squeezing in

Contact center executives appear to have suffered through a tough 2015, but the New Year may not bring much relief.

The findings of a freshly released survey of contact center executives conducted by the Bethesda, Md.-based conference company, Consero Group, point to an industry squeezed by limited resources and the increasingly digital demands of its customers.

CX the Priority

These contact center bosses know their priority: Better customer experiences. Nearly one in four of those surveyed by Consero or 24 percent said their No. 1 goal is to improve CX.

But just one out of three respondents think they have the resources to do the job.

The greatest impediment was technology and infrastructure (48 percent saying so). In fact, 78 percent of respondents declared that technology infrastructure in general fails to meet their needs.

The second greatest concern are economic and getting the job done in spite of budgetary restrictions (at 22 percent).

Senior management buy-in was a close third at 19 percent.

More With Less

With less, call centers are seemingly trying to do more.

About 43 percent of executive respondents answered that the number of contact centers under their operation has increased (45 percent staying at the same number), while only 25 percent said outsourcing is a strategic priority.

So call centers don't appear to be getting any help, from outside or inside of their organizations.

Only 39 percent of executives are satisfied with the training offered to their call center agents. And only 35 percent rate their call center reps as engaged in the customer experience.

Software Fails

Even software isn't helping. Just one-quarter of respondents expressed satisfaction with their workforce management software.

Whatever they are using for data and analytics isn't helping either; 68 percent said they were not satisfied with what they extract from data.

Before we write off these call center executives as curmudgeons, let's consider their situation: They are in the midst of a technological upheaval, and thy must be feeling a bit of existential isolation.

Call center executives named phone and email as the top two ways to receive customer feedback (at 37 percent saying the former is the primary channel, and 22 percent saying the latter). But the problem is that those channels are too limited for what today's customer's want.

Supporting Evidence

Other similar pieces of research bear this out.

"Customers want a frictionless, easy and immediate journey on channels of their choice. They want a connected omnichannel journey across channels," wrote the authors of the 2015 contact center benchmarking report from Dimension Data.

"Complexity levels are intensifying as contact centers evolve into channel resolution hubs."

That is the key word: complexity.

The Dimension Data report found that 35 percent of all interactions are already digital, and 74 percent of its respondents see interactions increasing in two years — 42 percent by voice, but 87 percent seeing rise in non-voice interactions.

Speaking to that, for instance, Gen Y on a global scale prefer social media as their channel of interaction.

The bottom line is that more than half of the call centers, according to Dimension Data, will be managing multichannels soon, with at least eight different forms of contact — seven being digital, including smart apps, web chat, social media and video chat.

Unmet Needs

The Dimension Data report also supports the key finding from the Consero report: a scarcity of resources to manage this increased workload.

Up to 40 percent of respondents said IT doesn't meet current needs, and 80 percent said it will not meet future needs, and 40 percent claimed not to have analytics capabilities.

If there's a silver lining in the new Consero Contact Center Data Survey, it's that it comes by way of a very limited sample size.

Only 43 contact center executives from Fortune 1000 firms participated. Still, even if Consero’s sampling happened to be a cluster of the most pessimistic executives, the Dimension Data survey had 901 participants across five continents.

So instead of attacking Consero’s methodology, let's study the lessons to be taken in the context of the both surveys: the importance of customer experience consistency across platforms, and the growing importance of meeting customers digitally and mobility.

And then wish call center executives the best of luck in 2016 with what they have to work with.

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Title image "squeezing in" (CC BY 2.0) by Greencolander