Predicting the Unpredictable: What Will 2021 Hold for the Contact Centre?


Content Guru driving the future of CCaaS

Content Guru
Predicting the Unpredictable: What Will 2021 Hold for the Contact Centre?

Almost every aspect of 2020 took the world by surprise, and the contact centre industry was no exception. In the year when contact centres and Customer Experience took on an unprecedented level of strategic importance, offline infrastructure moved online, demand for services spiked, and customer loyalty became a matter of life or death for businesses. As we move into 2021, with the prospect of a mass vaccination now a reality, consumers’ ways of interacting with organisations will not revert to how they used to be – instead they will continue to evolve dramatically.

The Future State of Contact Centres

In what is likely to go down in history as the most unpredictable year, so far, of the technology age, what lessons and trends have emerged that will shape the future of the contact centre? Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO and Co-Founder of Contact Centre-as-a-Service (CCaaS) technology provider Content Guru, discusses his predictions for 2021: “Despite vaccines rolling out, organisations need to prepare for several more years of seismic disruption. Contact centre leaders must move away from being reactive, if they haven’t already, to put disaster recovery plans in place for when things go wrong and surge plans for when they go right.”

“To survive and thrive, businesses need to implement cloud-based omni-channel contact infrastructure, which leverages the distributed hybrid working model that emerged so powerful in 2020”

The demand for hybrid working to continue post-mass-vaccination is made more pressing by employees, who have enjoyed the benefits of a flexible schedule and work-life balance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent Stanford study found that 55% of employees prefer a mix of remote and in-office working. Employee satisfaction and customer experiences are intrinsically linked – one drives the other – and businesses need to adapt to this realisation to ensure overall business success. As workers feel more valued and empowered by their organisations, so they become more likely to provide a high quality of service to their customers.

AI-powered NLP Technology Used to Evolve CCaaS

Martin Taylor

Martin Taylor

One transformative development within the CCaaS space that is already empowering agents has been the emergence of practicable Artificial Intelligence. AI has been transforming contact centres for the past few years, overcoming many of the traditional challenges agents face to provide connected customer service experiences. In particular, the integration of AI-powered Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology into leading-edge CCaaS solutions enables interpretation of a caller’s intent using machine learning to analyse speech as text. Intelligent routing directs the customer to the agent or department best equipped to handle their enquiry. For organisations bold enough to have already made the move to NLP, CSAT scores have been climbing in tandem with organisational efficiency.

To take one example, NLP can listen to what a caller is saying, throughout a conversation, in order to prompt the agent on-screen with up-to-date information from approved knowledge sources. Having accurate material with which to respond instantly cuts into the 10-15% of agent time that is typically spent looking things up – while the caller listens to Mozart. At the same time, having AI select the information, rather than the agent needing to know how to look it up, cuts down on agent training time, which is itself a key component in agent churn cost. Furthermore, this scenario reduces agent workload. With that workload consistently rated as the number one cause of job dissatisfaction among contact centre employees, the incidence of staff churn falls – a virtuous circle.

NLP can also extract contextual meaning from tone of voice, keywords, and sentiment expressed to generate a much more in-depth picture of the caller and even predict their future actions. This provides unprecedented insights into how a customer is feeling and the nature of their issue, helping organisations relate to their customers on a more human level. Content Guru’s brain® middleware utilises best-in-class AI capabilities from hyper-scale AI engines such as IBM Watson and Google CCAI to process voice, text, and even images.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a fast-acting catalyst for AI adoption,” Taylor reflects. “This is especially true in the contact centre where many organisations have reversed years of under-investment and make-so-and-mend to take a long-delayed leap into the cloud and a world of intelligent automation. They had to do this in order to handle unforeseen spikes in demand and keep their customer engagement operations viable during lockdown. Now, in 2021, we’ll see NLP make voice a truly digital channel for the first time.”

“The full potential of the omni-channel vision will be unleashed by those with the tech and the know-how, in a winner-take-all game of Customer Experience monopoly”

The Growth and Transformation of Video Communications

As the world anticipates a return to normal operation in the year ahead, lessons and consumer behaviours learned during the pandemic will inevitably carry over. For instance, in the Healthcare sector, video calls have become an essential way of protecting both clinicians and patients from contracting coronavirus by reducing the number of face-to-face consultations. Going forward, video communications, alongside phone calls and in-person consultations, will form a blended care environment, making it easier for patients to access treatment and advice through a range of channels.

“Even as the prospect of in-person interactions becomes viable again, the convenience and speed of video communication cannot be unseen,” states Taylor. “The ‘selfie generation’ has joined forces with their ‘Zoom grandparents’ to create a consumer base that expects organisations to adapt to their preferences for video. As such, we can expect to see more and more customer engagement hubs needing to add this channel.” Even though contact centres have been forced to change under tumultuous circumstances, Darwinian forces will ensure that the best of these changes form the new standard.

 

 


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