A Look at the Call Center Crystal Ball: 2013 Year in Review
With customer experience being the key theme of 2013, call centers took center stage as enterprises increasingly experienced and communicated the value and opportunities attached to their role in improving customer experience and service. Once perceived as a cost center, call centers felt the love in 2013 as they transformed into data generators of customer information. To recap the action-packed year, we wanted to revisit our 2012 predictions for the call center space, and evaluate how each focus area developed over the last 12 months. Let’s see how we did:
1. Shift from premise-based systems to the cloud.
In 2012, we predicted that more contact centers will dip a toe into the cloud with hosted virtual desktops and other SaaS options. At the time, Aberdeen Group estimated that only 34% of contact centers use cloud-based infrastructure in 2012. Research speculated that the hesitation to transition to the cloud was rooted in the longer lifecycles of traditional legacy call center technologies – the average Automated Call Distributor (ACD) lives and breathes for 10-15 years. In addition, the perceived complexities involved in integration were another deterrent.
In 2013, we saw more vendors make the shift due to the proven cost savings – A 1,000-seat cloud implementation can save approximately $3.1 million, or 27% over a five year period compared to an on premise implementation. Throughout the year, there was an incremental increase in the number of vendors shifting to cloud or a hybrid model, and the trend is expected to continue. DMG Consulting projects that the cloud-based contact center infrastructure market will grow between 35 percent and 45 percent each year between 2012 and 2015.
2. Heightened speed of transition from TDM to SIP.
In 2012, we anticipated that the old fashioned TDM lines would be overtaken by SIP trunks due to their increased reliability, flexibility and cost efficiency. As more call centers began to involve data streams to support multi-channel approaches to customer service, bundling voice and data in one broadband pipe became more attractive. At the time, we expected SIP to become the standard.
Throughout 2013, we saw a number of SIP trunking service providers offer greater flexibility from an operational perspective by accommodating bursts in call traffic and providing capacity on demand. Using this model, many vendors experienced savings of up to 28% off monthly TDM access, while also adding access to a slew of other valuable services not available on standard TDM lines. Frost & Sullivan expected the shift to continue, revealing that the North American VoIP access and SIP trunking services market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of more than 27% through 2016, eventually reaching $3.9 billion.
3. Technology winners will be providers of big data visualization.
There’s a vast world of post-sale, customer care-related data to be had, especially in call center interactions. Historically, the technical challenge in the call center has been that much of that data is in text form. In 2012, we expected that the winners in the call center space will be those that can break and restructure the system of data visualization so that it can be used on a daily basis.
In the last 12 months, the advances in text and sentiment analysis tools started to fulfill on the bottom-line goal of turning text into usable data for agents on a real time basis. Coupled with the decreasing costs of real-time analytics technologies, the players that came out of top in 2013 invested in solutions to help call center agents have real time access to analytics to improve the customer experience.
4. Increased adoption of work-from-home model.
In 2012, we expected to see the expansion of at-home agents in the call center space following the reported benefits including, expanded skills recruiting, decreased attrition, higher productivity and lower infrastructure costs. But 2013 proved to be a dramatic year for the work-from-home model. In the spring of 2013, Yahoo! banned employees from working remotely, claiming that it hindered innovation. Following their lead, several other big players enacted the same rule.
Despite those setbacks, the virtual model remains ideal for the contact center space because it allows organizations to focus on cost efficiencies and the core competencies of good customer service and employee retention. In addition to avoiding huge capital expenditure costs, call centers embracing the remote agent model are able to expand their talent base far beyond geographical limitations and enjoy higher levels of productivity as well as increased retention rates for remote agents. In 2013, we saw an increase in remote agents across enterprise contact centers, and it’s estimated that nearly 310,000 home-based agents are working in the U.S. in 2013, up from 112,000 in 2007, according to ICD.
5. Return of focus to customer service over technology.
In 2012, we expected that there would be increased emphasis on technologies that would enable a return to customer-centricity and that the call center would become a key driver in this shift. Rather than solely being viewed as a cost center, the call center is now increasingly being perceived as a customer loyalty engine due to the valuable data obtained through customer interactions.
In 2013, we saw more enterprises invest in technologies that help to make customer data actionable for their call center agents. After experiencing the significant advantages of real-time quality reporting as well as the impact key real-time data has on their bottom line, tools and technologies devoted to improving the customer experience became essential.
To see our predictions for the enterprise contact center space in 2014, see our article in the January issue of Connections Magazine.