Everything from the cloud to social media to the proliferation of mobile technology has dramatically changed the way call centers operate in recent years.
In an effort to be more efficient and effective, expect contact centers to adopt systems that enable them to reach customers on multiple platforms -- from traditional calls to Facebook.
And, as more customers turn to the web to vent their frustrations or seek help with a product, expect to see more industry-wide consolidation of call centers, even as more jobs return stateside as companies hope to win back frustrated customers after the big outsourcing experiment.
Here's a more in-depth look at what we think will be trending in 2013 when it comes to call centers: 1. Focus on social media: Companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of responding to customer complaints and concerns via social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. For instance, GM recently announced it would be adding social media contractors to one of its offices to reach out to customers on Facebook and Twitter, according to the Detroit Free Press. Plenty of national brands like Comcast and Domino's Pizza have already made similar moves.
2. Multiplatform software: Creators of call center software are recognizing that customers expect to be able to contact and interact with businesses from a variety of platforms -- including smartphone apps and Facebook -- in addition to more traditional methods like e-mail or calling. An update to Avaya Tuesday's Customer Management solutions will allow businesses to better track customer interaction across multiple platforms including Web chat, social media and SMS, as well as better route customers to available agents with the right skillsets, according to CRN.com.
3. Video calls: With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, the younger generation has become more accustomed to video conferencing rather than traditional phone calls. Taking note of the trend, more contact centers are looking for ways to incorporate video and video calling into their business models. "Younger generations are showing a preference for a video chat over a phone call or text," Laura Bassett, director of marketing, customer experience and Emerging Technologies at Avaya, told TMCNet.com. "This trend will extend to customer service in specific areas that require personalization, relationships, or advanced support." Companies like Ikea, Verizon and iRobot have already been using video to reach customers for topics like frequently asked questions and how-to guides.
4. The Cloud: Look for more call centers to embrace cost-effective and easy-to-deploy cloud-based contact center solutions rather than traditional premise-based solutions. DMG Consultanting predicts that cloud-based call center infrastructure will double from 2013 to 2015.
5. More home-bound agents: More contact centers are relying on agents working from their home rather than in a large centralized call center thanks to the expansion of cloud-based infrastructure. A study by researchers at Stanford University and Beijing University found that home-based call center agents were more productive and happier, and called in sick and quit less frequently than those who worked in an office. What's more, companies can save on costs (real estate, office equipment and furniture, etc.) associated with running a call center.
6. Insourcing: After years of shipping contact center jobs to places like India and the Philippines, companies are realizing they can improve customer relations by employing native English speakers who also understand cultural norms and who have been provided with good training on interpersonal communication. As a result, many jobs that had moved overseas are returning stateside.
7. Obamacare jobs: With the Affordable Care Act set to go in effect by 2014, states are preparing to help enroll eligible residents into health care insurance by opening up call centers. California is currently hiring nearly almost 1,000 agents for health exchange call centers across the state, according to the Contra Costa Times, and Washington has hired a Virginia-based call center company to operate the state's online marketplace for shopping for health insurance according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.
8. Local governments chasing call center jobs: With the economy still limping, local governments are looking for ways to boost job growth, and one industry they're turning to is call centers. According to the Pensacola News Journal, the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce is eying call center positions as "low-hanging fruit" that can easily fill vacant buildings and achieve their goal of creating 3,000 new jobs by 2015.
9. Consolidated call centers: As more customers turn to the internet for answers to questions they might have previously called a business about, call centers will continue to reduce staffing and consolidate call center operations. SafeAuto recently shut down a call center in South Carolina, moving the work to centers in Kentucky and Ohio saying it was using less than half of its call center capacity as more customers went online, according to the Columbus Dispatch. AT&T also recently cut jobs at two Pittsburgh centers citing reduced call volume as the cause, according to Triblive.com.
Learn more about call centers at Business.com.
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