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The Future of Contact Centers, as Shaped by Current Trends

 Call center workforce

On January 22, ICMI Service Management and Support Industry Analyst Roy Atkinson hosted a webinar entitled “2020 Vision: Contact Center Trends to Watch.” The event was sponsored by Serenova.

During the event, Atkinson discussed current trends that will shape the future of the contact center industry. The idea of the discussion, he said, was not to simply predict the future, but to extrapolate from current data points to provide a roadmap of what is to come. The lessons offered came from “what’s been going on, what is going to continue to go on based on our research, (and) input from our constituents and our featured contributors,” he said.

Here are four factors that will shape the future of the industry, according to Atkinson’s presentation:

Changing demographics

Some 30% of the population are Millennials, according to current statistics. They are more ethnically and racially diverse than previous generations, and they also are more digitally proficient, more comfortable with self-service customer care, and more likely to expect to communicate with brands via social media, Atkinson said.

Also, the American populace is on the move south and west, and more likely to live in city centers, he said. This will be significant for all aspects of business for the contact center industry, as that will be increasingly where the customers and the employees are.

Valuing Employee Experience

There is growing awareness that it’s vital to invest in employee experience (EX). Some 50% of companies surveyed said EX is a priority, Atkinson said. There are two factors for this - a strong economy that forces employers to compete for workers and an understanding that a cared-for and motivated workforce provide better customer care.

“You’ll see it said many times...that the employee experience and the agent experience figure into the customer experience,” he said. “Happier employees make happier customers.”

Artificial intelligence Has Become Table Stakes

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already an integral part of customer care, and it’s only going to be further ingrained into the fabric of the industry, Atkinson said. We’ll see chatbots more often able to respond to more than just keywords, there will be more real-time language translation services for customers and contact center workers, and there will be more ability to use data to gauge customer reaction in real time during an interaction.

Because AI will become even more ubiquitous, the human touch of good customer service will be the important differentiator for brands and companies. Also, successful integration of AI will require more efficient knowledge management by companies, Atkinson said. Information has to be documented and accessible for machine learning to work.

“AI is great but it can’t get at the knowledge in people’s heads. If that knowledge is not documented and accessible to those technologies, it can’t be used,” he said.

In addition, there will be more options for customer self-service. What all this means, however, is that the easy solutions of customer care often will be exhausted by the time customers speak to a human agent. The workforce will more often be called upon to be well trained and flexible in their thinking to solve more complex problems.

A Need for New Metrics

A reshaped mission for contact center workers will require new metrics to measure workforce performance, Atkinson said. In addition, the landscape for channels to communicate with customers is changing rapidly. Because of both these factors, it’s important for organizations to evaluate their metrics often to make sure they are measuring what matters.

“If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” Atkinson said.

You can watch the whole webinar by clicking here.

Roy Atkinson will moderate the next webinar, “5 Omnichannel Lessons Learned the Hard Way”, will be held on February 18 at 2 pm (EST). It will feature Scott Sachs, President of SJS Solutions, LLC, and Brian Spraetz, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Five9. You can register by clicking here.