A Brand New Year

By Peter DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of AnswerStatAs we transition from one year to another, I want to pause to project some observations into the near future.

Social Media: Are you tired of hearing about social media? Well, brace yourself to hear more about it in the years to come. Social media isn’t a fad; it’s here to stay. Consider that Facebook now has one billion users.

In my last column (“Social Media in the Call Center”), I gave some practical social media applications for call centers to consider, both to enhance internal operations and expand external opportunities. This is a good beginning. You don’t have to start big, but you do need to start.

Generation Y: They go by different classifications: Gen Y, the Millennial Generation, Millennials, and Mosaics, but regardless of the label, they were born in the last two decades of the 1900s (plus or minus a few years, depending on who’s doing the explaining). This generation is our future workforce. They think differently, act differently, and work differently than prior generations. Most likely, the person doing the hiring doesn’t “get” them and doesn’t want to employ them, but if we want agents in our call centers, we’ll have to figure out how to address this.

Even if you’re currently able to hire around their demographic, you won’t be able to do so for long. Now is the time to learn about this frustrating – and exciting – generation. Now is the time to tweak hiring processes.

Offshoring: My perception is that offshoring is waning. No, it’s not going away and will continue to be a factor, but its star is not shining as brightly as it once was. While offshoring saved many companies a lot of money, it’s been a public relations nightmare. Consumers don’t want to talk to people they can’t understand and who can’t understand them. By definition, that is not communication.

This is not a bash of offshoring. When done properly, offshoring can be both a financial and a customer service success. This includes hiring people with the right language skills (which should be a given for call center work), providing the training needed to produce effective agents, and only taking on work that’s a good match for their staff’s skills. Good offshoring call centers will survive – and thrive – whereas those that hire anyone who can breathe and will take any account that can pay, will fail.

Hosted Services: Accessing software over the Internet goes by so many different names that I no longer know what to call it. What I do know is that it’s a viable option and will soon hit a tipping point. While there are many compelling reasons to adopt hosted services, there is one concern: what happens when you lose your Internet connection? Certainly, consider hosted services, but don’t lose sight of the risk. Make sure you have a contingency plan. Although the Internet is ubiquitous, it is not infallible.

Calls or Contacts: Do you handle calls or contacts? The distinction is profound. Unless your goal is to be a niche specialist for phone calls, you need to adopt a contact mindset. While calls will likely predominate for the short-term, the future is in contacts.

These areas are a good starting point for moving forward into the new year. In all likelihood, you’re already pursuing some of them, and I encourage you to press on. For areas that are new to you, consider what your first step should be, and advance in small, but steady, increments.

The future has much to offer – if we will embrace it.

Peter DeHaan is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat magazine and a passionate wordsmith. Connect with him on his personal blogs, social media sites, and newsletter, all accessible from peterdehaan.com.

[From the February/March 2013 issue of AnswerStat magazine]