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Contact Center Growth Hinges on Understanding the Customer Journey
The contact center industry, which stood still for the better part of several decades, has constantly changed for the past decade and a half. Contact centers were once voice-only, on-premises deployments used for inbound customer service. Then along came the shift to multi-channel as businesses looked to add support for e-mail, chat, web, social media, and other forms of communications. This was followed by the deployment model moving from on-premises to the cloud, making it easier for agents to work from home and non-agents, such as sales, marketing, account managers, and others, to use CCaaS for outbound purposes.
Today, the contact center industry sits on the precipice of its biggest transformation ever – the infusion of artificial intelligence (AI) into the platform. This will enable brands to do things they never could before, such as customizing interactions specifically to an individual versus having it based on broader demographics. Businesses can also automate many of the mundane tasks that plague agents today, but be assured that the responses are fast and accurate, more so than with people.
Data and a broader understanding of the customer journey will enable this wave of innovation. While the contact center industry, like others that interact with customers, tosses around the term “customer journey,” no vendor addresses all aspects of it. Some tools optimize outbound marketing campaigns, ones that look at front-end web analytics, sales tools, and more. The customer journey starts the first time a customer brings up a mobile app or goes to a brand’s website, encompassing research, purchasing, service, and support. and typically, the contact center would address the back half of the journey, whereas a digital experience company like Contentsquare or one of its peers would address the front end.
I don’t expect Five9, or any company, to be able to service the needs of the end-to-end journey, but success in the contact center space will be based on the vendor's ability to ingest data and use it to create competitive differentiation. In data sciences, there is an expression that states, “good data leads to good insights” and that’s certainly true. What’s also a fact is that silos of data lead to fragmented insights, and that’s true with customer experience (CX) today. This is why we often receive emails from brands that seem inconsistent with the support we receive. Ideally, organizations would have one data set that spans all aspects of CX, but we are likely years or even decades from that.
What’s important today is to understand the immediate adjacencies, partner for the data, and then communicate the strategy effectively to customers. A new hire announced today by Five9 suggests one way to do that: bring someone on board who has a working knowledge of esch step of the customer journey. Niki Hall has been named as Five9's new Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). She returns to the company after CMO stints at Selligent and ContentSquare. Hall spent many years on the opposite end of the customer journey, and her knowledge there will be instrumental in Five9 broadening its scope beyond the traditional contact center.
When I talked with Five9 CEO Mike Burkland regarding the hiring of Hall, he echoed the importance of the breadth of her experience. He told me, “I needed to make sure that we brought in a CMO that could absolutely nail the messaging of where we are going. That is, tell the story around CX and not just contact center, and she's very experienced in all aspects of CX and will elevate us and raise our game.”
Another interesting element Hall brings to the table is the impact of interactions on agents and consumers as the content center becomes more AI-enabled. More AI means more automation, resulting in an increasingly larger number of digital interactions than human interactions. Hall’s former company, Contentsquare, dealt primarily with digital interactions, and it was under her that the company embarked on its “More.Human.Analytics” campaign, which was about humanizing digital interactions. Historically, contact centers have dealt primarily with human interactions, with digital being the exception. There’s a lot of excitement now about being able to digitize and automate, but brands that forget about the human element will likely see some customer pushback.
I know Five9 has been on the search for a new CMO for some time, and I was hoping the company and Hall would come to an agreement. Given the rapidly changing nature of the contact center, it seems her experience in the broader CX landscape makes Hall the right person for this phase in Five9’s history.