We’ve all been there.
You call a company (perhaps your credit card company or the power, cable or gas company) and encounter an automated system instead of a live operator. The last time you tried to cooperate with this system, you were sucked into an impenetrable labyrinth of menu options, and your problem was not resolved. So this time, you simply refrain from pushing any buttons and listen as the system queries you again and again. Finally, seeming confused, it forwards you to an operator.
According to a recently released report from technology research firm Datamonitor, this scenario might change soon. The organization’s “2007 Trends to Watch: Contact Center Outsourcing and Services” report concluded that technology shifts will be an area of focus for contact center vendors, as end-users rapidly adopt new and sophisticated contact channels.
A contact center can be defined as a facility that houses employees dedicated to using the telephone to help people with their problems or to make telephone calls to try to solicit business, said Peter Ryan, Datamonitor senior analyst for contact center outsourcing and offshoring. Telemarketing accounts for a minority of the activity here — most of the traffic is inbound: people calling for tech support or to register complaints, to ask questions, to process a purchase, etc.
“We’re saying there’s going to be growth in self-service technology,” Ryan said. “So, if you’ve called up an airline to find out when your flight’s going to be taking off or when a flight’s going to be landing, you don’t actually speak to a person — you speak to a computer interface. And a lot of companies are adopting that technology, trying to be more efficient.”
One of the foremost challenges in adopting such technology is customer push-back because it’s human nature to just hang up on a robotic voice on the other end of the phone.
“This is logical, especially in the case of self-service animation, because if we’re blunt about it, in the past, there have been some very poor deployments that have been put out to the general public and have angered people,” Ryan said. “But when you look at the deployments that have come out over the last couple of years, they’re significantly more functional than what we would have seen even five years ago. And I think the more people use these deployments, the more comfortable they’re going to become.”
Datamonitor predicts companies will move toward making it impossible for end-users to simply refrain from pushing any buttons in an effort to confuse and, therefore, bypass computer interfaces by phone.
“Companies that are doing this now, they’re making it very difficult to actually confuse the system,” Ryan said. “What’ll happen is you just won’t be able to get through to an operator unless you follow a set pattern.”
Datamonitor also projects the contact center market will see growth in multifunctional technology, which is not limited to the phone.
“When we’re talking about multifunctional technology, we’re talking about getting in touch with a company and dealing with an agent, but not necessarily through voice interface,” Ryan said. “Rather, it might be using Web chat, e-mail, even text messaging.”