2015 Prediction: The Workforce of the Future Will Rise to the Customer Experience Challenge
January 21, 2015 • By Greg Hanover
This time of year is full of looking back, looking ahead and evaluating the difference between the two. That can be interesting and informative. Or it can be overwhelming. Or both. My colleagues here at LiveOps have made a few predictions for next year, focusing on technologies and tools. I’m going to focus on people—the contact center workforce of the future. My prediction? The workforce of the future will be even more flexible, important and top-of-mind for both customers and brands.
2015 and beyond will bring an even more intense focus on the customer experience—and therefore, on the contact center. The people customers interact with—whether in a store, on the phone or via social channels—are the brand as far as the customer is concerned. Sure, customers know the person is working for the brand and doesn’t (usually) set the policies and pricing, but they are it in the interaction. Contact center representatives, especially, are the “face” of a brand. A single interaction can inform a person’s opinion of the entire brand.
Brands always strive for outstanding service and delighted customers—but that can be a challenge to deliver in each and every interaction. 2015 will bring an increased emphasis on customer experience ownership and accountability. Everyone who works for a brand, whether they deal with customers or are behind the scenes, has an effect on and is impacted by the customer experience. Delivering that “excellent customer experience” has a few important elements.
- There will be a greater shift from reactive customer service to proactive customer service. Part of that shift will be driven by newer technologies and tools, as my colleagues have mentioned, but the implementation is my focus. Agents will be able to “save” a transaction, and a customer, using new technologies. Based on customer profile information that is more easily accessible, agents will be able to more effectively cross-sell and upsell. Agents will also be more able to engage with customers when and where they are, including on newer technology channels. This will all be extremely important with the increased focus on providing positive customer experiences.
- Availability. Those descriptors are used more and more in reference to work schedules and workers themselves. The importance of flexibility and availability for contact center workers will continue in 2015. It’s becoming rarer for workers to be located in centralized contact centers, and more common that workers are based in home offices. That arrangement offers an increased level of flexibility and availability for both brands and workers—working whenever they are available, even if it’s outside “normal” business hours. Taking time when needed for personal events. Jumping in even during downtime or time off to answer a question, support a peer or help a customer finalize a transaction.
- “Knowledge Workers” will become essential. The perfect type of person for the contact center is someone with a solid combination of “soft” skills and “hard” skills. These workers are technically savvy, think critically, collaborate smartly and take ownership of the customer experience. They are empathetic, patient, helpful, caring and listen well. Not only that, but these workers are well-versed in newer technologies and enjoy bringing those skills to the online world as well. They relish the opportunity to engage via social channels. They want to work with customers in whatever medium they are most comfortable. They understand the importance of being available and responding in real time. These will all be required skills in 2015.
- New technologies will make every interaction simpler and more efficient. These Knowledge Workers bring that comfort with technology to their interactions with peers and supervisors as well as customer interactions. They are as comfortable participating in a webinar as an in-person meeting. They believe in the benefits of live chat to provide and gather feedback. They enjoy playing games and undertaking simulations to learn and improve their skills. They embrace the benefits of combining technology and people skills to streamline interactions and delight all customers—external and internal.
This year has seen a tremendous focus on how technology can help improve customer service. I foresee 2015 being the year that brands switch their focus back to the heart of providing positive customer experiences: People and the interactions between them. With big data, predictive analytics and contextual routing firmly in place, tomorrow’s workforce will be able to rise to the customer experience challenge. Next year will be the contact center agent’s year to shine.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.