In the past, call centers and contact centers were seen as ‘a necessary evil’ to doing business – a cost that needed to be managed and minimized. By 2025, the contact center will have evolved into an experience center and it will be viewed within the context of overall business goals. Critically, this will mean that the opportunities provided to the business – both soft and hard benefits – will far exceed the cost of providing the experience center. The experience center will therefore no longer be seen as a business cost but will finally have completed its transition into being a profit and opportunity center.
By 2025 there will be far more scope for products to not perform as expected due to shorter product lifecycles, faster time-to-market and more complexity, with elements sourced from third parties. Analytics will become increasingly important to help companies pinpoint exactly what has gone wrong – enabling faster fixes and knowledge to be socialized and fed back to other agents, internal product teams, third-party suppliers and even directly to customers. The aim will be continual improvement and faster, more efficient fixes. Proactivity will see fixes applied to other customers with the same problems before they complain or even experience difficulty.
Taking overall responsibility for the service provided, places companies in a strong position which in certain verticals will not only be essential for success but also offer new business opportunities. Customers will not tolerate being passed to third parties for problem resolution but will value those companies who accept responsibility for the products or services they sell and are willing to provide appropriate support.
Common response of “I can’t help you with that, that’s the responsibility of [our partner], you will need to ring X, Y or Z…” will signal an extremely poor experience.
Customers do not necessarily want to know who is responsible for the fault or problem, they just desire a single point of contact to reassure them and resolve the issue. They expect companies to value their time and not keep them waiting. Rather they expect them to make it easier for them to interact, buy, resolve problems and so on.
Within the supply chain, feedback about product performance is extremely valuable – both for the company providing the interface to the customer (in order to accurately assess which products or partners are most successful), as well as to partners to help them improve their service or product provision. Thus by taking responsibility for service, companies not only position themselves in the lucrative customer-facing position in the value chain, but can also use their investments in service to create new revenue streams. In order to maximize this opportunity, companies need to be able to filter data from interactions with customers and highlight meaningful insights to not only their own organization but partner companies (subject to being compliant with data protection legislation).
Great news for the Telecom vertical
In the telecoms vertical this means companies can leverage the considerable investment they have already made in contact centers, support and care, to become an outsourced ‘help desk’ for consumers and small business customers. This has the potential to not just be a value-added service but also to generate revenue for those companies that can do it well.
Those offering service supports on behalf of their partners, may be paid directly by the partner because it obviates their need to invest in support and contact centers, or they could offer this as a value-added service to attract the best partners, with the cost of support being built into the business model.
The business market is one of the most likely candidates to require additional service support, but both business customers and consumers will have an enhanced requirement for support as technology becomes more complex and more deeply embedded in their lives. As the IoT develops, there will be considerably more devices that will need support than today. A single customer may have dozens – potentially hundreds – of smart devices that will need to be optimized, diagnosed for faults and kept operational. Companies supporting this market will be dealing with much more complexity, will require far more intelligence and automation in their processes, but also have the potential to drive efficiency by using remote diagnostics and low-level technical support to avoid having to deploy a truck roll to fix the problem. Remote patches, fixes and upgrades will also be far less disruptive and more convenient for the customer, but will require communication and scheduling to create a positive experience.
Telecoms companies are also ideally placed to carve out a niche for themselves ensuring that the millions of smart objects connected to their networks are functioning properly, continue to function by applying automated upgrades, and by protecting and checking smart buildings for security problems such as Trojans or DDoS attacks. Diagnosing and resolving problems within the IoT is not only set to be a big headache but also a big revenue-generating opportunity, as IoT becomes a service rather than a product – generating continual revenue streams.
In addition to remotely managing smart homes as a service, telecoms firms will also manage IoT deployments of large business customers such as utilities, for example, assuring that smart meters continue to function and providing the engineering and support capabilities to keep a network of smart meters functioning.
In fact there are a wide range of key support services that can be charged for in the Digital Economy and which will be managed by an evolved contact center. Specialist services such as identification, verification, secure transactions, fulfilment, and privacy/security all offer revenue-generating opportunities for companies that can handle them on behalf of others. It makes little sense for small companies to try to provide either support services or these types of specialist services directly. Instead, by outsourcing these capabilities to a partner that has already invested in them they can benefit from their expertise, state-of-the-art knowledge and technology, as well as economies of scale, while also delivering convenience to the customer in the form of a one-stop shop for service.
This potentially leads to a range of new service types such as privacy-as-a-service, support-as-a-service and so on where the customer may be a householder or a business.
However, companies also have the potential to create a secondary stream of revenue by exploiting the data they hold around their customers, as well as access to these customers. This obviously will need to be conducted within the confines of any data protection legislation, and with the permission of the customer, but this insight could be a lucrative form of currency - particularly with the advent of new data types such as real time, contextual data, and data from within the smart building. In this scenario the customer must retain control of who has access to their data, with granular self-service controls. There must also be a benefit to the customer in granting access to their data – whether this is monetary or in the form of enhanced service levels. In some scenarios the customer might altruistically provide access to their data (e.g. for research purposes), but they will require their data to be held securely and only released to those they have specified may have access.
The evolution to opportunity center
Thus there are many ways in which the experience center will become an opportunity center - both for the business operating it (by creating more sales and more satisfied customers, and by reducing complaints, confusion and negativity in their customer base), but also as a means of generating revenue by providing chargeable support services either directly to customers or on behalf of partners.