Contact centres – 10 years of change
As part of Curium’s tenth anniversary celebrations, we’re looking back on 10 years of change. Principal Consultant and transforming operations specialist Mark Turner reflects on how contact centres have weathered the last decade and what else might be coming their way.
This year, Curium celebrates its tenth anniversary. Over the past few weeks, we have been reminiscing about how things have changed in 10 years and looking forward to the next decade. As I spend a lot of time in and around contact centres, I thought I would consider how things have evolved in this operational area during the lifespan of Curium Solutions.
In thinking about this, I re-read an article published in 2010. It predicted what contact centres would look like in 10 years’ time and how digital disruption would dramatically change them.
Predictions included: virtualisation (home working), software as a service (SaaS), voice biometrics and being charged to speak to a human. With just a couple of years to go until 2020, how close to reality are some of these predictions?
In terms of technology, contact centres have been early digital adopters, including chatbots, data crunching and, of course, new channels. We looked at contact centres, artificial intelligence and robotics in a white paper earlier this year. In my opinion, technological change will continue to affect the industry.
The surprising anomaly for me is homeworking. According to figures published by the Office for National Statistics, the number of homeworkers in the UK has risen to 1.65m (or 6.1% of the working population) – up from 1.26m in 2005. I am curious as to why homeworking has not experienced the same rate of change as we have seen in terms of technology.
Having attended a number of CCF discussions on homeworking, the feedback and views I hear suggest that homeworking brings benefits to all concerned. I have also worked with a number of clients over the past eight years who are actively developing their homeworking capacity. I can see it happening, but the pace of change seems slower than expected.
I wonder, is a technological change, where an investment in new software provides smarter and better functionality for colleagues and customers, easier to implement than a people change in which members of a team are no longer visible in the office?
Since homeworking still offers many advantages to organisations, their people and their customers, what are the barriers which need to be overcome now and, in the future, to reap the rewards?
Although contact centres are sometimes maligned, I think the exciting advances in technology and an ever-increasing number of channels make these environments, whether in-house or for homeworkers, even more dynamic and appealing places to work.
I’d like to think that in the next 10 years that contact centre staff will be more appropriately seen as customer relationship experts. I know some companies may already title their staff in this way, but it would be great to see people in this role truly recognised for the wide-ranging skills they display and the service they provide.
I’d also like to be able look back and realise it hasn’t been 62 years since England won the World Cup, but maybe that’s a wish too far!