Jeff Bird, a Consultant in Capgemini’s Marketing, Sales and Service team in the UK, provides his insight on the value of the contact centre for customers in the digital world.

There has been much discussion and thought on how to integrate digital technology into your customer services strategy this year, which has proven to be very interesting, but what value is there in the contact centre for customers now as we globally embrace the world of social media? There has been a suggestion that there will be no contact centres before this decade is out, but I don’t believe that is entirely true.

Businesses are looking to mature their contact centres from basic contact centres into multi-channel contact centres using strategic transformation to improve business performance while giving an enhanced service delivery to the customer. This marriage of company and customer will only succeed if it has a good counsellor at the helm and this is where I think the contact centre will have a part to play in the future.

But contact centres are costly and surely with the advancement of technology they are doomed aren’t they?

To a great extent that is true but contact centres can be profit enhancing and add value. The role of the contact centre has now evolved and is a source of a remarkable amount of insight about a business’ customer database, which if leveraged correctly can enhance the customer experience. And while future technologies may replace some agents, I believe the human touch will always be a presence in some capacity: it has to be, as there will always be a need to talk to someone when all other avenues are exhausted.

What value does the contact centre give back to the customer of the future then?

Any CEO will tell you that it’s about the financial bottom line when running a business, but the success of that bottom line comes from continued business, new business, satisfied customers and investment. New value channels such as Social Media can’t be ignored and must be built into the contact centre of the future, which is already well recognised. Simply ignoring it would be a disaster because any business that does not embrace these new channels and technologies will fall behind to competitors’ who are looking to improve their services.

In terms of value, the contact centre plays its part in a variety of ways for its customers – and the business. Currently from an agent perspective, first time resolution and complaint handling by agents are both functions that are actively used within today’s customer services to add value. However the transactional relationship between customer and business is changing in this digital age. Simple purchases may become self service and with that the role of the agent will step up and change. For example the agent may deal with more ‘complex’ issue resolutions and specialise in a variety of departments in cross channel services. On the business side, MI gleaned from the contact centre will have a bearing on strategic decisions for the company, which again are also there to improve services internally and externally.

What else can we expect from the contact centre for value to its customers?

The sky is the limit really. As new technology tools become a greater part of delivery in a contact centre’s everyday business, the value of using them will be to improve service to the customer and further advance our understanding of customer behaviours. We are already seeing this new technology from integrated service channels by Inquiria to a whole host of CRM software available on the market that is tailored to the future contact centre.

So with the advancement of the digital age truly upon us the life of the contact centre and what it brings to customers is not dead – yet.