On a recent flight, I read an interesting article in Gentleman’s Quarterly discussing how television has evolved over the past few decades.

In the beginning, there was the cathode ray tube where everyone piled around the TV in the evening to watch their regularly scheduled program. Later, came cable TV, HBO, DVDs, DVRs, Tivos, Sony PlayStation, satellite and Blue-Ray (not to mention the flat screen TV). These advances provided folks more options to watch TV when and where they wanted.

Today, with the advent of AppleTV, NetFlix, Hulu, Roku and a host of other devices and services, consumers have even more options to watch TV – without commercials – whenever they want. The article discussed how customers no longer want to live in a world of “managed dissatisfaction” where waiting was required to watch a new movie or program.

Waiting is dead.  
This article got me thinking about the same parallels – and how waiting is now dead – within the world of customer service.  Specifically, there have been eight major trends and technology advances to send waiting into permanent obsolescence.

  1. Complain through Social – If customers don’t achieve satisfaction or resolution to their problem through the traditional telephone, social media will often provide an immediate response.  Often the social channel – due to its very public nature – are staffed by higher skilled resources to immediately resolve a service request issue before it becomes a PR black eye.
  2. Use that Mobile App – Today, over 50 percent of smart phone users would prefer to use a customer service app to receive service rather than call on the telephone.  Genesys has also done some great work here by providing a seamless and immediate access to the contact center from the smart phone app when live service is required.
  3. Call me back when I’m ready – Advances in call-back technologies have virtually eliminated wasted time on hold.  Customer can either schedule a call with the contact center at a specified time over the web, or simply request a call back once an agent becomes available.
  4. Smart and Intelligent Routing – The contact centers of yesteryear were comprised of clunky and inflexible hardware routing systems.  These “dumb” routing engines were inefficient at matching the interaction and customer’s value to the correct agent resource.  Today as companies continue their evolution to IP, a plethora of business rules, segmentation strategies and other parameters can be applied to a voice or real-time interaction to align the customer with the ideal resource – no matter where they’re located on the planet (see #5 below).
  5. Virtualizing Resources – Most large enterprises have undergone a transformation across their multiple contact centers by virtualizing them into one consolidated pool.  So, when a contact center in Sacramento California is slammed or goes offline due to inclement weather, another contact center in Savannah, Georgia can quickly pick up the slack.
  6. Employ Best practices – The contact center has been around for over 40 years.  Over this period of time, most companies have learned through trial and error what works – and what doesn’t.  As a result, routing and segmentation rules, agent training and utilization, and other best practices have been honed and perfected to helped customer service operations run at greater efficiency.
  7. New applications in the cloud – Most of us have experienced those painful customer service calls where agents are scrambling to look up information and data on multiple screens.  As companies move applications and data into the cloud, agents are now empowered with one view to quickly access customer data and resolve a service issue.
  8. A connected front and back office – Finally, contact centers – sometimes called the “font office” – heavily depend upon their back-office counterparts, where some of the heavy work gets done to process claims, applications and other customer-related work items.  Often a work-item mired in the back office (who often run at a much slower pace than the front office) creates excessive waiting and frustration for the customer when they call the contact center to inquire about the status.  Today, we’re seeing a blurring of lines between the front office and back office, and their affiliated CRM and BPM applications. So, back offices are now running at greater efficiency – and front office agents can now have visibility into work items.

Like the television, the world of customer service has evolved over the past decade.  Given many of the advances and improvements that I’ve detailed below, I doubt that customers will ever tolerate any company that subjects folks to excessive waiting. Through new technologies and innovations, and by applying best practices, I think most enterprises can declare waiting dead.

For more information on how to manage customer service in the modern contact center, we invite you to read this white paper, Connecting the Dots: Proven Methodologies for Managing Customer Conversations across Channels.