Contact centers are challenging places to work. They are fast-paced, the industry moves quickly, and small changes can make a big impact on already thin margins.
That’s why it’s essential to keep up with what others are doing in the space and how it’s working out for them.
What are the latest trends for call centers, and where is the industry going in 2018 and beyond?
Toward that end, I’ve rustled up 16 call center stats that give you an overview of the current state of the industry, insight into how your competitors are improving their service, and predictions for the future of call centers. I’ve also included tips on how you can apply these trends in your day-to-day work life.
Phone support faces competition from other customer service channels
Phone support is still popular, but how are other channels stacking up? Which channels are gaining ground, and which are stalling out? Let’s look at the research.
For this section I dug into Microsoft’s 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report. It looks at what customer service channels are most, and least, widely used, as well as where customer preferences are heading.
1. In the U.S. the phone is the customer service channel respondents use most, more often than email, in-person, live chat, mobile app, self-service, search engine, social media, online community, text message, or chatbot.
2. Seventy-four percent of respondents have contacted customer service by phone—email is the next most popular channel at 62%.
3. About as many respondents typically begin their customer service interaction over the phone as online, 43% versus 49%, respectively.
4. When asked what the most frustrating aspect of a customer service experience is, over a third of U.S. respondents (34%) chose “Automated Telephone System (IVR)/inability to reach a live person for customer support.”
This irritated them more than:
- Not being able to resolve an issue or find information online: 18%
- Having to repeat or provide information multiple times: 22%
- A representative not having the knowledge or ability to resolve an issue: 26%
Applying these stats
If you’re thinking about limiting phone support, it may be a bit early.
It’s not a bad idea to experiment with new technologies such as live chat or chatbots (a 2018 customer experience trend to watch out for). But make sure you’re not frustrating your customers who prefer to speak to a person on the phone. They may spend more, and be more loyal, than customers who use other channels.
According to customer strategist Rachel Barton, many organizations unconsciously assume that their digital-savvy customers are the most profitable. It’s true that they generally have a lower cost to serve. And businesses can woo them through personalised content and tailored services.
However, “this belief has led them to over-invest in digital capabilities and channels so they can give customers (particularly millennials) more digital experiences that they supposedly crave,” Barton says. “However, the assumption is not entirely accurate.”
How businesses are improving their calls centers in 2018
Call center managers have three choices if they want to stay in business in 2018: adapt, move, or go out of business.
I looked through Deloitte’s most recent Global Contact Center Survey to identify what’s changed in recent years on how center managers do business and how they plan to adapt to changing conditions in the near future.
5. One thing that’s changed in recent years is how call centers prioritize their KPIs. Revenue has lost importance, and customer experience and satisfaction have become a bigger focus.
How call centers weigh the importance of cost, revenue, and customer experience (Source)
6. Of course, one big reason call centers are focusing on CX is that they expect CX to have a big impact on the size and strength of their teams.
Growth drivers for contact centers (Source)
7. Improving customer experience requires gathering customer feedback to measure customer satisfaction. Customer surveys will only become more popular for getting this task accomplished.
How contact centers capture customer feedback (Source)
8. Personalization is another big trend in call center improvement strategies. Customers, especially loyal customers, prefer to be greeted personally, instead of being treated like strangers and having to repeat themselves.
What customers prioritize when contacting customer service (Source)
9. It’s no surprise that the majority of call center manager respondents list advanced analytics as one of their biggest priorities. Predictive analytics is what happens when you paint a picture with data of what happened in the past in order to predict what is likely to happen in the future. It’s another one of our five tech support trends for 2018. And CX analytics is one of our five customer experience trends to watch out for in 2018.
What call centers are investing in to improve customer experience (Source)
10. CX analytics requires your different systems to share data, which is still a challenge for a lot of call centers.
Challenges in implementing new tools at call centers (Source)
Applying these stats
Getting feedback is a priority for most call centers, and it should be a priority for yours as well. But it’s not easy. Most customers ignore feedback requests, especially emails. Online surveys only have a 10 to 15% response rate. Check out these seven tips for getting actionable customer feedback.
Personalization is another big challenge for a lot of call centers. Here’s how to use personalization to improve B2B sales.
- Zendesk Integrations: 5 Popular Free Apps to Try
- Not That Kind of Hookup App: 4 Tips for Finding the Right Help Desk Integrations
The future of call centers
11. While voice will likely remain the most popular channel for a while, Deloitte expects it to drop from 64% of call center contacts in 2017 to 47% in 2019. (Source)
12. Contact center executives expect the use of synchronous online channels such as chat, messaging, chatbots, and text to grow from six percent in 2017 to 16% in 2019. (Source)
13. However, eight percent of call centers still don’t offer chat to their customers. One barrier to integrating chat into a call center can be that your workforce management software doesn’t integrate with any live chat software options you might use. (Source)
14. Thirty-six percent of businesses can track a customer journey across multiple channels. (Source)
15. Seventy-five percent of global respondents have used a search engine to find answers to service-related questions before calling an agent. (Source)
16. Respondents list the following technology obstacles to omnichannel contact centers:
- Integrating their software systems (61%)
- Legacy software systems that can’t be replaced (46%)
- Too many competing priorities (37%)
- Securing budget and cost burdens (37%)
- Can’t come together to agree on a solution (26%)
- Lack of required software and hardware (27%)
- Technology can’t keep up with requirements (27%)
Applying these stats
Again, if you haven’t experimented with live chat, self-service, social media, online community, text message, or chatbot for customer service, now is a good time to get started. To help, here are seven tactics to build a top-notch online customer service strategy.
Getting the right software
Running a call center well requires insight, know-how, and the right tools for the job. When shopping for new software, check out our free software directories, where you can read user reviews, compare your options side-by-side, and narrow your list by features: