The Contact Center of the Future: 8 Trends for 2022 and Beyond
This last year saw a shift in needs and priorities. Staffing is normally a top concern for contact center managers. But this year, thanks to Covid-19, managers had other issues to consider:
- Transition to remote work: Supporting remote workers requires additional tools, technology, and skills. Many contact centers will remain remote in the near future, making it necessary to implement long-term solutions to what was once addressed as a short-term challenge. Most companies project that they will maintain some remote operations for the foreseeable future.
- Renewed commitment to the online experience: As companies increasingly had to take operations and customer interactions online, the self-service experience became much more important. Consumers continue to expect an exceptional self-service experience across different communication channels.
- Increased need for robust analytics and reporting: In a remote environment, performance metrics were suddenly more important than ever. Delivering an exceptional customer experience will continue to depend on having real-time analytics, which are critical to understanding the customer journey.
Although the Covid-19 crisis might be coming to an end, these issues promise to remain in the future. Addressing them requires adopting new technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI) and particularly conversational AI, will play an important role in the contact center of the future.
Emerging Trends in Contact Center Technology
The modern contact center already uses a host of technologies to manage customer interactions, track productivity, and much more. These capabilities are often disjointed, and they don’t offer end-to-end visibility over the customer journey.
In the coming years, contact centers will focus more on technology solutions that integrate across multiple business processes--and incorporate AI. These eight trends will define the contact center of the future.
#1. Migration to the Cloud
Cloud technologies offer an ideal solution for supporting remote workers--a primary challenge in 2020. The past two years have seen a surge in cloud-based technology adoption, and this trend will certainly continue into the future.
Cloud-based software is accessible anywhere, making it an ideal option for a remote workforce, but it can also deliver increased security and more robust capabilities. It’s likely that contact centers will continue to migrate systems to the cloud whenever possible.
#2. Incorporation of Conversational Agents
Chatbots are not new to contact centers. They’re often used to handle routine, repetitive customer inquiries. But the vast majority of chatbots can currently handle only relatively simple interactions that fall within a predefined set of rules.
Powered by conversational AI, the next generation of chatbots use natural language understanding (NLU) to learn from each user encounter, so they can maneuver increasingly complex interactions. Applications are incredibly diverse:
- Customer onboarding and support
- Employee recruitment, screening, and training
- Lead generation and nurturing
- Management of people, expenses, and documents
#3. Integration of Speech Interfaces
We’re all used to interacting with Alexa or Siri. Those speech interfaces aren’t limited to personal virtual assistants; this conversational AI technology is also available alongside traditional text-based chatbots.
Integrating speech recognition offers the opportunity for companies to deliver seamless interactions in each customer’s preferred communication method, whether that be text or speech.
#4. More Comprehensive Self-service Options
Many organizations already offer some rudimentary self-service options to decrease the demand for contact centers. But customer preferences have definitively shifted toward self-service, so it’s no longer sufficient to have a chatbot deliver links to a website FAQ.
In the coming years, self-service will incorporate a wide variety of options:
- Chatbots to interact and guide visitors to the information they need, or redirect to a human agent
- Knowledge management for libraries of curated content
- Communities that offer peer-generated content
- Cognitive search that presents visitors with answers that extend beyond a knowledge base
#5. Adoption of Prescriptive AI
Sophisticated organizations have already implemented artificial intelligence (AI) to automate multiple business functions. The next generation of this technology, prescriptive AI, presents a wide variety of new capabilities, from more efficient inquiry resolution to optimized case routing and scheduling management.
Prescriptive AI will allow companies to anticipate users’ needs in a new way, revolutionizing customer interactions from discovery and onboarding, to post-purchase support. It can also be used internally, for instance in optimizing field resources or restocking parts based on demand.
#6. Demand for Analytics Across the Customer Journey
In 2020, contact centers needed metrics that helped measure the productivity of an unexpectedly remote workforce. These metrics will continue to be important, even as contact centers go back to office-based work.
Meanwhile, contact centers also need more comprehensive analytics that give greater insight into the customer journey, which support delivery of a better customer experience. Chatbots and conversational AI software will play a pivotal role in delivering these analytics. They will integrate with ERPs, CRMs, and other software systems to provide a start-to-finish view of client interactions.
#7. Emphasis on Cross-departmental Collaboration
A contact center often serves as the “front line,” operating as the intermediary between the company and customers. This is a critical role, but contact centers often aren’t well integrated with the rest of the company. The result? Customer-service agents have limited insights when they engage with customers--and the rest of the organization doesn’t learn valuable lessons from what’s happening in the call center.
Contact center managers have noted that they’ll strive to bridge this gap in 2021 and beyond. This is usually a high-challenge, low-priority item, but this year it’s gaining momentum. Contact centers will look to a variety of software solutions to help solve this issue.
#8. RPA Across the Organization
The mention of robotic process automation (RPA) often invokes the thought of robots on an assembly line--hardly something that’s necessary for a modern contact center. But RPA can help improve the bottom line, improving productivity and decreasing costs. Contact centers already frequently use attended RPA bots to complete repetitive, low-complexity tasks.
Moving forward, the cutting-edge contact center will also use unattended RPA bots to autonomously handle tasks from a predetermined queue. They can also be used to train contact-center employees, for instance, by providing upskilling and other employee training.
Now's the time to consider how AI chatbots can propel your contact center into the future. Get your guide to how conversational AI can help increase efficiency, reduce costs, and deliver a superior customer experience.