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Flexibility Overrules Specs for Customer Service Delivery

Today’s contact centers are becoming the central hubs for the delivery of customer experience and activating advocacy. Channels have exploded and customers are embracing more of them. From social media to chat, mobile, and web self-service, the skillsets required in the contact center have grown. Finding enough of the agents with the right skills, availability, background, and knowledge to serve as the front-line for customer interactions remains a challenge. According to research conducted by Frost & Sullivan, “…enterprises are looking to outsourced service providers more than ever for guidance on social media strategies, technologies, and tactics.” The real question companies must answer as they evaluate how customers are changing is whether they are keeping pace with what’s needed to provide a holistic and unified customer experience. According to Stephen Loynd, program director at Frost & Sullivan: “In some ways, there’s a real sense of vertigo in this industry as new technologies are emerging in the world of customer contact and old models are receding. At the center of this dynamic is a rapidly changing, ever-more influential consumer. Over the next five years, providers that differentiate and compete on multichannel capabilities and value-add technology solutions will have an edge over providers that largely compete on cost, location, and labor arbitrage.”

Rethinking the Contact Center Vendor Relationship

When contact centers were purely an operational expense, it made sense to prescribe requirements and tightly manage the provision of contact center services. But, the change to the consumer landscape requires a change in how it’s approached. Namely, flexibility is needed to ensure the level of responsiveness that meets your customers’ demands for service excellence. The outsourcing vendor that will help you get there is a strategic, innovative and collaborative partner. They should have the expertise to help your company understand and approach the incorporation of new channels in ways that will proactively elevate your customer service to serve demand without unnecessarily elevating the costs of providing it. Buying to specs can limit the flexibility needed to enable customer service to stay in sync with the rapid speed of changing customer preferences and channel evolution. A contact center vendor that can provide domestic in-center and home-based agent, near-shore and offshore options optimizes cost and flexibility in services. The ability to blend different options together will allow your company to hold costs in line, regardless of changes in the marketplace you serve.

Near Shore and At-Home are Growing Trends

The Frost & Sullivan research also highlighted two growth areas that companies should consider in creating their customer service portfolios: Latin America and At-Home agents. In fact, the research firm predicts that Latin America’s popularity as a near-shore location of preference for U.S. call volumes will make it the next Philippines. Growth in Latin America is predicted at 10 percent per year through 2017. And it’s not just about proximity. Similar cultural tendencies and nearly identical time zones make the region highly desirable for U.S. companies. But don’t let the location of agents drive your selection of contact center vendors. The U.S. contact center industry already employs more than 100,000 home-based agents. Forrester Research has gone on record with an expectation that 34% of companies will choose to add At-Home agents to their customer service efforts to gain agility needed to respond appropriately to peaks and troughs in demand. Not only is the pool of talent larger for At-Home agents in comparison to physical location that limits geographical considerations, but they tend to be older, educated and more experienced and have higher skillsets than the younger agents who work on premise.

Strategic Partnerships Drive Customer Service Excellence

Unarguably, customer service has changed. Seeking the expertise of a contact center vendor that can help you keep pace is a solid choice. By looking beyond the specs and requirements to the flexibility that comes with a blended approach, your company will be primed to satisfy customers as their needs and preferences continue to shift.