In an Age of Automation and Self-Service, Why Are There Still Contact Centres?

Why are there still contact centres?

In this hyperconnected, copy and paste, click and drag, upload and download world, why would we ever have to pick up the phone to actually speak to someone? Not text message, or web chat, or fill out contact forms, but dialling the requisite digits to speak to a human being? There must be a reason… 

Surely contact centres should be on their way out by now.

But, they’re not…

In fact, according to a recently released study by leading analyst in the contact centre industry, Contact Babel, apart from a fallow period between 2010 and 2017, where numbers of contact centres dropped by almost 10%, contact centres have remained an important arm in a financial services arsenal.

Even during that period, when banks were experimenting with using technology to introduce more automation and self-service as part of cost-cutting measures, most of these intermittent years actually saw an increase in the number of agents.

Why?

Why, if all digital signs are pointing to automation and self-service, are customers still using the call centre, a system and technology that has remained largely unchanged since it was widely adopted by large-scale businesses in the 70s?

The reason was (and still is to an extent) that customer demand for certain services was still present, and alternate self-service channels were still undeveloped, or not fully able to serve customer demand. Which service or aspect of an interaction, therefore, was missing and prompting people to resort to the customer contact centre?

We need to talk

Despite increasing levels of technological investment in financial services, the complex nature of a lot of financial services is less suited to online self service, which means a large proportion of financial services customers often revert offline to speak to staff for reassurance and compliance issues.

Considering many financial services interactions stipulate a certain degree of privacy, compliance and confidentiality, this sector has been slower than others to move large volumes of interactions to digital channels, such as email and web chat.

This is partly due to the sensitive nature of the information exchanged, coupled with the very human desire to feel reassured with an interaction of this nature. Many financial services organisations are also advocates of the contact centre, as this personalised human-to-human communication provides numerous cross-selling and upselling opportunities, which obviously results in significant revenue increases.

Last call for clear, uncomplicated communication

As easier customer requests or interactions are now completed by self-service digital channels, when customers do choose to call a contact centre, it is when they need help with complicated requests, or a helping human hand with questions of an emotionally, or regulatory, sensitive nature.

As such, average call lengths have increased from 251 seconds in 2010 to 321 seconds in 2017, alongside customer expectations for contact centre agents. According to Contact Babel, agents of the future, therefore, will “require greater skills and knowledge (supported by technology) … leaving live voice calls to more complex issues, and also for customers who are less comfortable with automation and self-service, and who may also take longer on a call.”

Contact centre agents are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between the customer and the computer that they’re using to purchase a product, or complete an application etc. If enterprises are to learn from any of the lessons of the past, the importance of being able to contact a human in customer service is unlikely to wane. Sure, as time progresses, increasing confidence in self-service, automation and online communication may have a slight impact in the number of contact centres operating within the UK, but the desire to speak to a human will remain. Considering how contact centres are the more cost-effective (and convenient) way of offering the human touch, a remote computer/agent hybrid is likely to reign supreme.

However, in order for banks to future-proof operations, while warding themselves from future financial crises, they will need to utilise the latest innovative contact centre tools and technology to improve business operations, increase conversion rates and reduce transaction times, and, of course, offer better customer experiences…

As customer experience expectations continue to increase, contact centres need to become smarter, making full use of the technology at their disposal to offer the same level of visualisation and functionality as in-branch and a comparable ease of use as self-service journeys.

Vizolution’s digital suite of solutions allow customers and agents interacting remotely, over the phone or online, to share, display, exchange, complete, verify and sign documents as if they were face to face.

When a customer picks up the phone to call a contact centre, it is often the last-ditch attempt at understanding a product or requesting assistance to use a service, so the stakes are high. In fact, the contact centre’s role in churn rates are undeniable. Make every call count, deliver the contact centre experience that your customers deserve.


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