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The Contact Center’s Future Looks Bright, But Complex

BPOThis article first appeared in No Jitter, a partner publication.

Contact centers have traditionally been the place where new communications technology makes its earliest and often strongest business case. So, as we head into a year of potential economic uncertainty and ongoing technology advancements, how should enterprise business and IT leaders plan their strategy for supporting the contact center, so that it provides a competitive customer experience (CX)?

Robin Gareiss, CEO of analyst firm Metrigy, has a post on No Jitter this week where she argues enterprises should continue their investments in customer experience(CX)/contact center technology even in the face of macroeconomic headwinds.

“Companies that put on the brakes in their CX spending risk losing customers to more innovative competitors and setting back revenue,” she writes. “As the economic uncertainty continues, budget cuts may be necessary. But I recommend companies find other places to make those cuts. For example, 40% of [Metrigy’s] research participants say they’re reducing commercial office space, driven by the hybrid workplace. In the contact center, this saves $8,300 per agent per year, on average. Business practices have become so technology-dependent, it’s imperative to invest, not cut, spending.”

It's an interesting trade-off to consider. Some would argue that people have always been a more valuable asset than real estate, but the pandemic settled this question. Companies survived without offices but couldn’t without people. That’s been especially true of contact centers, where the newly remote agents became the face of many enterprises whose physical presence was diminished if not suspended entirely. And, of course, keeping agents on the job required having the technology experts in IT to support them.

CX technology is now at the heart of many businesses’ digital transformation strategies, and while agents still play a vital role, self-service is an increasingly important part of the picture, as well. Also an emerging area of focus is the need to aggregate as much customer data as possible, from as many sources as possible, as quickly as possible, and then use AI to parse and selectively present it to agents (or customers themselves in the case of self-service). That means contact center technologies like analytics and customer data platforms are critical.

Contact centers are dealing with the reality that customers are coming at them from all directions — not just in the “omnichannel” sense, but in the types of business they’re trying to do or problems they need to solve.