Change is Calling...Are You Ready to Answer?
Written by: Chris Garrity, Director of Customer Experience
We’ve all felt the winds of change. In fact in today’s business environment, it feels like change is the new normal. As customer care and contact center professionals, how can we effectively embrace this reality to stay ahead of the curve? It’s a pressing question that leaders cannot avoid.
First, it’s important to recognize that there are two types of change with which we must navigate. The first is “generational” change and the second is “technological” change.
Generational change is fairly well defined. And it’s important to understand the evolution of the generations as it’s highly likely that your customers – and your employees – represent multiple generational cohorts. So how do the experts define the different generations?
- 1925 – 1945: the Silent Generation This generations is generally recognized as “the children of the Great Depression.” The impact of this historical event during their formative years had a profound impact on them.
- 1946 – 1961: the Baby Boom Generation Born after World War II, this generation tends to think of themselves as a special generation and very different from those that had come before them.
- 1962 – 1981: Generation X (also known as the 13th Generation and the Baby Busters) This generation was the first to see dramatic technological advancement from an early age.
- 1982 – 1999: Generation Y (also known as Millennials) This is the last generation of the 20th century and bore witness to a dramatic change in the use of technology tools for both personal and business use.
- 2000 – 2020: Generation Z (also known as the Internet Generation or the Always On Generation) This generation’s does not know a world without the Internet. Gen Z has been brought up from childhood with a continuous connection to each other and to information. They are nimble, quick-acting multi-taskers who count on the Internet as their external brain. Experts categorize Gen Z as exhibiting a thirst for instant gratification and quick fixes, a lack of patience and minimal deep-thinking ability.
While it’s difficult to pigeon hole everyone into these predefined generational buckets, the point is that our customers and employees innately have a unique set of values, behaviors and expectations based on when they were born, and business professionals must recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach to serving this diverse customer and employee base is not likely to yield maximum results.
The other type of change that must be kept top of mind is technological change.
Do you remember black & white TV? Phone booths? Boomboxes? Dial-up Internet connectivity? Depending on which generation you fall into, you might recall these “technology innovations”… or if you are in a younger demographic, these might only be relics you read about in history books. Regardless, we live in a society where the population is mixed between those who watched technology evolve before their eyes, and those who only lived in a technologically advanced world. But even the later will soon see dramatic technological changes.
So, in a multi-generational world, with technological advancements emerging at what seems like light speed, how can we harness the benefits of these two realities to create a successful roadmap for the contact center of the future? Well, it might seem like a daunting task, but it’s clearly achievable.
First, it’s important to recognize the structure of the “classic contact center.” The classic contact center is not likely to become extinct in the foreseeable future. The classic contact center is one that responds to customers via the traditional communications channels of the 20th century, such as snail mail, phone and email. Customers’ response-time expectations were not immediate. Typically, the older generations are more likely to prefer the classic contact center channels, as well as be tolerant of a minimally delayed response time.
But the more recent generations are likely to have a different preference and point of view. The younger generations expect a contact center to provide 24x7 accesses, they desire real-time, first-call responses and are comfortable using a variety of 21st century communications channels, such as chat, social media, mobile, and text.
So, to accommodate everyone, the contact center of the future must have at its foundation the classic components, but also be equipped to offer customers the new communications channels as well and possibly re-think its approach and SLAs to response times. Staffing models, workflows and technology must evolve to address the varying and changing needs of today’s customers.
For today’s contact center professional, this convergence of generations and technology creates multiple new challenges, including staffing, training, employee motivation, resources/tools, response time, and customer satisfaction/retention. Fortunately, these challenges are not impossible to overcome with the right vision and understanding of the changes that are now part of our daily lives.
A good starting point for the contact center professional is to find their sweet spot – the right balance of people and technology – while thinking about now and the future.
Finding the right sweet spot will vary based on an organization’s goals and priorities. But, consider these possible scenarios. If an organization focuses too heavily on the human aspects (leaning more toward the classic contact center) with limited channel touch points and technological advancements, they will be inefficient, cost the organization more money and potentially lose customers.
On the flip side, if the organization focusses too heavily on technology and channel openness they could lose focus and lose sight of the still-needed human touch. A recent Consumer Reports survey revealed that 71% of consumers became irritated when they did not have access to a human if needed. Furthermore, Forrester reports that inefficient deployment of self-service technology tools will simply force customers to use the more expensive human touch point channels, such as phone, email and chat.
So what is your organization’s human versus technology sweet spot? If you haven’t asked yourself that question recently, it might be a good time to create a strategy that best meets your business needs. Conversely, not addressing this important question will likely leave you in the dust of the change revolution.
For more insights into the contact center of the future, see Astute Solutions infographic entitled, The Contact Center of the Future.