on the internet by 2020. The impact of wearables and the Internet of Things adds yet another generation of technology whose impact on customer experience must be planned for.

Mariann and I will also explore the changes that need to be anticipated in the workforce. Beyond Millennials, Gen Z will begin entering the workforce - true digital natives. One potential name for this generation that has been proposed is the “Plurals,” reflecting that they are the most diverse of any generation in the U.S. How they will want to work and how to maximize their contribution in a contact center setting to deliver a high quality customer experience are evolving questions.

Having imagined some of the potential changes to expect by 2020, Mariann and I will move on to the management strategies and tactics that you can start taking today to prepare your centers for a smooth transition to the future. Join us Thursday, Sept 25 at 10 AM, in the Champions Unleashed track to hear more.­­­


Sheila McGee-Smith, the founder of McGee-Smith Analytics, is a leading communications industry analyst and strategic consultant focused on the contact center and enterprise communications markets.  Her views on the market can also be found in her weekly blog on No Jitter and in real-time on Twitter @mcgeesmith.