2020 Upended the Call Centre, Here’s What’s 2021 Will Bring

Guest Blogger

Guest blog from Scott Stephenson, CEO and co-founder of Deepgram

2020 Upended the Call Centre, Here’s What’s 2021 Will Bring

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced over 50% of companies to fast track digital transformation initiatives—compressing years of well-thought-out plans into mere months—and quickly transition to a remote workforce. It’s no surprise that we’ve felt some growing pains this year. While we have been learning how to run our businesses remotely and navigating ‘Zoom Fatigue’, we’ve also been making positive changes in the way we work and in how we run our businesses. The pandemic has especially transformed customer service operations—accelerating the virtualised call centre, significantly increasing resolution time, and much more. As we head into 2021, here are a few of my predictions for how the call centre will continue to evolve.

Call Centres Will Embrace Automation

This year, as cities enacted shelter-in-place orders across the country, it was no longer feasible for customers to have in-person interactions with customer support team members. Instead, customers had to rely entirely on call centre representatives. This resulted in increased frustration for both customers and call centre employees, as customers were calling in with increasingly more complex concerns and frustrations, while most agents were remotely working to resolve their concerns—without the in-person support of their team or manager, and with the added distractions of children and roommates. It became critical for call centre to manage and improve contact centre performance and customer experiences overall. This year, I predict that we will see call centre fully (and finally) embrace digital transformation to improve customer experiences.

The current call centre model is largely human-first support and is often composed of entry-level personnel who work to troubleshoot in real-time. This model of customer support has long been outdated and as we move into 2021 and beyond, we will see call centre redirect these more mundane tasks—like resetting a password or changing an address—to self service channels and appropriately direct more detailed questions to team members within those areas of expertise. Gartner anticipates that by 2025, 50% of knowledge workers will use a virtual assistant on a daily basis, up from 2% in 2019. I predict that by fully leaning into automation, call centre will have more budget to train teams on more nuanced tasks, improving agent retention and customer service for everyone as a whole.

Real-time Will Go Mainstream

Not only will we see an increase in call centre embracing automation, but we will also see companies adopt real-time call monitoring. I believe this will happen because recent technological advancements have finally made real-time possible on a larger scale. For example, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) solutions, which allow customers to use their voice to navigate menu solutions, are now utilising natural language processing (NLP), a key ingredient in providing accurate solutions quickly. Call centre have long acknowledged that there is value in real-time call monitoring, but have not had the right tools or talent to implement it. Just a year ago, companies adopting this technology were seen as cutting-edge,

but due to COVID-19, this adoption cycle significantly accelerated. Looking ahead to 2021, I predict more companies will invest in Speech Recognition, the foundation of NLP, and rely on this deployment method to ensure customer service, agent productivity and compliance issues aren’t slipping through the cracks.

To say that 2020 was a challenging year is an understatement. No industry was left untouched by the health crisis and businesses were forced into a sink or swim situation. Yet, the year also provided glimmers of hope. With many companies’ long-term digital transformation plans fast-tracked, they have been able to devote more time to better understanding customers’ pain points and expectations. Customer call centre have always been an important step in the customer journey, and with the shift to digital-first experiences, it is now a critical component of retaining customers. In 2021, I believe speech recognition will have a significant role to play in powering the next generation of customer experience, and I’m excited for what’s to come.


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