2020 Vision: A Glimpse Into the Contact Center of the Near Future

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Published:  June 3, 2014

 While at a contact center conference recently, I saw a very odd-looking little man who seemed rather nervous and out of place. Naturally, I assumed he worked in IT. As it turned out, though, he was a contact center director.

From the year 2020.

Yeah – I, too, thought he was insane. Until I got to chatting with him. His name was “Zed,” and he sounded very sincere and convincing. Plus he had a driver’s license with a 2020 issue date, and shoes with power laces. Either Zed really was from the near future, or he knew a great hypnotist, a fake ID guy and a Nike prototype engineer.

Unbeknownst to him, I recorded our entire conversation on my iPhone. I asked him all sorts of questions about his contact center, the state of the “future” customer care industry in general, and where I could get a jetpack.

Below is the transcript (minus the jetpack stuff) from that conversation:

Me: Why did you come back to 2014?

Zed: I like to visit the past whenever I’m feeling a little depressed or frustrated at my job. When I come back to 2014 or some earlier year and see how contact centers are putting so much emphasis on the wrong metrics, using disconnected and disparate systems, treating agents like entry-level workers, and not getting the respect they deserve from the rest of the organization, it makes me realize how good I have it at home in 2020.

Me: So, the contact center is in much better shape in 2020?

Zed: Not to brag, but yes. First of all, all that talk about the “customer experience” isn’t just talk in the future – companies actually are truly customer-centric. Those that aren’t, aren’t companies any more. Contact center metrics like Contact Quality, First-Contact Resolution, Customer Satisfaction and Employee Engagement rule the roost. In fact, you can actually go to prison for obsessively measuring antiquated metrics like Average Handle Time at the agent level.

Also, the average agent makes about $25/hr in 2020 and works from home, so contact centers are able to attract – and retain – very talented and enthusiastic customer care professionals. E-learning and virtual training are all the rage, so agents continue to learn and develop throughout their long tenure. With such sharp and engaged agents in place, customers receive the service and support they deserve, which leads to high C-Sat and revenues, and a lot of love from the C-level suite. It’s not unusual for execs to invite contact center agents and supervisors out to lunch or to play a round of golf. The poor people over in Sales and Marketing are always trying to get a job in the contact center, but positions rarely open up.

Me: And what about multi-channel management – is the contact center of the near future better at handling the wide assortment of contact types?

Zed: Absolutely. And by the way, nobody says “multi-channel” any more – we say “omni-channel.” Now back to your question. Just about every center has a single unified system in place through which calls, emails, chats, social media contacts and video calls are received and managed. These systems feature advanced skills-based and personality-based routing, robust reporting capabilities and customer experience management features like interaction analytics and customer survey/feedback applications that enable the center to very quickly react to customer needs and issues. We all laugh at how centers back in 2014… er “now” … tried, er, try to manage the multi-channel environment using antiquated systems and methods.

Me: Well, you might want to keep the laughter to a minimum while you are here, or you might just get punched.

Zed: I’m not scared – my contact center provides all of us with Jujitsu lessons to help us defend ourselves whenever we travel back in time and have to contend with frustrated and angry contact center natives.

Me: Wow, that’s pretty forward-thinking.

Zed: Not really – just practical. Oh, one more thing I wanted to point out about multi-channel management in the “future”: Because we now have a clear view of the customer across all the various channels, agents can quickly uncover needs and make relevant product and service offers, thus resulting in lots of revenue. The contact center often gets lauded by execs for “making it rain.” We’re pretty much the rock stars of the organization.

Me: And so humble, too. So, tell me about how the typical contact center in 2020 looks.

Zed: 2020 centers are all located in outer space.

Me: Wha?

Zed: Just kidding. But they have advanced quite a lot. Most centers today, er, the near future, function as central command posts where managers, supervisors and workforce management specialist keep things running smoothly while agents handle customer contacts from the comfort of their home. There are still some onsite agents in most centers – you know, those employees who’d feel too isolated and lonely working remotely, and those who are incurable kiss-ups who need to work close to their supervisor. As for facility design, most contact centers in 2020 look pretty much like they do here and now, only with fewer agent workstations, as well as fewer helium balloons and corporate motivational posters.

Now, I don’t mean to cut our conversation short, but I must go and clean my flux capacitor to get it ready for my trip home tomorrow morning.

Me: I wish you a speedy journey and a safe reentry. If I give you my email address, do you think you could send me a list of the winners of the next five or six Super Bowls?

Zed: Sorry, people in 2020 can go to prison for such illegal gambling activity. But I’ll be happy to send you a picture of awesome contact center!

Me: Gee, thanks.