Gary Bennett, VP Western Europe from Enghouse predicts three key trends to keep an eye on
The tradition of reflecting on a year gone by and attempting to extrapolate future expectations from present patterns is one that will never die, regardless of the black swan events the world has endured in recent years. Certainly, where the technology is confirmed, many of the shifts we have witnessed as ‘sudden innovations’ were already well signalled anyway, by those keeping an eye on such things – people like Gary Bennett from Enghouse, who is anticipating the following high-level themes may dominate in the year ahead.
Cloud computing arguably saved the world of work during the forced distributed working throughout the pandemic, but the technology underpinning it has been around in some form for at least 20 years. Thanks to a convergence of bandwidth and hardware advances, many organisations were able to finally make the leap when pushed, with relative ease:
“In the last decade the momentum has built and built, but that journey accelerated and expedited because of Covid,” Bennett said. He regards this as a new phase of cloud computing, Cloud 3.0, where a truly cloud-native approach is both conceivable and desirable.
“It is now possible to do joined-up customer experience directly in the cloud, depending on what you’re selling and how regulated your industry is,” Bennett explained. But, it does require a rethinking, in some cases, of the integrated customer journey. “To make that happen, you need an optimised process, and you need optimised systems that are integrated really intuitively with each other so that the journey or the customer just follows a pathway that feels natural and intuitive”
Automation in CX has meanwhile improved continuously, following a progress curve already well in hand. In the past, automated interactions with brands might have been an inferior experience for all but the most routine queries, with the preferred action to expedite to a human agent as quickly as possible – but things have changed so much, with the advance of natural language processing:
“The accuracy and sophistication mean that the application can process and understand not just words and phrases, but also context and sentiment, meaning that the bots can solve all kinds of queries.”
But Bennett doesn’t anticipate this change impacting headcount and demand in western/on-shored contact centres dealing with in-depth enquiries: “you still need those high-value humans to do the complex, awkward, ugly, you know, emotional stuff…. A bot is going to be more consistent and more accurate than a human would be. And probably happier than a human would be, doing the routine mundane stuff again and again and again.”
The human impact of the transition to cloud-based working has brought new opportunities for distributed workforces, and a shift in the profile of the typical CX agent in some cases. This means that the tools needed to manage them will have to change too. “The platforms that people are going to use will evolve and change because while there have been workforce optimisation tools out there that have been around for a long time that is fairly capable and competent, they will have been designed and engineered for the context of people sat in an office next to each other.” Bennett reflected.
Coupled with the impact of what is being termed the great resignation, employers will need to up their game, both technologically and culturally. “When you’ve got an organisation, like a contact centre, where there’s always been high attrition, and attrition is accelerating and getting worse, you’ve got to onboard and train people, you’ve got to create that sense of team spirit and camaraderie, you got to allow people the flexibility to work in a way that works for them.
“Culture is now having to play catch up with the technological shift and the working pattern shift”, Bennett concluded. And this may turn out to be both the least tangible and most important theme for organisations to get in front of in 2022, with unprecedented workforce mobility and dissatisfaction to consider, in the context of an increasingly volatile commercial environment.