Contact Center Trends for 2021

Contact Center Trends for 2021
So here we are again, the end of another year. Let’s just say 2020 has been nothing short of atypical. More than ever, we have been pushed to the limits of our Contact Center technology and everyone has been forced into rethinking the sustainability of their Contact Center operations.

The Contact Center Wars Are Officially Underway

Aside from the obvious challenges we have experienced in 2020, we are also seeing tremendous technological advancements that have officially started The Contact Center Wars. From providers who know contact center, as well as those not-so-savvy contact center wannabes, resulting in many newcomers to the billion-dollar Contact Center industry. This is creating confusion for some, especially those operations looking to advance their knowledge and technology.

Keeping pace with technology and the operational challenges of growth and customer demands continue to create a paradigm shift in our thought processes in how we adapt to our customer’s needs and this almost always impacts the technology we must use to maintain an edge over our competition.

While technology provides great opportunities to advance our operation, the underlying influence upon people and how we adapt to these changes should be considered as well.

My Hit List Of Contact Center Trends For 2021

Our list of Contact Center trends will address technology and the shifts in the operational mindset of the contact center, hopefully offering insight into topics not usually addressed in a year-end, forward-looking summary.

  1. Bots, Artificial Intelligence/Automation & Self-Service
  2. Voice Analytics
  3. Data & Business Intelligence
  4. Cloud Migration
  5. Agent Expertise/Brand Consistency
  6. Social Media

Bots, Artificial Intelligence & Automation For Sustained Growth In The Contact Center

Let me start by saying this: the goal of artificial intelligence and machine learning is not to replace agents, but rather, to enhance automation and provide much deeper experience for customers and the operation alike.

For those of you who have been in the Contact Center industry for quite some time, the #1 issue impacting all Contact Center operations is staffing. Adding to that issue, is the growing demand for always-on access to information and assistance that further impacts staffing, if we are to keep pace the old-fashioned way: hire more staff.

To Bot Or Not To Bot In The Contact Center?

However, at some point, given the state of technology and the growing demand of customers, every Contact Center operation will arrive at a crossroads. That being: To Bot or Not to Bot? The answer is: Why, Yes! You won’t have a choice if your desire is to remain relevant.

Bots have changed dramatically in a short period of time and have become much easier to configure, deploy and use. Bots, machine learning, and Artificial Intelligence have resulted in nimble processes that are much easier to configure and deploy when compared to the past, and with Natural Language Processing, Bots have also become quite human-sounding and much more pleasant from a customer experience point of view.

While there are a growing number of options for providing Bots, there are some things I look for in choosing the right Bot foundation for the operation.

Key Considerations In Choosing The Right Bot Solution For Your Contact Center

First: The Bot application should be easy to configure and should not require a heavy dedication of resources to manage and deploy. With the advancements in technology available today, there are a handful of applications that can be configured and deployed using data entry skills and a basic understanding of logic.

Next: The Bot application should provide a working foundation circumventing the need for heavy development. The state of technology today should provide a framework that could include templates easily allowing clients the ability to rapidly deploy Bot automation without the need for custom development work.

Third: The Bot application should easily be configured as a plugin application to the primary Contact Center operation. If a customer is using a Bot and needs assistance from an agent – and it will happen – then the Bot should be Contact Center aware and Agent aware. The Bot process should send the entire conversation to the Contact Center Agent so that the customer need not start the conversation over, simply because the interaction had to be moved to a Customer Care Agent. Many bots provide the dialogue, but moving that dialogue to the Contact Center Agents needs to be considered as part of the overall customer experience.

Lastly: the Bot should have direct access to web services already associated with the Contact Center solution already in place by the operation. There shouldn’t be a need to develop new web services for the purposes of bridging Bot technology into the Contact Center operation.

My Recommended Bot Solutions

  • Genesys Cloud Dialog Engine – part of Genesys Cloud Contact Center uses native Web Services contained within Genesys Cloud Contact Center
  • Google Dialogflow – includes templates – integrates into Genesys Cloud Contact Center – may require external web services and SDK processes
  • Amazon Lex – integrates into Genesys Cloud Contact Center – requires external web services and must use Amazon Lambda functions
  • Twilio AutoPilot – requires external web services

Voice Analytics For Quality Assurance In The Contact Center

Quantifying customer sentiment is a big deal these days. Customer loyalty is at the top of the list of goals for every business thriving today. Equally important is the ongoing task of ensuring the Contact Center staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and capable while ensuring brand consistency with every customer interaction encountered.

However, having the time to dedicate to charting the customer experience while simultaneously evaluating agent performance is a time-consuming task that usually touches less than 10% of actual contact center interactions. Most contact centers today will evaluate between 1-5% customer interactions per agent per month. This paints a very skewed picture of actual customer experience and agent performance, being a mere fraction of interactions in any given period-of-time.

Voice Analytics In The Contact Center Increase Customer Experience If Used Correctly

Voice Analytics is a game-changer. In short, voice analytics technology can ingest 100% of interactions, convert conversations to data, and then apply application rules analyzing the conversation, while applying logic and sentiment analysis, both from the agent perspective and the customer experience.

Voice Analytics can be used to track compliance, track overtalking, silence, frustration, conversation escalation, to name just a few examples. In doing so, voice analytics and highlight when agents forget to say a required phrase or when an agent says something inappropriate. Ultimately, voice analytics can tell you what was said nor not said, and how things were said.

Voice Analytics can produce reports that show the most common customer inquiries, keeping you up-to-date on the latest customer needs and trends in your business. This helps your operation keep pace with the ongoing and current requests of customers. This is a great tool for creating strategic operational changes and policies more in line with what customers seek.

Lastly, voice analytics can automate the complete QA process, saving supervisors, team leads, and/or QA analysts an inordinate amount of time.

Harnessing The Power Of Data & Business Intelligence In The Contact Center

Data has always been a driving force behind the contact center operation. However, today, data is much more than a screen pop to an agent.

Data is the key element that allows every contact center operation the opportunity of creating truly exceptional service, and contact center operations are migrating to a data-first model at a rapid pace. Data is being used not only for the screen pop but also in creating dynamic and personalized client experiences by accessing client data available at the time of the customer inquiry. This is one of the most effective ways in which to create great customer experiences while simultaneously controlling the business.

More and more contact center operations are investing in Business Intelligence applications, such as Microsoft Power BI and Tableaux, which now includes the ingestion of contact center data combined with more business-focused data such as, propensity to buy, conversion rates, proactive outreach for renewals, the upsell and much more.

Data will continue to drive the contact center and adding voice analytics data to the payload for analysis will give your operation a tremendous advantage for creating thoughtful processes for enhancing the customer experience and brand loyalty.

Cloud Migration Of The Contact Center

Over the past year, many operations were challenged with the impact of circumstances we have all experienced in 2020. Businesses that thrived were those that already had a foothold in cloud contact center technology, while others struggled to keep pace.

Nothing has done more for digital transformation than the year 2020. The year forced every contact center operation to reconsider their cloud strategy for keeping pace with customers and for their survival. With most of the workforce pushed to remote office work, having a cloud contact center became a mandate for ease of deployment and sustainability while providing the most enterprise-ready features required of any modern contact center of today.

Legacy premise-based contact center solutions could not keep pace with businesses whose customers demand more from their service providers. Whether the business is finance, healthcare, tech support, or customer service, providing a robust, nimble, and security-focused solution was the only way to meet the needs of an ever-changing work environment.

Adapting To The Contact Center Of The Future And Beyond

Today, the contact center operation must be omnichannel, with an open API for ease of integration to applications, comfortable and easy to manage UI, robust productivity visibility, tools for QA, IVR, web services, Bots, automation, and more. Having outgrown many premise-based solutions, most operations are investing in future-proofing their technology with cloud-based contact center solutions, for a cost of a monthly.

The short-term and long-term investment provides a robust and guaranteed foundation for keeping pace with technology and most importantly, the demands of the customer. Customers expect flexible options, and customers expect to work with your brand in a way that makes it easy for the customer to do business with you. Anything less is seen as an obstacle and customers prefer the easy route.

In 2021, many more businesses will continue to migrate to the cloud and this will be the de facto thought process for almost every contact center operation. Those that do not make the investment will either spend more time and money to keep pace, or they will simply fall behind the pack.

Agent Expertise In The Contact Center Solidifies Brand Consistency

When it comes to contact center operations, technology is changing how customers desire to do business with your brand. Ultimately, customers want an easier option. The trend is for customers to seek self-service options or automated processes for doing business with you, leaving the dreaded phone call as a last resort.

With bots and automation, whether you interact with your customers via voice, SMS, or web chat conversations when it comes time for a customer to reach out to a human, one thing is very clear:

The expectation that an agent should be able to resolve an issue in as little time as possible while maintaining a friendly demeanor and having the right answer immediately.

Your Brand Is Only As Good As Your Agents In The Contact Center

Expectations on the Agent are at an all-time high when it comes to customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. An overwhelmingly high percentage of customers will make their decisions about doing business with your brand based on their experience with your Agents.

The pressure for great experiences at all levels of the operation is critical, and as a result, more and more contact centers are investing in advanced technologies such as Voice Analytics, QA programs, while creating more robust initial training and recurring training programs to give them an advantage over their competition. Agent expertise is critical.

Social Media & The Contact Center

Social Media is an interesting process. While social media is pervasive today, I do not believe that social media is going to play a critical part in the contact center operation, at least in part. For me, social media can become a bit of noise, typically requiring more processes to filter and sift through context.

Where I do see an upswing is with operations having an international footprint where WhatsApp is prevalent. I have seen an increase in requests for WhatsApp integrations into the contact center ACD, especially with clients maintaining operations in Europe and South America.

If your operations do not extend to these parts of the world, I wouldn’t easily ignore this trend, but I would instead seek a contact center solution with an existing pathway for easily bridging WhatsApp into your contact center operation. This is most often found with contact center solutions with an open API structure, and some solutions such as Genesys Cloud Contact Center has an existing integration easily enabling access for WhatsApp its contact center solution.

Success In The Contact Center In 2021 And Beyond

As we move into 2021, the Contact Center industry and technology show no signs of slowing down. The lines of the “contact center” are blurred as technology continues to evolve. The need to invest in modern technology is the only way to stay ahead of the pack and your competition.

Cloud technology has become the de facto choice for those having weathered the challenges of 2020, which has completely put a new spin on disaster recovery and business continuity planning, and most importantly: the ability to support a remote workforce, regardless of location.

2020 has forever changed the way in which the Contact Center must operate, and more importantly, survive. We wish you the best 2021 has to offer!

Our goal has always been focused on the future while simultaneously helping clients and non-clients accelerate the value of their operations through the deployment of smart technology. We look forward to working with you and providing technological and operation knowledge both in and around the contact center.