There is no doubt that consumers are choosing to interact with enterprises through digital channels. Society is shifting toward support methods that do not involve picking up the telephone. This trend has been unfolding for several years, but now it is clear via quantifiable evidence. This is not to say that voice as a channel will disappear – in fact, this most traditional way of speaking with a contact center has cemented its importance among customers. However, it is also obvious that as technology drives shifts in buyer behavior, enterprises will need to work with a service provider that has the right digital capabilities.
2020 Heralds the Supremacy of Digital Channels
France’s influence on communications technology innovation through the years should not be underestimated, especially with its pioneering of the Minitel, which was a small computer used for text-based digital interactions via telephone lines. This device was ages ahead of its time, and allowed French consumers to not only trawl the telephone directory, but it provided a platform with which citizens in France could interact with each other and businesses (for those interested in popular culture, it was also the title and theme of a catchy French-language hit song from 1986). Despite being discontinued in 2012, the Minitel platform also foreshadowed a significant trend in how customer interactions would evolve over the next 30 to 40 years in western economies.
This tendency toward non-voice dominance has been apparent over the past three years, and has now manifested itself in 2020. In the most recent Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey, to be published this week, enterprise contact center decision-makers indicated that less than half their workstations are dedicated exclusively to voice interactions. Those that are digital-only or that have a digital component now make up the majority of agent positions in contact centers across Western Europe, Australia and North America.
All Digital Channels are Not Created Equally
An equally-important research insight is around how enterprises are choosing to deploy different digital channels. In the 2020 Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey, the non-voice channels that appeared to have the most traction among contact center service buyers included social media, webchat and instant messaging. There was also a notable uptick in interest for chat-bots as an automated solution. Fundamentally, these mediums reflect the desire on the part of consumers to interact concisely and / or in real-time with enterprises.
It is also clear that email is showing cracks in its level of favorability. In fact, email has now fallen to the third-most deployed channel within captive contact centers across the seven countries surveyed. While it is possible to draw multiple theories as to why this has happened, savvy industry watchers would likely cite email overload in personal and work lives, alongside the inability to obtain rapid responses using this method of communication as logical reasons for this channel’s drop.
Don’t Discount the Importance of Voice
Given the channel trends in the 2020 Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey, it would be easy to counsel enterprises and outsourcers to de-emphasize voice deployments. But such advice would be impractical. This channel is a mainstay of contact center operations and its importance in the multi-medium universe is unlikely to change. What is key for customer experience strategists to determine is how best to manage voice interactions, taking into account vertical and demographic nuances. For many consumers voice remain the channel of choice, and likely a fall-back for those that cannot get issues resolved using digital platforms. Having the technologies, people and processes in place to manage voice to the highest quality will go hand-in-hand with excellence in digital delivery.