Customer service and support (CSS) is a term with two meanings. Most generally, it refers to the functions of a contact center in handling post-sales customer inquiries that require some effort or action on the part of the business. More specifically, it refers to the elements of the software stack that facilitate those operations, primarily case tracking and trouble ticketing.
There are many software components that facilitate contact center operations. Historically, the industry has relied, in part, on niche or best-of-breed applications but this is shifting in favor of broadly integrated suites or ecosystems. When we look at CX trends beyond the contact center, the shift is even more pronounced, with the bundling/collection of applications from martech to CRM-incorporating software that were formerly/previously purchased separately.
Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a catch-all term that refers to the collection of customer feedback in various formats. Sometimes this feedback is in the form of quick surveys or reactions to questions like, "Did I resolve your issue today?" or "Would you recommend our service to a friend?" Alternatively, it can be derived from less specific but more numerous data signals that span multiple interactions or across a customer base. Most businesses make an effort to capture some customer feedback.
Business phone systems and contact center platforms received renewed attention in 2020 as organizations acquired tools for agents working from home. That put the spotlight on vendors, like Avaya, that have feet in both worlds. Since both forms of communications technology are well-suited to the cloud, Avaya has developed its Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) portfolios in parallel. The effort has borne fruit, with significant product enhancements notched recently. Ventana Research asserts that by 2023, one-quarter of organizations will to UCaaS and CCaaS technologies to collaborate in the enterprise and with customers more effectively.
The pandemic accelerated several trends in the contact-center industry that were already underway, chiefly: moving infrastructure and software applications to the cloud, and rethinking the process of managing agents. One byproduct of these trends is a renewed look at the similarities between business-phone systems (also known as unified communications, or UC) and contact center systems (CC).
The modern contact center relies heavily on software that enables agents to perform multiple complex tasks while simultaneously managing the customer-facing side of interactions. This has allowed CRM vendors to build tools, such as agent desktop interfaces, that control virtually all aspects of the service environment.
The ways in which consumers engage with organizations have changed. Long-established communication channels such as the telephone, email and company websites are still used, but many consumers now prefer to use text messages, online chat, social media, virtual agents and applications on their mobile devices to contact the company and address issues. As a result, organizations have had to add support for many new channels of customer engagement.
Shifts in the market due to the pandemic have upended the contact center marketplace, accelerating the inevitable migration of infrastructure to the cloud and changing the way agents are managed. The pandemic also increased the dependence customers have on contact centers in the absence of in-store buying.
Since customer data platforms (CDP) emerged in the marketplace about five years ago, there has been debate about what roles they fill, especially within customer service organizations. They were originally developed by small software firms to provide marketing teams with a comprehensive view of customer records. Those records could be scattered throughout an organization, siloed by system and department. CDPs were an attempt to shortcut integration processes that are long, expensive and often custom-designed.
Verint has recently separated into two companies, one of which is a dedicated provider of software focused on customer engagement and will keep the Verint name. (The other is called Cognyte and focused on security analytics.)