Whenever I am in a large European Call Center, or Contact Center, peering at the screens that the poor denizens or these neglected warrens face every day, I expect to look down at my wrist and see my grandfather’s 1965 Bulova Accutron Spaceview wristwatch. Now THAT was a cool watch. Quartz crystal!! And, yes, it still had a tuning fork, and everything was visible through the beautiful case. Why that particular image? Because the interfaces for customer service, customer support, bill payment, advisory services, reservations, order management and the like are aged. “Aged” in a sense somewhere between Life Support and Assisted Living.
Take a quick look at the revenue streams of the largest software vendors in the world and profits have trended upward in direct correlation to the age of the desktop software delivered to Customer Service Contact Centers, and in inverse relationship to the innovations that they have delivered their clients.
What is the prognosis? The innovation train is off of the rails. Instead, the major vendors appear content to lose a percentage of the user licenses to niche best-in-class vendors, while the real innovation goes into Social and Big Data, Analytics, and mobile technologies. All of these initiatives are important. Vendors follow the money – that is what they are supposed to do; they are businesses with shareholders first and foremost, not philanthropists.
The irony is that business leaders and IT leaders speak with increasing urgency about the need to rethink the role of IT. They want IT more of an integrated part of the decision making about customer processes. Marketing and IT are achieving wonderful ends with Social Media and mobile commerce. All the while the customer service function drags its process knuckles waiting for crumbs from the business to overhaul the desktop. The current customer interaction desktop cannot support customer engagement on social networks or media. Those interactions are soloed in separate systems, running separate processes, which then may or may not be integrated, captured, and leveraged when the customer comes onto a ‘traditional’ customer service channel. It is a little like Albania during the years that it engineered its trains to run on a different gauge so that transportation would be difficult with the outside world.
When will the impasse be broken and the software market for large customer service centers with complex processes deliver a 21st century product that could be called a Customer Engagement Hub, open to customers across all channels, available across Europe and Asia and the Americas, for example?
Anyone care to wager when such a CRM system will come online? Will it be after the five years of hype around Social and Mobile and Big Data have somewhat diminished?
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