But there's good news too. The report indicates that we can expect to see employee numbers increase in Asian contact centres. Eighty-seven (87) percent of centres expect to see an increase in digital interactions and 74 percent expect to see overall interactions (digital and phone) increase. That means there will be more people doing potentially much more interesting work. The scope of agents' work will broaden and, organisations will need to focus on boosting the skill of their agents.
What do you believe are the most urgent challenges faced by the contact centre industry especially in Malaysia / Asean?
Scott: For the region the big challenge is assimilating the digital and voice channels to deliver a consistently strong customer experience. 40 percent of organisations don't have the analytical tools to do the kind of the data analysis needed in the voice area and an even higher percentage do not have the tools needed for digital channel analysis.
Photo - Pranay Anand, Asia Pacific Business Development Manager - Contact Centre Solutions, Dimension Data
Pranay Anand: Moreover, our research shows that 66 percent of companies can relate improving customer experience levels to revenue/profit growth, yet a large percentage still view their contact centres as cost centres. This cost centre mind-set must change and organisations need to focus not only on operational efficiency, but on the creation of genuine business value.
What kind of opportunities should companies in Malaysia and Asean focus on in dealing with changing customer preferences for smart phones, web chat and social media?
Scott: The real opportunity lies in improving customer experience in these new digital channels to encourage more use and provide cross sell and up sell opportunities. The huge amount of data customers leave behind each time they click, view a page or select an option, provide massive opportunities for personalising and individualising propositions and offers. They also provide the data needed to improve customer experience and customer journeys
You mentioned earlier that CSat [a customer satisfaction metric] has dropped for the 4th year in a row. Is digital interaction making it harder to deliver great customer experiences?
Scott: It is definitely the case that creating and sustaining great customer experiences is harder on digital channels and it has had an impact on customer satisfaction ratings. Customer satisfaction ratings have also fallen for voice calls, principally because by the time a customer calls the call centre, there is a problem and they need it fixed NOW! So there is probably a critical aspect to it, high emotional content and a degree of frustration. If the agent can't fix the problem, CSat suffers.
What impact will this have on the skills required to run digital channels and how will this change prices?
Scott: The skills profile of agents needed in today's multi-channel contact centres is profoundly different to six or seven years ago. They need to have verbal reasoning, problem solving empathy building, and written skills not previously seen. The modern day contact centre agent has higher cognitive skills and the ability to work without scripts and prompts.
Talking of the importance of customer service, what are your principal recommendations at this time?
Scott: Organisations need a plan to transform their traditional customer contact centres into customer resolution centres which handle all forms of customer interaction. This is an operational, technological, customer experience and management challenge. We urge companies to engage all stakeholders in this endeavour, not just Customer Services and Technology. They would need to map their current capability, build the future state vision, create a roadmap for change, prioritise programmes and projects and then track and measure.
We advocate a hybrid approach, simply because adopting either a fully cloud, hosted or premise-based model usually means compromising functionality, flexibility or security. Hybrid solutions seem to deliver benefits quicker and satisfy the needs of contact centre executives: our report reveals more than 85 percent of those who go down the hybrid cloud or hosted route are saving money, getting functionality they need quicker and are very satisfied with their technology.
What kind of issues are organisations bringing up in around the world as well as in Malaysia / Asean when considering the move to cloud?
Scott: Malaysia is seeing similar challenges to the rest of the world. Some aspects of cloud are very attractive for contact centres: the ability to ramp up and down, consumption based pricing, no technology dead ends, and rapid deployment. The concerns still exist around security and data sovereignty, but these are being addressed and it's likely we will see more and more organisations testing the water with cloud.
Anand: Occasionally, some organisations use cloud solutions as an excuse for not having a strategy. This is ill advised. While cloud offers an appealing consumption model and will be the first choice for many organisations, it also needs to be properly designed, implemented, and cared for.
Cloud needs to be part of a wider technology strategy and isn't simply a basis for outsourcing your responsibility. The ownership of the outcomes created by the technology will always remain with the business, so in-house teams need to be allocated accountability for success criteria, the management of the deliverables, and performance.
How do you balance the increasing concerns over security with the business advantages of a consumption based model?
Scott: It's a tough balancing act, but we've seen several organisations address this with hybrid solutions which protect their core data but still give them the benefits of consumption based pricing models. It is a case of being willing to explore options and finding a supplier who is willing to invest the time to work out a solution that will work specifically for you.
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