Organisations that don't embrace digital customer engagement channels - including web chat, social media, SMS, smart phones and mobile applications, and even video - into their engagement strategies within the next two years are likely to see their customers defect to competitors that do, according a research report by Dimension Data. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

The annual 'Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report' examined 901 organisations in 72 countries across Asia Pacific, Australia, the Americas, Middle East & Africa, and Europe, and concluded that the digital customer engagement revolution is already here, and is forcing organisations to "adapt their customer service strategies or die".

Results from the report show non-voice traffic (digital) is set to rise in 87% of contact centres within the next two years, and voice traffic (talking to a customer centre agent on the telephone) will drop in 42% of contact centres during the same period. Based upon information gathered by Dimension Data gathered over last 10 years, contact centres will manage more digital interactions than voice in the next 24 months.

"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.

According to the report, by the end of 2016, customers will commonly be using up to seven different digital channels, in addition to the telephone. "But," added Foster, "That's not to say that contact centres are dead, and customer service agents will become redundant. That's definitely not the case. 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."

Organisations will need to focus on getting their staff highly skilled and putting systems in place to enable them to answer customer enquiries immediately. Because voice is often the channel of last resort, this is where the moment of truth really happens. 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.

Meanwhile, with some 74% of contact centres predicting the overall number of transactions to increase - largely fuelled by digital - the impact that this trend is having on customer satisfaction is concerning. Of the 901 research participants polled, 75% companies recognise that service is a differentiator, yet customer satisfaction is down for the fourth consecutive year.