The way of doing business is changing rapidly and, as a result, customer engagement will have to follow suit. Customer needs are also changing, demanding to be serviced quickly and efficiently through channels of their choice. As traditional organisations continue to face disruption from new, innovative entrepreneurs that are doing things differently, they will have to evolve if they are to remain relevant to their customers. From a contact centre perspective, operating cost has increased significantly and contact centre service providers are going to have to find unique ways of providing services to their clients while counteracting the cost to serve. This is the view of Zain Patel, Operations Director at Merchants.
“If you have a large contact centre, you probably are operating with significant cost overheads. A very real risk is that if, through your selected operating model you made one or two sub-optimal choices, the chances that profit can easily turn to loss are real,” he says. “But if you could disrupt the way you hire people, the way you procure technology and the way you use infrastructure and facilities in a consumptive method, it could significantly improve your competitiveness. This while giving your customers what they need, when they need it in a way that makes business sense.”
Patel predicts that contact centres of the future are going to be very different to what we know today. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe the contact centres we know today will completely disappear, but there is definitely room for a more agile, project or tasked-based approach to delivering on customer service requirements,” he says. “The future of contact centres would be bringing together a group of people with specific skills sets much like a team assigned to deliver a project, where they come together in a coordinated method with the focus on delivering on the project mandate successfully and then disperse once complete. In today’s terms I’d refer to it as a ‘pop-up’ contact centre. The traditional way would feature a number of permanently assigned leaders and specialists and probably a permanent project person as well, but not in this case. In this way, you would acquire the skills set to meet the requirements, attach it to a certain location and everything is dealt with on a project basis. The project lead would disseminate work orders, each role-player would do what they need to do to ensure the success of the project, and upon completion, move onto the next one.”
“Fiverr is a great example of where this is already happening. It is an online portal that connects creatives and clients. Every transaction, which costs as little as 5 US dollars, gives clients access to creatives that can perform various functions, from developing logos, to presentations and videos. The company sources freelancers, who earn an income based on the number of projects they complete, based on their specific skill set. It also means that individuals are employed for a specific task, paid to complete the task, and called upon if and when their services are required thereafter.
Patel believes the idea of permanency will change significantly over time. “While the older, more traditional workforce might still believe in the workplace as we know it – i.e. behind the desk from 9 to5, new entrants into the job market don’t necessarily want to be committed to one employer for a long period of time. They enjoy being productive, but like to do it on their own terms, in their own time, while still enjoying life while they are young. It’s a very entrepreneurial approach where they get to decide what they do, when they will do it and how much they want to earn.”
He believes this is as a result of how people are wired and how their thinking is changing. “I do believe it will transcend the younger workforce. The concept of the mobile working environment is fast gaining momentum, and I personally thrive on the fact that I can select where and how I want to work every single day. We are witnessing a dynamic shift in the traditional way things are done – moving from a mobile workforce to an independent workforce, where people work for themselves.”
Patel adds that it is going to completely change traditional organisations. “Your traditional organisation will change from a facilities, infrastructure and procurement perspective. Traditional processes such as HR will also be impacted, because this is now a contract with a predetermined output and lifespan. I think it will fundamentally change everything.”
“And I don’t think it’s too far-fetched. If you look at how a start up like Airbnb has disrupted the hospitality industry. Its phenomenal growth has undoubtedly had a huge impact on its competitors that chose not to adapt and take head of early warning signals. Another example is Uber, which has changed the face of the traditional taxi industry. The same stands true for contact centre operators, both captive and outsourced. If there is a need for something and you have the means to fulfil that need quickly and efficiently, you may just have the next big disruptive idea that can be hugely successful,” he concludes.