Contact centers have changed a lot over the years thanks to advances in technology, trends in communication, and changing customer expectations. Today’s consumers want always-on, omnichannel support, and they want it fast. Add to that the growing demand for remote-friendly working conditions, and you’ll see why the industry has been rapidly evolving.
Mobile, remote, and hybrid models are quickly becoming the future of the contact center industry. In this blog, I will discuss the future of contact centers and what changes we’ve experienced at DATAMARK moving forward.
Like many other business services, the contact center industry underwent a massive change in 2020. Statista says the percentage of U.S. employees working primarily from home jumped up to 44% during the coronavirus outbreak versus 17% before the pandemic. Onsite centers adapted to a completely remote model practically overnight. However, due to data privacy laws and security restrictions in place for some contact center work, a hybrid structure is likely the future, driven by the customer’s need.
As consumers and businesses switched to a socially distanced life and work, the need for a smooth digital experience with a personal touch became even more important. We are a living example of how COVID-19 accelerated the shift towards digitalization in our culture overall, our workflows, and with our partners today. And though the world is now looking at what post-pandemic operations may look like, there are some of these industry trends we think could be here to stay:
● Expanded Remote Operations: COVID-19 forced many contact centers to switch to a remote model practically overnight. While the sudden change presented challenges, it also highlighted many benefits to both companies and employees alike.
● Omnichannel Service Model: Phone support is no longer the center of customer support operations. Today’s consumers want to get help via multiple channels, including chat, video chat, SMS, email, and social media. Customers expect a seamless process on whichever platform they’re more comfortable with, and contact centers need to handle any and all channels.
● Emphasis on Mobile-First Experience: Consumers spend more time on their mobile devices than ever before, and they expect a smooth user experience, especially when conducting business on their phones. Thus, it’s critical for voice, video, email, and chat services to be mobile-optimized.
● AI and Humans Work Together: While artificial intelligence has steadily improved, consumers still demand a human touch. A PWC survey indicated that 75% of respondents worldwide would want more human interaction, even as technology improves. But leveraging AI and chatbots for routine tasks give human agents more time to deal with complex problems. Thus, contact centers – including ours – have already been testing out a hybrid model between the two.
● More Skilled and Specialized Agents: As companies automate mundane and repetitive support needs with artificial intelligence, the role of customer service agents continues to evolve. Customers expect them to solve more complex problems and provide rapid assistance. Agents now require more advanced training, deeper knowledge of a company’s products and services, and the ability to offer solutions in real-time.
As the world emerges from the pandemic, companies are getting the opportunity to assess their remote options more thoroughly. You may have used the model last year out of necessity, but now you can refine and redevelop your remote contact centers to better suit your company’s ongoing needs.
Remote contact centers aren’t just good for the companies that use them. While the flexibility and increased profitability are great, they’re also a better fit for many agents than traditional contact centers. With benefits for both your company and the agents, there’s increased potential for growth and stability:
● Increased Agent Productivity and Happiness: Studies show remote workers are often happier than non-remote employees. Working from home is less stressful, eliminates commute time, and allows for more focus and work-life balance. Remote call center agents are more productive and provide a positive face to your customers, resulting in better customer satisfaction.
● Access to a Diverse Workforce: Companies like Uber and DoorDash have shown that a growing number of people want non-traditional and flexible working conditions. Remote contact centers allow for similar flexibility, and the workforce can include both full-time and part-time employees. From a business perspective, companies can take advantage of a wider candidate pool when they are not limited to a single geographic location.
● Reduced Cost Pressure: Remote contact centers can potentially increase profitability in several ways. With reduced real estate, ultilities, and other intrinsic costs of running an onsite operation, BPO companies can often minimize overall project costs without negatively impacting customer satisfaction. Broader and more rapid adoption of cloud-based technology as a result of the pandemic also makes it easier to get remote agents up and running quickly and with appropriate security in place.
● Flexibility & Scalability: Whether or not your business is seasonal, remote call centers offer immense flexibility to meet evolving customer service needs. Workforce management is essential to meet your needs without overspending on employees, hardware, or other resources. Additionally, remote contact centers can often launch more quickly than most onsite options, providing greater scalability for growing businesses.
● Expanded Service Window: Customers increasingly expect immediate access to support. Thanks to a combination of on-shore, near-shore, and off-shore outsourcing, contact centers can provide service 24 hours/day, whether on an on-site or work-from-home model.
Moving your company’s contact center operations to a remote model isn’t without challenges. Hardware, software, workforce management, operational planning, and security are all pieces of the puzzle. And highly regulated industries may face demanding requirements on top of that.
The good news is, a bit of planning and organization (or help from an experienced business processing outsourcing partner) can set you up for success. Here are some of the key areas to consider when developing plans for a remote contact center:
● Business Operations & Continuity: As COVID-19 proved, it’s nearly impossible to be too thorough with business continuity planning. While remote contact centers eliminate many of the single points of failure in onsite centers, it’s still critical to consider the impact on your operations and continuity plans.
● Hiring & Onboarding: Many companies’ internal HR departments are used to hiring and onboarding employees in a traditional setting. A BPO provider can provide the expertise to extend your workforce outside the office, either by hiring remote agents or providing off-site contact centers.
● Employee Engagement: Managing a remote contact center is about more than making sure agents meet quotas and hit scores. You need to maintain communication, morale, and culture – just as you would with an onsite workforce. At DATAMARK, we have worked hard to retain the positive aspects of onsite work in our remote contact centers (through recognition, community-building, etc.) to keep employees happy and engaged.
● Cloud-Based Technology: Many companies have moved towards cloud-based solutions for their improved flexibility, scalability, and lower overhead costs. More importantly, cloud-based technology stacks are a viable solution for both onsite and remote contact centers, giving you the freedom to grow and expand without tying yourself to in-house hardware and software.
● IT Governance & Data Security: Data security is a challenge in remote work since remote workers will access company platforms from various networks and locations. However, DATAMARK offers a robust suite of data security tools and plans, including solutions that integrate with your existing software and technology stacks. We also provide staffing, training, and support to fit your company’s security framework.
As companies begin to implement their post-pandemic work strategies, many are keeping the work-from-home model in some form. The past year has provided a testing ground for more remote-friendly work culture, and that test proved viable. Global Workplace Analytics estimates 56% of the U.S. workforce holds a job that’s at least partially compatible with remote work. And Pew Research found 54% of employed adults who are currently working from home want to continue doing so after the pandemic.
Well, that’s enough from me. I’d love to hear about some ways you’ve seen the contact center industry-changing towards the WFH or hybrid models. What have been your organizations’ biggest wins and challenges throughout this transition? Comment below!
Whether you’re looking to switch to remote contact centers or improve your existing operations, DATAMARK can help. We have more than three decades of business process outsourcing experience and will work with your team on everything from staffing to training to technology to security. If you’re ready to embrace the advantages of remote contact centers, contact us for a consultation.
Victor Saenz – Director of Mexico Operations
Victor brings more than 21 years of experience in the Business Process Outsourcing industry, successfully transitioning and managing operations by driving a culture of continuous improvement and added value to customers. As a Director of Operations, Victor has been responsible for a diversity of clients and processes spanning Contact Center (Customer Service, Interpretation Services, Case Resolution, Collections, etc.), Document Lifecycle Management, and Finance and Accounting outsourcing services in Mexico the United States. He develops leaders who can collaborate with customers through transparency, engineering, quality, and analytics to exceed expectations. Victor has a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering, and he is Six Sigma Green Belt Certified.