Stay tuned to digital channelLike many of you reading this blog, my career has focused on the contact center for a long time, 25 years in my case. From my very first analyst report, ACDs in the ‘90s, through the transition from call to contact centers, analyzing customer experience customer trends, and technology shifts has made for a stimulating career.

For most of the last quarter century, managing voice interactions has been the primary focus of the contact center. First were the challenges of 800-number portability and network level routing of calls to multiple locations. Computer telephony integration was the next big thing, working to provide the magical screen pop to agents to improve call handling. Most recently, companies have worked to preserve voice quality as IP and SIP technologies became the norm for customer care calls.

Just about the turn of the century, companies began to understand that email, and then web chat, were becoming the interaction channel choice for some customers. Companies slowly began creating processes for handling each. This typically began with small, siloed groups of agents, often working on dedicated email or web chat systems. When social interactions were added to the mix about five years ago, often their management was protectively defended by the marketing department. The dire predictions of the end of the voice call center did not come true, however, and most customers continued to call into companies for most of their customer service needs.

What started slowly, as a shift of a small proportion of interactions from voice to digital channels, has in recent years become a veritable avalanche. The speed with which customers have come to expect near real-time response to not just email and web chat but Twitter comments and texts, has caught many, if not most, companies off guard. Even those that have diligently upgraded their contact center solutions regularly are finding that a new, more radical approach may be required.

One of the main drivers of the explosion of digital interactions is mobile devices. From a world where customers had to be in front of a computer to send an email or begin a web chat, today smartphone penetration in the U.S. has reached 77 percent, up 8 percentage points during the past year. And this is not just a millennial story. The gain in gain in smartphone adoption in 2015 was driven by three age groups that increased their usage by at least double digits: teens age 13-17 (up 10.0 points), 45-54 year olds (up 10.7 points), and those age 65+ (up 11.6 points). The global smartphone market is also growing at a steady pace, (29 percent in 2014) thanks to more widespread adoption in emerging markets.

What will be required to bring the same excellence to digital interactions that companies bring to voice today? How do you hire to match agent skills with the demands of digital interactions? What emerging technologies will create the best digital interaction opportunities for increased revenue and customer loyalty? Hear more from me and and Lisa Abbott from Genesys on this webinar on demand, 2016 Trends in Digital Customer Service as we answer these questions and more.

Sheila McGee-Smith

Sheila McGee-Smith

Sheila McGee-Smith, the founder and principal analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics, is a leading communications industry analyst and strategic consultant with a proven track record in new product development, competitive assessment, market research, and sales strategies for communications solutions and services....