The year is 2023, and the contact center industry is on the brink of change. With new technologies and approaches being developed daily, it’s hard to predict what the next year will bring.
However, there are a few things that we can be sure of.
AI, Chatbots, and Automation
Artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, and automation are three of the most talked-about topics in the contact center industry. And for a good reason. These technologies can transform contact centers’ operations, making them more efficient and effective.
…we must take care with the implementation of these shiny tools.
I feel they will continue making inroads in the contact center in 2023, where we will see more AI-powered chatbots, virtual assistants, and automated processes and features.
- AI can help contact centers automate various processes, such as customer support, sales, and marketing.
- Chatbots can provide customers with 24/7 support, addressing their concerns and queries in real-time.
- With the help of automation, contact centers can improve their overall efficiency and productivity.
However, we must take care with the implementation of these shiny tools. Companies will need to rely on call center agents to handle some of the more challenging situations posed by customers.
Cloud-Based Contact Centers
The trend towards cloud-based contact centers is only going to continue in 2023. More businesses are making the switch to the cloud due to the many benefits it offers.
- With a cloud-based contact center, businesses can quickly scale up or down as needed without significantly investing in on-premise infrastructure.
- The solutions can be accessed by agents, supervisors, support staff, and offices from anywhere with a reliable broadband internet connection. This makes it easy for businesses to maintain a global presence without needing multiple on-premise contact centers.
- Cloud-based contact centers are more reliable than on-premise solutions since they are not reliant on a single physical location. If there is an issue with one data center, businesses can switch to another with little to no interruption in service.
Contact centers must look at the services’ prices and the other features each service provider offers before committing.
Still, some contact centers may want to move to the cloud gradually, just in case something doesn’t fit well, such as integrations of specific components with their CRM, and have a way to return to the legacy on-premise solutions as a backup plan.
Further, some centers may research solution vendors that can salvage some of their existing on-premise solutions.
The best decision on whether and how to go to the cloud will vary depending on each call or contact center’s situation. However, taking the time to carefully consider options will help ensure you make the right one for your organization.
Omnichannel Contact Centers
As the world becomes more connected, customers expect to be able to reach out to companies through their preferred channels. This could be through messaging, social media, chat, phone, video, or even in person. And companies are starting to take notice.
More and more contact centers are adopting an omnichannel approach. This means that they are offering customer support through multiple channels, thereby providing a better customer experience (CX), as customers can choose the channel that they are most comfortable with.
As the world becomes more connected, customers expect to be able to reach out to companies through their preferred channels.
Death of the Traditional Call Center
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the trend toward remote work, likely leading to the death of the traditional call center.
Agents adapted to, and for the most part, liked, the new-found freedom of not having to commute, especially in the evenings, nights, and on weekends and holidays.
When I took calls and worked the last shift, just a handful of us in the call center walked to our cars at night. It was a bit scary because the panhandlers lurking behind the pillars would suddenly jump out.
However, with remote work, folks are in the safety of their own homes. They also can save on gas and reduce commute time. We had an agent who drove at least two hours one way to get to work; now, she doesn’t have to do that and loves it.
The rise of the virtual contact center is quickly taking its place. This new contact center allows agents to work from anywhere (WFA) worldwide, which significantly benefits businesses.
The traditional call center was based on having a physical location where agents could come to work. This was often in a large office building with hundreds or even thousands of other agents. The cost of running a traditional call center was high regarding the rent for the physical space and the necessary equipment.
On the other hand, the virtual contact center is based on having agents WFA in the world. This could be from their homes, co-working spaces, or anywhere else with an internet connection.
The traditional call center is quickly becoming a thing of the past. The virtual contact center is the future…
There are many benefits to the virtual contact center. One of the enormous benefits is that it allows businesses to expand their customer base globally. With agents worldwide, companies can offer customer support in multiple languages, which is a massive benefit for businesses that want to expand their reach and grow their customer base.
Another benefit of the virtual contact center is that it gives businesses more flexibility. With agents working from home (WFH), companies can offer customer support outside regular business hours. This is a great benefit for businesses that want to support their customers 24/7.
Equally, if not more critically, the WFA contact center especially enables businesses to overcome commuting distance limitations on the size of labor pools.
In this era of the Great Resignation and shrinking workforces, businesses cannot afford to restrict the supply and availability of high-quality potential employees. Especially these workers want to WFA.
Critically, a virtual contact center enables businesses to provide essential customer information and support and facilitate business when disasters threaten and strike, saving lives.
Customers may not be aware that a fire or a tornado hit a traditional call center. They know they can’t get through and are understandably upset.
But an earthquake in California will not harm an agent WFH in Colorado. Similarly, neither will a hurricane hitting South Carolina force an agent in South Dakota to evacuate their home.
Finally, the virtual contact center is more scalable than the traditional call center. When agents WFH or WFA, businesses can add or remove agents from a particular phone line as needed without worrying about the cost of renting a physical space or running the necessary equipment.
The traditional call center is quickly becoming a thing of the past. The viritual contact center is the future of customer support.
Focus on More Automated CX
In the past, the contact center was all about efficiency. The goal was to get customers off the phone as quickly as possible while meeting service level agreements (SLAs).
But in 2023, the focus will be on the CX. This shift will be driven by the rise of AI and the need for businesses to differentiate themselves in a competitive market.
As enterprises adopt AI, they can automate more tasks, freeing agents to provide a better CX. They will be able to spend more time on each call and provide a more personalized experience.
As AI becomes more advanced and call centers struggle to attract and retain agents, we also see an increase in customer self-service options. This means that more and more interactions will be handled without human interaction.
Businesses should also use AI to evaluate the user’s emotional responses to determine when it would be better to ask the customer if they would like to switch to a live agent.
Further, when this switch is made, the virtual agent or chatbot must inform the customer that they are getting ready to be transferred to a live person. Also, the agent needs to be provided with transcripts to help the agent take over the correspondence and prevent customer frustration with having to repeat themselves.
It’s essential to understand that the changes we’re seeing are driven by the need to improve the CX. Businesses must provide a great experience rather than just being efficient and frustrating customers.
This shift will be driven by the need for businesses to differentiate themselves in a competitive market. In a world where customers have more options than ever, they will look for companies that provide the best experience. The businesses that can provide a great CX will be the ones that thrive in the future.
Upcoming: Voice Biometrics
Call centers are under pressure to provide excellent customer service. They are also under pressure to protect their customers’ information.
Voice biometrics is an upcoming call center trend that can help them do both. This technology can help identify callers by their unique voiceprint, making it easier to weed out fraudulent or nuisance calls.
Further, it is convenient for callers since they don’t have to remember a PIN, password, or unique identification number, which can be guessed or stolen.
Data Analytics Becoming Crucial
Data analytics is one of the essential aspects of operating a call center. By understanding how callers interact with your systems, you can identify areas where improvements can be made to increase caller satisfaction and operational efficiency.
The use of data analytics is not new to the call center industry as it is used to track and monitor KPIs, including call volume, average handle time, and first call resolution rate. However, it is becoming increasingly crucial as call centers strive to improve their performance, which is now evolving to include predictive analytics.
Predictive analytics is a type of data analytics that uses historical data to predict future outcomes. Predictive analytics can be used to predict caller behavior, such as the likelihood of a caller abandoning a call or the possibility of a caller requiring a callback. Additionally, predictive analytics can forecast call volume, average handle time, and first call resolution rate.
A New World Requires New Skills
Contact centers are evolving into a new, more virtualized world. In the coming year, the skill sets of the agents working there will need to be comfortable working with AI and automation tools and have an excellent CX mindset.
Agents who can provide a great CX and use AI and automation tools to help customers will be in high demand.
Just a reminder since agents will be handling more complex issues that have been forwarded to them by chatbots, virtual agents, and so on, to name a few.
Agents will need to be trained to understand the products and services offered by their company, use the tools available to them to research information, and at the same time, stay customer-oriented to provide an excellent CX. This means that agents must be trained and coached to provide a fantastic experience.
Rise of the Gig Economy
In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about the rise of the gig economy. And it’s no wonder – with the advent of the internet and the proliferation of smartphones, it’s easier for people to find work outside the traditional 9-to-5 jobs.
According to a recent study by Intuit, 43% of the workforce will be independent contractors by 2020. And this trend is only going to continue to grow as companies look to tap into a wider pool of talent. This could mean more contact center agents are working remotely or freelance.
Several factors are driving this growth. For one, the gig economy provides companies with a more flexible workforce that can be scaled up or down as needed. Additionally, it allows businesses to tap into a global talent pool – becoming increasingly important in today’s economy.
Though the gig economy has seen significant economic growth, it has allowed companies to be more flexible and created new job opportunities. But has it led to some abuse?
The newly proposed Biden Administration gig worker regulations may seem beneficial for the gig worker as it requires companies to provide better benefits, such as health insurance, paid leave, workers’ compensation, and minimum wage, to name a few.
However, the proposed regulations could make it challenging for call center companies that classify gig workers as independent contractors leading to higher costs due to offering benefits.
I believe it’s unclear how soon the administration will unveil its proposed regulations or how much they will impact the gig economy. But the debate over the future of the gig economy is sure to continue.
Personalizing Services, Focusing on the Customer Journey
Recently, there has been a greater focus on the customer journey and how each interaction fits into the big picture. This has led to a better understanding of the CX and how to optimize it.
This trend is expected to continue in the contact center as companies strive to provide a better CX. Contact centers must take a holistic view of the customer journey to provide a better CX.
By understanding the customer journey, contact centers can improve the CX at every stage, from first contact to post-purchase support.
One way to understand the customer journey is to track customer interactions. This data can help identify pain points and areas for improvement. Additionally, this data can create a more personalized experience for each customer.
Another way to improve the CX is proactively reaching out to customers. This can be done through customer surveys or customer service interactions.
By understanding the customer journey, contact centers can identify pain points and areas for improvement, creating a seamless CX.
The future of the contact center world looks bright, with advancements rolling out from different avenues, coupled with the emphasis on CX.
However, with these advancements, I feel companies will slowly adapt with trial and error to determine how the puzzle fits together to create a better experience for their customers and employees.