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Women frustrated on phone
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When I saw the subhead on this week’s No Jitter post from TalkingPointz analyst Dave Michels about the future of contact centers, I thought Dave was being characteristically provocative. He predicts, “Soon, [contact centers will] be missing three big things: hold, operating hours, and the PSTN.” I especially noted that first item: Every contact center manager would tell you that their ultimate goal is for no customer to ever have to wait on hold; but most would probably be realistic enough to admit that minimizing hold times and managing their annoyance level is the best you can do in the real world.
In the article itself, Dave insists it’s practical to envision the end of hold, suggesting techniques such as the algorithmic matching of resources to demand, as pioneered by Uber. “We can make agent supply elastic in a cost-effective way,” he writes. Dave also suggests that follow-the-sun agent workforces and continued growth of self-service can work to eliminate the need to put customers on hold.
“Uber, but for contact center agents” might be feasible for the most low-skill assignments — the Uber model worked for ride services because driving a car is possibly the most commonplace “skill” possessed by adult Americans. But I’m skeptical that freelance agents, presumably working for multiple enterprises throughout their day, would be suitable for more sophisticated assignments.
So, ultimately, I think Dave’s suggestion of expanding contact center hours, enhancing self-service efficiency, and improving agent scheduling falls short of the goal of eliminating hold altogether. But here’s an interesting proposition that might eliminate hold: What if someone else did your customers’ contacts for them?
That’s what Gartner suggested at a recent symposium in which the research firm presented its top predictions for future technology trends. An article on TechRepublic reports the Gartner projection that, “By 2025, customers will pay a freelance customer service expert to resolve 75% of their customer service issues.”
“Opting for going outside of official company channels will be more effective and create a better customer experience, so customers will opt for freelance customer service professionals with expert knowledge of the technology for which they are seeking assistance,” TechRepublic writes.
At first blush, this seems almost decadent — paying someone to call into a contact center for you. But I suspect the actual business model would be different from what the TechRepublic piece posits, and that this is a place where the Uber model would work. Presumably the “Uber for customer service” company would use rideshare-type algorithms to deploy its freelance experts by subject matter and availability.
However, instead of the customer going out and hiring the expert, it’d probably make more sense if the contact center engaged the third-party customer service company, and then offered those services as a paid “platinum” tier. That would save the customer from needing to find and establish a relationship with the customer service company, then having to seek out the right category of expert for each contact center call when they wanted it. Instead, they’d call the contact center number directly and be routed to the third-party agency to get their expert engaged on the service task.
Of course, if you called during a busy time for the customer service agency, you might not get through to an expert right away. You might have to wait on hold.