Friday, October 19, 2012
Software Advice recently moderated a Google Hangout debate called, “Will Technology Kill the Call Center?” Representatives from IntelliResponse, Avaya, Drumbi and Etech Global discusses consumer contact channel utilization, technology and the impact of these trends on future call center. The speakers offered advice on customer contact channel strategy, as well as forecasted what companies can expect from the next generation of consumers.

Customers Use Many Channels: Have a Holistic Approach to Customer Contact and Support
As the speakers described, consumers are embracing newer contact channels, such as virtual agents and self service. Jim Iyoob from Etech said that his contact center clients have seen virtual agent traffic rise to as high as 30 percent of interactions. Avaya’s director Customer Experience Management Laura Bassett also cited a study that showed the 78 percent of consumers use the internet to research a product before they buy.
While, consumers are embracing new means of product research, this doesn’t mean customers are choosing these new channels instead of placing a call. Rather, they are using self service, FAQs, mobile and other channels in addition to the telephone.
The panelist instead suggested that companies need to do more than just make these channels available and they should leverage each channel to better serve the customer. Knowing what a customer was looking at in your FAQs before they called your customer support number or knowing if they interacted with a virtual agent can bring context and personalization to the live response experience. This increases efficiency and customer satisfaction.
Technology is empowering customers to choose the communication channel they want, when they want. It’s up to the company to determine which channels are most important to its customers and invest in those technologies. 
Drumbi founder and CEO Shervin Tallieh said companies should consider that the majority of customer will soon come from a smartphone or tablet. Users don’t want to tap through self-service login screens or fish around FAQ pages using a tiny keyboard. Optimizing your content for mobile will be critical to informing consumers.
The speakers were in agreement that customer contact preference is shifting away from voice. The concept of a call center comprised of phone agents has evolved into a contact center of “command teams who manage customer interactions through multiple channels. Consumers demand instant gratification and the reborn center is expected to support those demands, whether they come from Twitter, live chat or a phone call.

One of the channels that looks to be the most promising as a a means to stay connected is text messaging. Customers can text support departments to get a direct answer to a question. In addition, with the auto-reply abilities of many long code and short code providers, organizations can send immediate replies to frequently asked questions. CallFire's IVR and virtual receptionist applications allow businesses of any size provide the multiple channels their users need to stay connected.