Customer service: without a digital strategy, companies can shut shop

The contact center is an area that highlights just how much pressure is on companies to transform. According to the latest Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report from Dimension Data, successful customer service is already impossible today without the use of digital channels.

“Go digital or die” is the conclusion drawn in this year’s Contact Center Benchmarking Report – a survey on customer service development conducted among more than 900 contact centers. Go digital or die! As harsh as that sounds, the figures show that without a digital strategy there is no hope whatsoever.

This is particularly apparent at contact centers where voice interactions are declining noticeably at 86% of the companies surveyed. At the same time, however, overall interaction numbers are rising rapidly – an effect that is also being triggered by the possibilities offered by new channels. Customers today are getting in touch using web chat, social media, text messaging or mobile applications. Traditional telephone customer service, what is in fact the core business of contact centers, is declining at 39 percent of the centers polled. If we look at the data gathered over the past ten years, we can expect to see digital interactions overtake voice interactions in two years from now.

Shift from voice to digital
Shift from voice to digital © Dimension Data

This is the most dramatic change for contact centres in 30 years. The digital transformation has far-reaching implications for the use of technical equipment. This is also changing demands on customer services management. According to the Report, by the end of 2016 customers will be using up to seven different digital channels in addition to the telephone.

Networking the channels is decisive

That is not to say that the days of the contact center are over and that staff have now become obsolete. What it does mean is that customer service is becoming more complex and more valuable, agents have to be able to handle more demanding issues and optimum networking of customer channels is becoming increasingly critical. However, personal conversations on the telephone will remain. Companies have to shift their focus to intensive staff training and set up systems that allow customer telephone interactions to be answered immediately even in the digital age.

Since voice interaction is frequently the last resort after all other channels have failed, this is the point where a contact center can really demonstrate its qualities. If staff are unable to clear up a matter on the telephone to the customer’s satisfaction, this is bad for the company’s reputation and can result in the customer going elsewhere. What’s extremely important here is that the agent should not have to ask any questions which the customer has already answered online. When a customer calls the contact center, he has usually already passed through a certain research and decision process which he does not want to repeat. Both systems and staff must be prepared for this.

Conclusion: It is essential for contact centers to invest in digital strategies. Otherwise, they risk losing customers to competitors who are making good use of the new channels. For other companies, this sector is a good example of how important it is to focus on the digital transformation in order to serve customers well and offer good customer service.

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Author: Andre Kiehne

Director Solution Sales, Microsoft Germany GmbH

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