New contact centre research reveals that for Generation Y – that’s individuals born between 1980 and 2000 – the phone is now the joint fourth choice of engagement with smartphone, after electronic messaging and social media applications. In addition, the preference gaps for Generation X (individuals born between 1961 and 1989) between phone, messaging, and social media is also narrowing.
This is one of the key findings of Dimension Data’s 2013/14 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report which surveyed 817 organisations covering 11 business sectors in 79 countries across Asia Pacific, Australia, the Middle East & Africa, the Americas and Europe. And since the contact centre is assuming greater responsibilities across the wider enterprise, organisations wanting to engage with - and retain - customers in the future need to pay attention to what this important customer segment wants.
Andrew McNair, Dimension Data’s Head of Global Benchmarking, said, “While the Silent Generation (born before 1944) and the Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1960) prefer the phone as their most popular channel of engagement with a contact centre (53.0% and 58.0% respectively), the pace of decline in ‘voice only’ contact centres – now down to 63.1% overall compared with 73.0% 12 months ago - demonstrates the continuing trend to multiskill telephone agents across emerging ‘non-voice’ contact channels.
“Generation Y is the biggest demographic group since the Baby Boomers. Its members are highly demanding, vigorously social, constantly connected, and blithely channel-agnostic, so for them, any conversation about channels is meaningless. Generation Y simply want to get things done, and will use a variety of electronic devices they have at their disposal to fulfil that need,” explains McNair.
“It’s surprising that almost one-third of the organisations we polled have not analysed their customers’ channel preferences by age. While age is not the only indicator of likely customer behaviour, it is a strong one, as it provides an indicator for which channels should merit the greatest attention and investment. The fact that so many organisations are ignoring the age factor suggests that they may be failing to measure or evaluate customer behaviour effectively.”
McNair points out that, as world markets grow smaller and competition becomes more global in nature, the only way to truly win the hearts, minds and lasting loyalty of customers is by providing true value. That starts with understanding customers, and aligning the entire organisation with their personal interests.
Another concerning discovery in this year’s report is how little organisations know about how their customers respond to their contact centre self-service offerings. A significant number of research participants have made no attempt to gather customer feedback: 66.3% in the case of smartphone applications and 65.3% in the case of web chat.
Adds McNair: “With the majority of customer interactions in the contact centre now being handled via a plethora of self-service channels, enterprise leaders need to raise their game and address omni-channel customer journeys rather than isolated phone calls – and even emails. If they don’t, the traditional contact centre is in danger of becoming irrelevant.”
Omnichannel environments enable customers to move effortlessly from one channel to another using a range of devices: from mobiles and smartphones to tablets and TV. The channels are connected in such a way that conversations and transactions that are started on one channel can be continued on another. Simply put, customers expect to be able to move seamlessly across channels without having to repeat details or duplicate process steps, thus experiencing true connectedness.
The good news is that Generation Y consumers are happy to make those journeys, and skip between channels easily. “But,” warns McNair, “when organisations don’t keep up with Generation Y, frustration quickly sets in, loyalty dwindles, and they move to competitors. So, for organisations that rely on their contact centre to achieve their bottom line, the move to omnichannel environments isn’t a choice, but a necessity.”
So, what next for the traditional phone? According to McNair the phone-focused contact centre may have lost its monopoly, but its skills, disciplines and processes will continue to provide the much-needed backbone required to support all other channels. “I predict companies will transform from providing a multichannel service to delivering an omnichannel customer experience that sets them apart.”