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Why a career working in and around contact centres is one of the most exciting places to be in the 2020s

British news presenters used to talk about contact centres being ‘dark satanic mills’ of modern industry. Contact centres were rarely presented as an attractive career move because of the enduring image of the work being low-skilled and transient. Times really have changed. Let us explore how and why I believe that a career working in and around contact centres is one of the most exciting places to be in the 2020s.

First, customer expectations are through the roof. Who can even remember when customer service was only available Monday to Friday during office hours? Customers now want service on their terms and that means on the communication channels they want to use when they want to interact. This means the social media experts are needed.

The customer journey has also evolved. A call to the customer service team used to only ever happen after a purchase – typically because of a question or complaint. Now customers are interacting on many different channels long before a purchase, during a purchase, and years later. We are no longer just managing customer service questions – now we need to plan for multiple interactions across the entire lifetime of the customer. We are planning for decades of interactions now.

Technology has also changed the contact centre. In fact, many technology industry commentators have said that managing a customer experience (CX) is often the first use case for many emerging technologies. CX is the test bed that is proving how these technologies can work in the real world.

Let us consider some other forms of skills and expertise that are now essential in a modern contact centre: 

  • Cloud: many new contact centres exist in the cloud, not as a physical office. Agents are at home, the customers are at home, and the virtual centre connects them.
  • Security: complex networks including systems with personal and payment data plus distributed networks with work-from-home specialists need a smart team to keep all that information safe.
  • Compliance: many industries are regulated and therefore compliance is essential – delivering great service must work within the boundaries of the industry regulator.
  • IoT: many devices are now communicating their status automatically, diagnosing problems before the device owner ever needs to car – your new car is a good example. It is almost certainly connected to the manufacturer.
  • Automation and bots: engineers and coders to build Robotic Process Automation so the systems inside the contact centre are streamlined and customer-facing bots can help 24/7.
  • Self Service Content: video, audio, and text creators to build the information that is found when customers ask Alexa or Google for help.
  • Languages: ensuring that customers can always use their local language when calling a brand for help.
  • Biometric analysis: speech analysis and biometric systems to verify customer identity.
  • AI and ML: machine learning to learn about customer interactions and Artificial Intelligence to make sense of the data and spot patterns.
  • Data analytics: managing Big Data and finding insight from this information, such as which customers may be thinking of cancelling a subscription?
  • Sales and Marketing: these disciplines are becoming more tightly integrated with the traditional customer service team. Planning all customer interactions, including upselling and cross-selling is now a process of CX.
  • WFH: the team that works from home cannot do so just by carrying a laptop home. The company needs to engage with these people and ensure they are fully supported at home.

Let us not forget the agents. In this modern environment it is likely that when a customer talks to an agent they will have already asked Google or Alexa for help and chatted to a bot. The human agent may be the third or fourth level of help the customer is receiving. This means that the agents need to be subject matter experts – they are not just reading a script. They know the areas they are supporting inside out. You know the Genius Bar inside Apple Stores? That is what a modern contact centre is like.

Many contact centres are now hiring primarily for subject matter expertise and then training the agents in how to work with customers – it is vastly different to the old approach of hiring friendly voices and then training in the products. From AI and data analytics to the future of sales and marketing. I believe that CX and contact centres are now offering more career options than almost any other industry.

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