Five Factors Shaping the Contact Center and Customer Experience in the Next Five Years

In the words of author and entrepreneur Seth Godin, “It’s easier to love a brand when the brand loves you back.” So how do you love your customer back? Companies that put their customers at the center of everything they do can make transformational changes to their business and their customers’ experience. This doesn’t happen overnight. It requires clear vision, cultural changes, and an honest, in-depth look at the technology that your business and your customers use through the day and forward. Your customer relationships are perpetual, and either reinforced or derailed across many touchpoints. So their journey, and the tools that enable it, must be cohesive and engaging.

All solid relationships are built on healthy communication and mutual understanding. And of course, it’s no different with your customers. To build deeper, more meaningful relationships, you must truly listen to and understand them.

But in a world where we use so many different technologies, platforms, and channels in our personal lives, the expectations around ‘listening’ have changed. To do so effectively now requires that we transform our businesses with modern technology and modern processes, all designed to meet our customers where they are. Burdensome, complicated paths that keep them from accessing the resources and information they need don’t work. And while the contact center isn’t the only customer touchpoint along the way, it plays a massively disproportionate role in forging deeper relationships with your customer and for your business.

Here is my view of the top five factors reshaping the contact center and customer experience in the next five years.

1) Customer Experience Matters

According to futurist and innovation expert Nicholas Webb, we’re currently in the experience economy.

He says that a customer’s experience across every touchpoint, in both digital and non-digital channels, is what determines the success of a company. I couldn’t agree more.

When I look back at the hundreds of experiences I’ve had with companies as a consumer, there are only a few that I feel know me and love me back. And those are the ones that have set the bar by which I judge all others. They show interest in me and are invested in me. They know me and my situation.

There are three main elements shaping your customers’ experience.

  • The data that you have spread across a multitude of systems and applications provides you with tremendous insight about your customers’ experience as they navigate an often multi-stop process within your organization. Understanding and analyzing that data can tell you so much about how your customers are experiencing your brand, so that actions can be taken to make their journey better. This leads to brand loyalty and customer retention.


  • Agents, whether digital or human, are seen as the difference-makers in creating meaningful customer interactions. They play a key role because they are entrusted to engage with your most precious resource – your customers. And their role directly correlates with how your customers make buying decisions. Investing in a modern, intuitive, omni-channel, AI-enabled agent client will go a long way in enhancing the agent’s state of mind, productivity, and job satisfaction.


  • The channels your customers use to communicate with you, when siloed, hinder your agents’ productivity and your customers’ ability to easily engage with you. A thoughtfully integrated omni-channel experience enables you to optimize your workforce, while delivering a fluid experience that ranges from self-serve to assisted care, along with history and context of the interaction, to create highly personalized customer engagements.


2) Hybrid Is A Powerful Path To Cloud

Transitioning your on-premises contact centers to the cloud creates enormous opportunities for growth and innovation, but it can also create disruption that most companies simply can’t afford. Both from a cost and technology perspective, this move doesn’t just mean swapping the technology. It means changing the way your processes work, re-training your employees, shifting IT operational responsibilities, and redefining how you interact with your customers.

Nothing this important happens overnight. Taking a step-by-step approach is the most rational way to make this important transition. The contact center is one of the most interconnected applications in the enterprise, with dozens of integrations to multiple systems. This is one of the reasons cloud penetration hasn’t kept pace with other apps like email, CRM, and ERP.

Hybrid cloud services are a clever way to start benefiting from cloud innovation while continuing to run your critical operations without interruption. By adopting and integrating modern cloud services and technologies such as analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to your on-premises deployments, you can begin to slowly “cloud-enable” your contact center to capture the benefits quickly, cost-effectively, and with minimal risk.


3) Artificial Intelligence To Create Contextual, Suggestive, And Predictive Experiences

Put yourself in the shoes of a contact center agent who works with a number of different and often disconnected systems, sorts through loads of information and content, and tries to find the right expert to help solve a question or issue. All this while possibly dealing with a frustrated customer. It sounds overwhelming because it is overwhelming. If you’re wondering why agent turnover rates are so high, this is why.

Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to provide bot self-services and virtual customer assistants to help agents with real-time context, cognition, and intelligence, is one of the most effective ways to make their work-life easier and solve information overload. According to a survey conducted by the Aberdeen Group, agents spend 17% of their time searching for relevant knowledge to do their job. AI helps you predict what each customer will need next, and it puts context around the customer experience and delivers it across every channel. AI removes mundane tasks and ensures agents have information at their fingertips, so that they can care for each customer at a highly tailored, individualized level.


4) Cloud Analytics – Consolidate It, Share It, And Take Action

We have plenty of data about our customers. The problem is that it’s coming from different sources, configured in different formats, and managed by individual business units, making it difficult to get a single view of the customer. It’s no wonder I see a lot of blank stares when this topic comes up.

The solution is to consolidate the data from all these sources and look for the meaning in the data. How does it tell a story that you can act upon? How does it enable your agents? How does it help your customers? To bring it to life, look for patterns in things like purchasing, demographics, heavy traffic periods, customer comments, and social media transactions. Make some comparisons. Why is your campaign not working? How do you know your customers don’t want self-service? Why are customers reaching you more during a certain day or time? Why aren’t they buying this fantastic product?

The only way to compute and analyze this abundance of priceless data is with cloud-based analytics reporting. This will give you valuable business information and a complete view of your customer’s journey in real-time and historically so you can improve operational efficiencies, financial performance, and your customer interactions in new and innovative ways.


5) Removing Silos To Serve Customers Better

I’ve already mentioned the importance of the agent and the impact that information overload has on the agent’s ability to deliver timely, exceptional service to your customers. Agents simply can’t do it alone. They need to be intimately connected to the rest of your organization, and the best way to do this is by giving them quick and easy access to experts using unified communications (UC) and team collaboration technology.

According to the Aberdeen Group, companies that empower their agents with unified communications experience a 68% greater annual increase in customer profit margins. That’s a big deal! By helping agents reach anyone in your organization via chat or email or calling them from wherever they happen to be, you’re not only making your agents more efficient, you’re going above and beyond to improve your customers’ experience, and they will notice.

A seamlessly integrated contact center with UC is also an effective strategy for helping your business continue even during weather-related or other types of emergencies. While many inquiries to the contact center will be automated using AI, the remainder will be exceptions and, by nature, are more complex and likely to require the help of a colleague or expert. Removing the pressure from agents as they’re problem solving in real-time with your customers, empowers them to build deeper relationships with colleagues, be more productive, and have greater job satisfaction. You’ll benefit by reducing agent costs, improving first contact resolution, and providing a heightened experience for both employees and your customers.


Your Next Step

The easiest way to love your customers is to understand them, and at Cisco this is what our mission is all about.  In the coming weeks we’ll be making some exciting announcements about our Customer Journey Solutions portfolio that will help you revive the way you engage with your customers, so they can love you back. If you want to learn more about Contact Center and Cognitive Collaboration, join us at Enterprise Connect.  Please stop by and visit our booth and enter the raffle to win a Harley-Davison motorcycle while you’re there.

To learn more about Cognitive Collaboration and Contact Center, join us at Enterprise Connect.


Vasili Triant

No Longer with Cisco