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The following is an excerpt from Brad’s new book, Contact Center Management on Fast Forward: Succeeding in a New Era of Customer Experience (4th Edition).
The technologies powering today’s always-on world, along with fast-evolving customer expectations, are dramatically changing the nature of how products and services are provided and supported. Many leaders are wondering where the trends and developments are taking us. Will the fundamentals of contact center management still apply?
Short answer: If you’ve established the right fundamentals, then yes! Let’s say you want to interact with your customers through social media—Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or others. The same planning and management steps apply. You’ll set service level objectives, forecast the work, establish schedules, develop quality criteria, and leverage what you learn from customer interactions to improve products and services.
|Contact Centers—More Important Than Ever
How about communicating with customers face-to-face through video? This channel is becoming more common in customer service. And who knows, virtual reality may one day enable customers to “beam” themselves to a chair across the desk of one of your employees. So how will that change things? You’ll need to look and dress the part for the image you want your organization to convey. But the management approach is the same. Forecast, schedule, establish quality processes, and continue to innovate and improve. You get the gist.
The essentials of getting the right people and supporting resources in place at the right times and doing the right things will never become obsolete. Tried and true principles of effective contact center management will be as important as ever.
So, how is contact center management changing? An obvious answer is that there are new types of interactions all the time. Many of these interactions put multiple contact channels in play; for example, customers may initiate the service process through online search, use self-service, then move to a combination of phone, text, chat, or other channels that involve an agent. And as a rule, human interactions are becoming more complex as routine processes are automated or prevented altogether.
Today’s contact centers handle work that is, in a very real sense, already escalated—the complex issues not immediately resolved through search, online resources, self-service capabilities, or other means.
Channels will continue to proliferate—but it’s important to keep this trend in context. Contact centers have handled multiple channels for years. The concept of omnichannel burst onto the scene as technologies and management practices began integrating channels and enabling them to work together seamlessly. The term is beginning to fade somewhat as the principles of omnichannel become widespread and assumed. But successful customer experience leaders remain focused on creating services that customers find intuitive and easy to use. This is a work in progress as new capabilities, such as AI-driven technologies, become a deeper part of the mix.
SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE REQUIREMENTS
- Leadership and management
- Customer expectations and behavior
- Cultural aptitude
- Queuing theory
- Quantitative analysis
- Workload forecasting
- Staffing and scheduling
- Managing variable workloads
- Project management
- Coaching and performance
- Employee engagement
- Technology basics
- Organizational behavior
- Ergonomics and workplace environment
- Industry vocabulary
Another clear trend is that contact centers will become more deeply involved (along with other functional areas) in improving customer experience. Handling interactions will be just a start. Learning from those interactions and using that insight across the organization to improve products, services, processes, and customer experience—that’s where significant opportunities to add value continue to emerge.
In short, the stakes are higher than ever. This is contact center management on fast forward. If you learn the underlying principles of effective contact center management, and know how to apply them, your skills and knowledge will be in high demand. You will be ready for the changes and challenges ahead.