Sheila McGee-Smith
Sheila McGee-Smith, who founded McGee-Smith Analytics in 2001, is a leading communications industry analyst and strategic consultant focused on the...
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Sheila McGee-Smith | February 15, 2016 |


Contact Center 2016: It's All About the Journey

Contact Center 2016: It's All About the Journey Understanding the journey a customer is on and working to decrease the number of steps to complete it are imperatives for the modern contact center.

Understanding the journey a customer is on and working to decrease the number of steps to complete it are imperatives for the modern contact center.

Last December, I had 100+ interactions with two airlines as I tried to track five pieces of family luggage that had gone missing during an international trip. As I told my story, over and over again, oh how I wished the airlines had a sense of my customer journey so that I didn't have to start each call afresh... and that the website reflected the latest information I'd given an agent... and that the baggage people at the airport were empowered to text me when they had found the luggage.


With this experience still bringing a sting, I'm particularly looking forward to the "Managing the Customer Journey" session I've lined up for the Contact Center track I co-chair at Enterprise Connect, coming March 7 to 10 in Orlando, Fla. I'll be looking for some hard answers from experts at Altocloud, Avaya, Genesy, Plantronics, and ShoreTel on how we can make the customer journey a seamless experience -- because for the most part it's anything but that today.

When customers call into contact centers today they've typically been elsewhere first trying to solve their problems or get answers to their questions. They have typically tried some kind of self-service approach, via the company website, Web chat, or email. They may have reached out on social media, or tried using a mobile application.

In 2015, the importance of these non-voice channels became clearer than ever. For almost a decade, contact center pundits have forecast that email, Web chat, social media, and most recently mobile app interactions would inalterably change the contact center landscape. It turns out that it is not any one of these digital channels but a combination of them all that is heralding a new era in customer care. After years of steady change, the tipping point is upon us.

In my opinion, the most thought-provoking prediction from Dimension Data's 2015 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report is that digital interactions will overtake voice calls by the end of 2016. And solution providers and customers are scrambling to create offers and deploy applications that match this reality. Projects that had been on the "someday" list of things to do for many companies -- e.g., adding Web chat or SMS channels to customer care operations -- are suddenly rising to the top.

Check Out an Upcoming Enterprise Connect Webinar on the Customer Journey!

Where the Customer Journey Meets the Agent Journey

Wednesday, Feb. 17
2:00 p.m. ET/11:00 a.m. PT

Sponsored by 8x8, hosted by Enterprise Connect and No Jitter

Join Aphrodite Brinsmead of Ovum Research and co-chair of the Enterprise Connect Contact Center track as she shares insights from her new research looking into the customer journey, what causes trouble, and what has less of an impact. Max Ball from 8x8 will join to share new innovations that make it easier to track the customer journey and to ensure your contact center agents are as efficient as possible.

But 2015 was also the year when the word "context" entered the contact center lexicon. Customers want agents to understand what steps they have already taken when they call or, increasingly, digitally contact an organization. Delivering that context will enable companies to optimize a customer's journey.

In speaking engagements in 2015, I found contact center managers responded to the term "customer journey" more than the "omnichannel" technical lingo. As one senior executive with a Fortune 50 financial services firm said to me, omnichannel is vendor-speak; customer journey is a term both companies and their customers can understand.

What I like about the customer journey paradigm is the implication that contact centers are not in the business of handling interactions -- i.e., one-and-done events. Every chat, email, call, or SMS message is part of a task that a customer is trying to complete. With that, a contact center's goal should be to identify the journey the customer is on and work to decrease the number of steps to complete it.

I look forward to doing business with companies as they begin to operationalize context and customer journey in their customer care operations. Maybe next time I'll have my luggage in three days instead of five.

I hope you can join me for the "Managing the Customer Journey" session, as well as these others:

If you do planning on attending Enterprise Connect but haven't yet registered, do so here using the code NJPOST to receive $200 off the current conference price.

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