Contact Center Future Shock: Channels May Become Part of Our Past

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While meeting with Brad Cleveland at the Contact Center Expo in Orlando we explored a bit of the future of what’s to come in contact centers. For some, what we explored in the realm of channels is going to be somewhat of a shock.

But for us to be customer-centric and relationship focused, continuing to manage in a channel-centric manner has to finally be declared as a company-centric approach.

Here is an edited transcript of our interview:

Jim Rembach: It’s great to see you here and you know the last time we talked on your episode of the Fast Leader Show (Brad’s episode) you had talked about the thing that excited you in this industry being omni-channel. Now it’s been a couple months since that has passed, but where are you now on your thinking of omni- channel or has that focused and passion kind of changed a little bit. Where are you?

Brad Cleveland: Yeah that’s a great question. I think more of customer engagement – and channels I think is going to become kind of a thing of the past in our thinking in the way we operate. Even the term suggests there are differences. And there are, but from a customer perspective just being able to communicate fluidly. Having a conversation, like we do in our personal worlds. Some texts, some videos, some face-to-face. And I think we’re going to see that continuing to become more natural in the business context.

Jim Rembach: Okay, that kind of leads me to think about the ability to support that type of interaction. And the management of that interaction and the flow of all that communication. When I think about the legacy aspects of the contact center, we haven’t really been configured that way. So, what’s going to happen?

Brad Cleveland: No, right now we’ve got a lot of channels and we’re trying to ensure that they work together – it’s a little bit kluge as of yet. We’re beginning to see the signs of a better integrated environment. And I think that’s tools, that’s processes, that’s the people part. And I’m excited to see how that all unfolds. I think artificial intelligence is going to be a great help. We’ll see where things go.

Jim Rembach: Okay so when you start thinking about industry growth – impact of the industry – I see the world as a whole becoming just more service-oriented. And so, when you think about it from that perspective, growth of contact centers just going to continue to climb and climb. However, is some of the automation potentially going to diminish that growth or is it just going to make it actually accelerated at a faster pace.

Brad Cleveland: You know in this industry we’ve been working on for preventing contacts and self-service for three decades now. The web came along in the early nineties and that really expanded the opportunities for self-service. And there were predictions all along the way that our workloads are going to decline. But that hasn’t happened yet. What is happening is our contacts are more complex, they’re higher value, but the pie is changing. It’s not like some the solid some zero-sum game we’re playing out there. So, I’m not so sure workloads going to go down right away. What I am sure of is that we’re going to have more of those contacts that are high value and that really require that the gray matter on the part of our agents.

Jim Rembach: And I would dare to say based on what you just said that I’m interpreting strategic importance. And typically, it’s been where the contact center has been quiet kind of quiet about that strategic value and importance. But me, I’m hearing you say that we to actually increase our levels of business acumen as contact center leaders so that we can actually reveal our strategic importance and value to the organization.

Brad Cleveland: I can’t agree with you more. That is exactly right. What we do, we’ve got to do well. We’ve got to create value. We’ve got to connect with our customers and really insure that our brands shines through. And if at the end of the day we’re handling a lot of wrote transactions – we’re not going to be around. We’ve got up the value.

Jim Rembach: Bread we appreciate you sharing your insight and we wish you the very best.

Brad Cleveland: Thank you Jim. I appreciate your work and all you’re doing for this profession. Thank you.

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