Many of the key trends emerging in the local contact centre space are mirroring those taking shape globally. In the important areas we’re right there on the communications frontier, which means our brands are facing the same challenges as those in the USA, Asia and Europe. One of the most significant of these is dealing with the powerful influence of open philosophies and technologies on business strategy and operations.
New generation communication technologies are lightweight, completely open in their structure (which shouldn’t be confused with open source software itself) and, as a result, very fast to implement and integrate with existing infrastructure. Where business strategy has previously been defined, and limited, by the ability of the technology concerned, today we’re increasingly operating in an environment where the technology can support the execution of any strategy, in any business sector. Those organisations understanding this paradigm shift and working with it are pulling away from those caught in the technology first, strategy second mindset.
Openness – as applied to technology and methodology – means that not only can systems be integrated with any other proprietary technologies, but that service providers are also sharing intellectual capital and process information in a manner that would have been unthinkable five years ago. They are working with their clients to find the best solution for any context, and they are welcoming opportunities to share any information and /or methods that will advance the collective cause.
To move from strategy to operational reality in a matter of weeks is all good and well, but with this fast pace come key organisational risks inherent in moving too fast; from misreading the customer communication dynamic and implementing the wrong channels, in the wrong way, through to an inability to manage the operational consequences of a rapid shift to a new structure. These challenges need to be carefully managed to ensure open business means positive business.
The opportunities of open technologies and business models are significant, however. Consider – in just one example – the emergence of automated voice monitoring in new generation contact centres. The system monitors both the tone of voice and the actual words used by the customer. At any sign of customer stress the call is automatically routed through to a supervisor for resolution, creating a significant tool in the fight against churn. Equally, relevant calls can be routed to outbound sales staff to engage the client around additional and /or expanded services.
In this example, the technology dovetails with business strategy to support real time information flow and the delivery of services that both retain customers and sell more products; effectively boosting the revenue stream, minimising churn and creating a strong ‘relationship fabric’ between brand and customer. The addition of real time process and analytical tools to the outbound dialler – a key element in any customer focused business – means the entire organisation can be managed, monitored and analysed via a single communication suite that works seamlessly with the raw data supplied by the back-office ERP system. The ROI is unquestionably very significant.
Ultimately, when working in this kind of open and transparent environment the challenges and opportunities form two sides of the same coin. This is a world where the variables are constant, where the rate of change is extraordinary and where effective, high value business communication requires a well honed organisational culture, rather than a specific intervention. Granted, not all companies are feeling these forces on their businesses as we speak, but there is no doubt that this is the context that will dominate the next five years in the communications sector. Strategic and operational adaptation to this open world needs to start now if you want to avoid watching the coin land on the wrong side.