GLOBAL: Marketers need to adopt their customer service strategies to the new digital reality within the next two years or face losing business a study has said.

Research published by Dimension Data in its annual Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report – 901 organisations in 72 countries around the world participated – reveals that non-voice traffic (digital) is set to rise in 87% of contact centres over the next 24 months, while voice traffic (talking to a customer centre agent on the telephone) will drop in 42% of contact centres during the same period.

By the end of 2016, customers will be using up to seven different digital channels, in addition to the telephone.

"This represents the biggest change in the contact centre business in 30 years, and has profound implications for the way organisations deploy technology to deliver and manage customer service," said Adam Foster, Dimension Data's Group Executive – Communications.

But he stressed that the changes under way did not spell the end for contact centres and the people employed there.

"That's definitely not the case," he stated. "The reality is that their scope has been broadened, and the types of interactions that are happening via the telephone where an agent is required, are becoming more complex and more critical."

Recognising this, Telecom brand O2 trained "Gurus" – knowledgeable and tech-passionate people – to deal with interactions in-store and in contact centres, and while they were hugely successful in delivering a differentiated customer service, they proved costly and had limited reach.

But they did provide the foundation for a move into online video content that offered customers simple and clear instructions on how to deal with a range of common problems and so help reduce churn while increasing acquisition.

Around 74% of contact centres surveyed by Dimension Data predicted that the overall number of transactions would increase, largely fuelled by digital, but the report also said this trend was having a negative impact on customer satisfaction.

Three quarters of businesses recognised that service was a differentiator, but customer satisfaction had fallen for the fourth year in a row.

"Because voice is often the channel of last resort, this is where the moment of truth really happens," Foster observed. 

"If agents can't resolve the customer's call, it will reflect badly on the organisation, and could lead to the search for an alternative supplier."

Data sourced from Business Wire; additional content by Warc staff