The most primitive contact center solutions originated in the 1960s, when the UK-based tabloid The Birmingham Press implemented a system that used a simple algorithm to filter calls and assign them to the best agents available at any given moment. Fast-forward over 50 years, and the contact center has expanded vastly in scope. As new technology came out, contact centers everywhere clamored to adopt them to better serve customers. Now encompassing voice calls, email, video chat, SMS/text messaging, and even chatbots, the modern contact center has expanded far beyond the simple phone routing algorithm that it once was.
With how rapidly the industry evolves, it is easy to get lost in all of the new technology and lingo that is thrown around by contact center software vendors. In this blog, we will explore the evolution of the contact center, discuss the trends and tech, and show you what features you need in your contact center solution to keep up with the competition and make your customer experience (CX) as modern and cutting-edge as possible.
Evolution of the Contact Center—A Brief History
Initially, many saw the value in providing rapid communications with customers in order to boost customer service. Contact center solutions saw new innovations in contact center technology, and rapidly evolved from basic algorithms that filter calls, to complex systems that can transfer thousands of calls to multiple different digital channels in an instant.
The First Use of Contact Centers: Inbound Call Centers
With these innovations, contact center solutions geared toward customer service began popping up. They focused on receiving inbound calls and handling routine requests via Interactive Voice Response (IVR)s. These inbound contact centers used voice-based contact center technology to minimize the volume of calls, reducing operational costs and increasing efficiency.
With the advent of the predictive dialer, outbound contact centers emerged. The telemarketing industry grew substantially, going from employing half a million agents to 4.5 million. These contact centers reached out to the customer in an automated manner and only engaged an agent once the call was connected. This allowed for greater agent efficiency and productivity as agents no longer had to manually dial or wait for answering machines. The number of outbound contact centers grew rapidly, widening telemarketing and giving companies new ways to market their products. Inbound contact center and outbound contact center solutions were used together by companies for maximum effect.
Blended Contact Center
With inbound and outbound contact centers working side-by-side, the distinction between the two began to blur. Agents were finding themselves doing both inbound and outbound calls to increase efficiency, utilizing both inbound contact center solutions and outbound contact center solutions simultaneously. This led to contact centers becoming blended over time, combining the roles of inbound and outbound. Blended contact provided many advantages over separating inbound and outbound calls. These advantages include improved flexibility, increased efficiency, increased revenue, and increased customer satisfaction.
Blended contact centers bridged the gap between the two different types of contact centers and provided a more streamlined experience for the consumer.
The Shift from Call to Contact — Multichannel Contact Centers
Originally, contact centers were primarily voice based. Today, customers want to be able to communicate on the channel of their choice. Text messaging, social media, email, webchat, in-app, and video chat have all become important channels of communication with customers. This emergence of new channels guided the evolution of contact centers into multichannel contact centers.
Multichannel contact centers allow agents to interact with customers over several communication channels. Multichannel contact centers give customers more flexibility and options than ever before. However, since most of these multichannel contact center solutions were originally designed for voice calls, these new channels were bolted-on afterwards, creating siloed channels. While customers could communicate across multiple communication channels, these channels were often segregated resulting in a poor customer experience.
These difficulties have created the need among companies to pursue a solution. Many companies are now attempting to evolve from multichannel contact centers into omnichannel contact centers.
Omnichannel Contact Center Solutions—A Seamless Customer Experience
If there is one piece of technology that every contact center has to have, it is omnichannel contact center solutions. Lately it seems like every contact center solutions vendor illegitimately boasts about their omnichannel capabilities and claims to have omnichannel functionality. But what is true omnichannel capability and why is it so important for the modern contact center?
Omnichannel is derived from the Latin word Omnis, meaning all. Omnichannel was first termed in the retail industry and refers to a sales approach that provides the customer with an integrated shopping experience with all channels of communication being connected with one another. An omnichannel strategy ensures that no matter which channel customers choose, the message or experience will be seamless. When applied to the world of contact centers, this means that a conversation with a customer that is happening over the phone can be transferred easily to SMS, video call, or any other channel of communication without the context of the conversation being lost. The customer data from previous interactions is stored in the software and available to the agent, so there is no need for customers to repeat themselves as they transfer across channels.
Cloud Contact Center Solutions
Cloud computing has become one of the hottest trends in the tech world. Many of the world’s largest tech companies, like Google, Amazon, and Adobe are providing cloud storage and cloud computing options for their consumers. If you’ve used products like Google Drive, Amazon Web Services, and Adobe Creative Cloud, you have participated in cloud computing. Much of the world’s most cutting-edge software is now sold as a service online, giving rise to the term software as a service (SaaS). But what exactly is the cloud and how does it work with contact center solutions?
The cloud is a metaphor for the Internet, where you’re able to store the data online rather than on your own computer. Cloud computing involves delivering hosted services through the Internet, while cloud storage refers to being able to store data on another server that isn’t your own. Cloud computing and cloud storage have made it easier than ever to store large amounts of data and added flexibility in the way we sell software or store data.
So how does this tie in to contact center solutions? Rather than relying on an on-premises data center that is expensive and hard to maintain, cloud contact center solutions offer much more flexibility and scalability. The move to a cloud contact center solution is happening rapidly and more customers have moved their software to the cloud.
AI Integration—Contact Center AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another hot topic among the tech savvy today. From the newest Siri updates to the self-driving cars that are roaming Silicon Valley, AI has gradually become integrated in our lives and we have utilized AI to assist us with day-to-day living. But can AI be used to assist you in the contact center? How has AI been integrated into contact center solutions?
AI and the contact center first came in the form of bots, which many companies used on their websites to provide basic support to their customers. These bots came preloaded with a list of questions and preprogrammed answers to weed out the most basic questions that customers had.
Today, AI is used not only as a customer facing bot to handle routine tasks, but is also being tailored to help contact center agents interact with customers. With the latest technical innovations such as text/speech analysis, emotion and sentiment analysis, AI is slowly becoming a necessary feature for many contact centers. A combination of increased efficiency through automation and better quality customer service through AI analysis has set apart the contact centers that implement AI from those that don’t.
Contact Center Quality Assurance—A Happy Contact Center Creates a Happy Customer
The contact center is one of the most important strategies for your company. When your customers have an issue with your product or have inquiries about your business, your contact center is often their first point of contact. A contact center often leaves the first impression on your customer, who may judge your entire company on interactions they had with your contact center agents. As a result, more focus needs to be put on managing the contact center and ensuring quality interactions with customers. But how can you go about managing hundreds, possibly thousands of contact center agents?
This is where quality management software comes in. Quality management can be automated to help contact center supervisors ensure their agents are performing well and their customer interactions are exceptional. Many contact center solutions focus their contact center quality management solely on phone calls. Because they rely on outdated “sampling” techniques, managers and team supervisors can only monitor less than 2% of calls by listening in on the calls. The addition of newer channels of communication is only exacerbating the problem, spreading resources thin and leaving managers scratching their heads on how they can monitor so many channels.
Through the use of sentiment analysis and data collection, AI-driven quality management allows managers and supervisors to monitor agent performance efficiently on a widespread scale. Bright Pattern’s quality management, for example, is able to sample 100% of interactions on all channels. This means you can review every single interaction on channels like voice, video, email, text, SMS, and messaging apps. AI integration also gives Bright Pattern’s platform an edge in real-time intervention. If a customer interaction is detected as having gone negative, Bright Pattern’s AI can detect this and reroute the customer directly to a retention specialist. The data from the interaction is then saved for agent retraining.
Modern Contact Center Solutions Pricing—How Expensive Is It?
With how advanced contact center solutions have become, has it also gotten much more expensive?
Implementing advanced contact center solutions can actually be very easy and affordable. Contact center solutions pricing varies dramatically depending on the vendor you use and the features available. Cloud contact center solutions is usually more affordable and paid monthly by the number of concurrent agent seats. This means you only have to pay for what you use. Omnichannel contact center software can also save you lots of money by decreasing the amount of separate software applications used to provide all the channels your customers are using. Rather than having three different software applications to support voice, chat, and email, omnichannel contact center software can downsize it to only one communications platform. Contact center software pricing also can be affected by professional services. Some technologies are harder to maintain and require a lot of professional services. Onboarding and professional services fees may also apply.
How to Modernize Your Contact Center Solutions Today
Bright Pattern’s contact center solution is the best way to modernize your contact center. Bright Pattern is based on the cloud, while being continuously updated to include the latest in cutting-edge technology. Bright Pattern provides omnichannel communications, AI-powered quality management, and complete CRM integrations to ensure a smooth customer journey from beginning to end.
Bright Pattern is also the best choice for remote workforces, because of its advanced virtual capabilities. Get the full functionality of a cutting-edge contact center solution from the comfort of your home.
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