2021 Contact Center Investment Trends
In 2020, the business landscape changed dramatically as companies struggled to maintain business continuity and survive the COVID-19 crisis. Consumers changed their expectations and buying habits virtually overnight, and businesses needed new ways to improve customer experience and profit margins.
With economic uncertainty all around, many businesses started shutting doors for most of their employees. Artificial intelligence (AI) and digital transformation through business analytics came to the rescue, leading to incredible innovation in how things were done before. The way customers shopped changed amidst the crisis and so did customer expectations. Customers became more demanding and expected quicker resolutions. Hence, the shape and working of contact centers changed overnight leading to refined services, improved customer experience, and higher sales.
Contact center leaders learned a lot during those early days of flux and it is important to look at what worked, what didn’t, and what additional refinements need to be made. Here are some of the key trends to keep in mind while building a resilient and adaptable contact center in 2021 and beyond.
AI or artificial intelligence has become an integral component of the business landscape with call centers being no exception. AI can improve a lot of processes in a contact center by streamlining the work of a contact center agent and shaping the customer experience to a considerable extent.
AI-powered bots can efficiently handle some of the tasks in a contact center with or without the assistance of an agent. Various channels such as interactive voice recognition (IVR), chat, or voice processes which involves taking over more repetitive tasks and providing answers to common questions, can easily be done by bots.
One caveat about AI – it is not a replacement for contact center agents. Rather, AI helps amplify customer experience in real time and improves agent responsiveness by helping close issues with greater speed. According to a recent report, the Chatbot market size is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 29.7% from $2.6bn in 2021 to $9.4bn by 2024. AI and machine learning can also be leveraged to build customer profiles and forecast buying patterns and preferences. It can help measure customer sentiment and promptly steer agents toward the next best step in a customer interaction as well as carry out other administrative tasks.
The effect of digitization was felt on the smallest everyday interaction during the past year. Customers went digital in every possible way from the comfort of their homes, changing their demands and expectations from the brands they follow along the way. Improvements in digital channel communication have given customers more control making it a necessity for contact centers to incorporate digital mediums of engagement.
Businesses that learn to implement digital channels will be able to offer a holistic customer experience through omni-channel communication models that bring together various modes such as chat, email, voice, text, and more for optimum engagement. And because digital contact centers will be able to manage demands better, their increased agility will help sustain business continuity. According to PwC’s 2020 retail report, the number of businesses investing in omni-channel experience has gone up from 20% to more than 80%.
Most contact center agents have been working from home since the onset of the pandemic and have had to learn how to overcome numerous technical glitches as well as bottlenecks in various work processes. Now is an optimal time to invest in new capabilities and process changes to support remote agents. Provide at-home agents with the internal infrastructure and IT support needed to manage their workloads efficiently, reliably and without disruption.
The key is to work toward building an agile contact center. Make strategic use of self-service capabilities to offload mundane tasks and let your agents focus on more complex issues. According to Steven Van Belleghem, thought leader on the transformation of customer relations, nearly 70% customers expect that a business website should include a self-service application. Thus, never underestimate the power of self-service applications. Invest in a good self-service tool that can increase the value and change the nature of your agent’s role in business. Finally, stay connected and monitor at-home agent interactions – recognizing and rewarding deserving agents to boost morale and .
Jumpstart 2021 by investing in building a resilient contact center and adapting to the latest market trends. Be prepared to face the unexpected by investing in digitization, AI, machine learning, and helping agents stay ahead.
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