Stephen Wright looks into his crystal ball and predicts the future for the multi-channel contact centres.

What ideas are currently under development which may be appearing in contact centres in the next few months – i.e. within 5 years?

I think there will be three major areas of change for contact centres within the next five years.

Firstly will be the improvement of seamless movement and escalation between different channels. At the moment contact centres are often managing channels separately. However this is not the way the customer works. As they spontaneously move from web to web chat to a call, they will expect companies to be able to do so as well. Breaks in communication are only opportunities to lose customers so being able to seamlessly handle interactions from start to finish, as channels change will be key. Of course, this means agents will have to be multi-skilled as you will not want to change agents during an interaction.

The second point – related to this – is that the industry will start to see video being used more. People are getting used to video with things like Skype and so will be happier to use it. Although some companies are already at this point, it is not mainstream and it will doubtless be a few years before it becomes the norm but organisations will want it as an integrated part of their platforms.

Finally, we will see an improvement in self-service capabilities. Consumers are increasingly more inclined to use self-service tools, such as more sophisticated interactive voice response technology that simplifies annoying multiple menus. But this has a knock-on effect on the contact centres as they need to react to different user behaviours.

What is over the horizon? What ideas have not yet reached the development stages, but may come to fruition by 2025 – i.e. more than 5 years away.

The future of contact centres is based increasingly intelligent interactions with self-service tools. However this is still many years away.

Self-service tools will be able to handle more and more of the contact centre’s role. We have already seen this trend with basic self service capabilities being removed from the contact centre’s purview, for example consumers using online or app-based services to check their own bank balances. And there are already self-learning knowledge management systems that suggest the most likely answers.

But interactions with contact centres in the far future will therefore only get more intelligent and complex. Interactions will become an interactive discussion with the self-service systems, which will have the ability to suggest services based on the context of what consumers are saying – not just the specifics. As the self-service tools take more of the process-driven tasks away, the agents’ role therefore changes to place more emphasis on the more problematic tasks.