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Digital Needs the Human Touch

Dimension Data, a global systems integration company, today released the findings of its 2016 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report showing that digital transformation in the contact center continues on, as expected.

Dimension Data compiled this year's report based on the contributions of 1,320 organizations across 14 industry verticals in 81 countries in Asia-Pacific, Australia, the Americas, Middle East & Africa, and Europe, a record in terms of number and locations of respondents. Increased participation means that the number of surveys in each vertical and geography is large enough to allow for the data to remain statistically valid when looked at on a regional or industry basis.

In last year's report, Dimension Data gave us the key takeaway "Go digital or die," highlighting the prediction that digital interactions into contact centers would exceed voice interactions by the end of 2016. As seen in the graphic below, digital transformation continues with non-voice channels now accounting for 42% of all contact center interactions, up from roughly 34% in 2015.


In addition to asking respondents about how their organizations split interactions across channels, as in the above, Dimension Data sought to understand how different age groups interact with contact centers. Toward that end, it asked: "Which contact channel is most popular by age group?" Results were in keeping with the channel breakdown showing the proportion of voice interactions dropping. Respondents at companies that track the data (about half of the respondents), indicated that social media is the top choice for those under 25 years old and email the most-used channel among those between 25 and 34. Voice does remain the No. 1 choice for those over 35, so as Dimension Data commented in the report, "Voice is not going away anytime soon."

The use of mobile applications to contact businesses was a top three choice for customers under 55 years old. Note, per the graphic, how that contrasts with the proportion of contacts handled via mobile applications coming into the contact center -- just 1.7%. This disparity between what choices consumers have available to them versus what they would prefer highlights the digital transformation gap contact centers need to address.

As contact center technology and the customer relationship evolves, Dimension Data is challenged with maintaining survey consistency that allows for year-over-year comparisons while adding questions that are relevant for today, Rob Allman, Dimension Data's Group Principal Director, Customer Experience and Collaboration, told me in a conversation about the report. To address the changing scope of the contact center, an example of a question new in 2016 is: "How well can you track the customer journey across your service channels?"

Given the relative newness of the customer journey concept in the contact center, I didn't find it surprising that just 36% of respondents said their organizations can track a customer journey that spans multiple channels. Another 30% said their organizations can't track the customer journey at all. While the results may be a little disheartening, Dimension Data has now created a benchmark that individual companies can use to judge their progress and the industry as a whole can rely on to track change over time.

"Digital Needs the Human Touch" is the phrase that Dimension Data has chosen to summarize the 2016 survey results. While digital volumes are growing, often the service they deliver falls short of both customer expectations and the potential of the channel. The answer is integrated design, ownership, and management of all the digital channels by a single customer experience organization -- a business transformation issue often more difficult than technology changes.

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