With business planning in full swing, this time of year is often rife with predictions. But in the contact centre industry, looking backwards can often give us a clear indicator of what lies ahead. Few would argue that 2020 was a year many are keen to forget – bringing with it both personal and professional challenges no one could have predicted. However, the coronavirus crisis marked a clear turning point for the contact centre – one that has laid the foundations for further changes on the horizon.
Indeed, many of the tools, technologies and techniques that enabled the sector to navigate the pandemic – through lockdowns, infection scares and financial concerns – have put the contact centre on a course of continuing innovation and disruption for the decade ahead.
Let’s take a look at some of the emergent factors set to fuel the contact centre of the future.
Flexible Working Becomes the New Norm
Contact centres that had already adopted modern cloud technologies were able to pivot in a matter of days to successfully implement new distributed working models. Enabling agents to work securely and compliantly from home, even when handling payments, was just the start. Organisations also used their contact centre-as-a-service (CCaaS) solutions to manage everything from workforce performance and wellbeing, to delivering support and training tailored exactly to the real-time needs of individual agents.
For many, the remote and hybrid models implemented in 2020 will determine how they resource contact centre operations in the future. This will usher in an era of more choice and flexible working options for agents, together with greater operational agility needed to cope with evolving market demands.
Working Smarter – with Greater Granular Control
Intelligent automation and smart scheduling tools certainly proved their worth last year as contact centres strived to optimise resource utilisation in the context of agent availability. Indeed, today’s AI powered Workforce Optimisation (WFO) proved highly effective at ensuring schedules were kept at peak efficiency, while giving agents maximum control over the hours they want to work.
Alongside automated services, intelligent routing, and real-time reporting, today’s CCaaS solutions made it possible to ensure agents were always presented with a familiar desktop – complete with the call recording facilities and integrated information databases they needed to perform – regardless of their location.
Some organisations even took advantage of their integrated CCaaS and unified communications environment to garner feedback from agents at the drop of a hat via virtual quality improvement ‘huddles’. Using these insights, contact centre leaders were able to tweak workflows to improve how agents interact with calls or the information systems they depend on to serve customers.
The Rise of the Bot – Delivering CX with a Human Touch
Having found themselves at times wholly dependent on digital and remote services to undertake everyday life tasks, consumers will increasingly expect to encounter streamlined experiences, no matter which channel they choose to interact with brands.
While AI, chatbots, smart speakers and virtual assistants aren’t new, the rapid expansion of digital channels during the pandemic saw more contact centres adopting such technologies to cut response times and sustain the mass delivery of high-quality personalised customer experiences.
Capable of sustaining humanised two-way conversations and even detecting a caller’s current mood, AI assistants are fast becoming mainstream in digital channels. In time, expect the role of contact centre agents to continue to evolve as they increasingly work in collaboration with these technologies to deliver customer experiences with a human touch.
The last 12 months have presented contact centres with an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate digital transformation and evolve into value-driven customer engagement hubs. In the coming years, they will continue to evolve into value-driven customer engagement hubs capable of orchestrating an end-to-end and intuitive customer experience in every channel.