Ventana Research today released its latest market research study examining the role of cloud computing in the use of contact centers and where customer self-service can help improve both efficiency and the customer experience. This research identifies, explores and quantifies the ways in which organizations use people, processes, information and technology to manage contact centers and customer interactions. It investigates organizations’ plans to improve customer engagement by deploying additional communication channels, the drivers behind those decisions and what approaches are being pursued. And it identifies who is making purchase decisions in what time frame using what selection criteria.
The research shows that in their efforts to modernize and expand their contact centers, companies are increasingly willing to consider systems based in the cloud. This is particularly true when deploying new channels of communication. Organizations are growing more aware that cloud-based applications, which largely obviate the need for dedicated technical resources in-house, can be implemented more easily and quickly and less expensively than products on-premises. The research finds that the most frequently cited benefits of adopting cloud-based systems involve cost savings, reduced need for in-house resources and better financial visibility and control. Among buying criteria, organizations most often cited usability (72%) as a very important criterion for evaluating contact center software, whether deployed in the cloud or locally.
This new research makes clear that organizations are well aware of the imperatives to improve and update customer service processes, systems and channels and to focus on customer engagement and the customer experience. The research finds that companies today communicate with customers through more channels than ever before. Since our previous research on this topic in 2011 the average number of channels used has increased by one, to eight channels. The top three channels remain inbound calls, email and outbound calls, although the percentages of companies supporting them have dropped slightly. The research also shows that this expansion will continue, with companies planning to support additional channels; those most often cited are video calls, outbound text messaging, mobile apps and Web-based chat.
The research found that analytics are essential to contact centers; key performance indicators (KPIs) are tools commonly used for such assessments. The largest percentage (63%) of research participants said that they use the customer satisfaction metric as a KPI in their contact centers. While that aligns with the focus on the customer experience, the three next-most commonly used KPIs address operational efficiency instead: average length of calls, number of calls handled, and speed of answer. The research finds much less frequent use of metrics such as customer retention, customer effort scores and first-contact resolution rates that relate more directly to aspects of customer service and satisfaction.
To successfully compete, the next generation of contact centers in the cloud must provide a good customer experience and multichannel communications – what’s now called an omnichannel customer experience. Delivering such an experience requires a company to provide consistent interactions across all channels and all needed information to both customers and the employees who deal with them. Recognizing the need to deliver such experiences is one thing; implementing it effectively, however, is another. Currently fewer than half (48%) of organizations said they can provide omnichannel customer experiences.
“Our research found that contact centers are slowly advancing into the cloud, which is essential if organizations are to be able to provide to their customers the channels of engagement needed to optimize the customer experience,” said Mark Smith, CEO and chief research officer at Ventana Research. "The research found that usability of contact center software is a top priority, as is self service capability. It’s notable that according to the research the top channels planned to be adopted reflect changing life patterns: social forums, mobile and social media-channeled customer service.”
“This market research confirms that organizations increasingly expect to compete on the quality of the customer experience,” said Richard Snow, vice president and head of customer experience research. “They’ll do so using digital and self-service channels, which means they are planning to invest in additional channels of communication, advanced analytics and digital self-service systems that are available as cloud-based systems. As the research makes clear, the goal of today’s top-performing companies is to transition to omnichannel customer engagement.”
Those interested in learning more about this benchmark research can download an executive summary at http://www.ventanaresearch.com/NextGenContactCenterintheCloud/. The research was sponsored by Enghouse Interactive, NewVoiceMedia and ShoreTel along with support of our association partner Contact Center World. Ventana Research, a leading business technology research and advisory services firm, provided qualified research participants with an incentive and complimentary report of the research findings as well as access to a free educational webcast on best practices from the benchmark research.
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