While customer behaviour continues to evolve fuelled by access to rapidly changing consumer tech, many customer experience leaders remain hamstrung by complex, unintegrated and costly to manage contact centre platforms. In fact recent research KCOM undertook with the CCA found that only 17% of respondents had a fully flexible contact centre platform that allows for the easy deployment of new digital functionality.

An effective CX strategy by definition has to start with your customers and understanding what they really want - after all they’re the ones who’ll decide how customer centric your organisation actually is. Only then can an effective contact centre strategy be developed that achieves an equitable balance between your CX vision and the cost to deliver.

Understanding customers however, is not always as easy as it sounds. Many organisations struggle to join-up their various points of contact and are often unaware of exactly what happens during customer journeys, or how these journeys evolve. There may be a lot of data available, but that doesn’t mean there is readily-available insight.

Developing and articulating a clear strategy enables you to create a customer experience blueprint that’s in line with your organisation’s vision and goals and, moreover, you know how to measure it. This assumes you understand the people and process considerations that go with it.

Underpinning all of this is technology. Your ability to execute strategy is highly dependent on identifying the right technologies from the right vendors and ensure that they are fully integrated into you contact centre platform and provide rich sources of customer insight.

The vendor landscape is changing…

This is no easy task when the vendor landscape seems to be changing almost as fast as your customers’ behaviour. Entering stage left seems to be a constant stream of new, disruptive high growth companies offering the promise of differentiating your service to help you leapfrog the competitors. However the potential of new technologies such as AI, robotics or voice biometrics is all too often thwarted by the apparent inability of legacy, on premise contact centre platforms to accommodate them.

Over the past few years we’ve also seen a growing level of uncertainty and consolidation amongst the traditional contact centre vendors. Aspect went into, and emerged from bankruptcy in 2016, and after initially investigating the acquisition of Avaya’s contact centre business, Genesys went on to acquire Interactive Intelligence. This leaves Avaya’s future plans and direction currently unclear while they look to restructure their business under chapter 11 protection.

One of the key factors driving the restructuring and consolidation we’re seeing within the contact centre infrastructure sector is the race to switch R&D investments from traditional on premise solutions into developing Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) roadmaps. CCaaS solutions not only promise improved contact centre flexibility and efficiency, they have the potential to overcome many of the integration challenges inherent in an on premise solution. In addition to cloud offerings from familiar vendors, new alternatives are emerging from the digital giants who dominate many aspects of the consumer landscape. In March 2017 Amazon introduced Amazon Connect - their own contact centre offering - in the USA and 18 European countries based on the platform they have been using with their own operations.

Innovating to meet changing customer expectations

On the consumer side, change is constant. The use of messaging applications and personal assistants continues to grow. According to Gartner, people are using fewer apps, but want to be able to do more with within them. It may also soon be common place to manage many your personal affairs via devices like Amazon Echo or Google home, or to contact an organisation through whatsapp.

So against this backdrop of rapidly changing customer behaviour and an evolving contact centre technology landscape how should contact centre professionals respond? According to the CCA, the level of disruption within todays operating environment is so high, all organisations needs to think and innovate like start-ups.

What’s clear is that if you currently operate a legacy on premise contact centre platform adopting a “wait and see approach” not only risks further eroding your ability to deliver the experience your customers are demanding, it could result in your hand being forced by vendor consolidation shaping future roadmap decisions.

The answer therefore lies in collaborating more closely with industry experts who have a handle on how the environment is evolving, and with IT and business colleagues to adopt what Forrester refers to as an “outside in” approach to transforming your contact centre. Such collaboration will aid the development of a supporting architecture that will see contact centre platforms evolve from a loose collection of silo’ed technologies into a set of more closely integrated cloud based services.

It’s time for a new approach to partnering

However many organisations continue to manage their contact centre infrastructure in house maintaining direct relationships with the vendors who’s applications and technologies they use. Compounding this traditional IT procurement methods arguably stifle innovation and are not fit-for-purpose in today’s fast-moving environment. This can put IT teams under significant pressure when faced with business demands to transform. It’s surprizing then that the research I referred to earlier in this blog also found that only 5% of respondents said they had a strategic partner who has helped then develop their future customer contact strategy and design, deploy and manage the technology needed to deliver this strategy.

It’s time for a new approach to partnership, one that places customer experience, innovation and collaboration at the core of the relationship. IT organisations that continue to follow the ups and downs of traditional contact centre vendors will need to eventually “get out of the way”. So the first step could well be to identify a partner who can help you lead the way to your future CX strategy and:

  • Make sense of the evolving consumer and vendor world and emerging technologies
  • Evaluate your current customer experience, the measures in place and how these align to vision and goals
  • Assess your key customer journeys to identify areas of demand failure, or triggers for channel shift
  • Review your current contact centre environment to identify and prioritise issues relating to process and technology that can be addressed through the deployment or closer integration of new applications or capabilities.
  • Establish a migration plan to a future, more flexible cloud centric contact centre platform.

contact centre, Customer Experience, innovation