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13 More Fearless Predictions for the Future of Contact Centers

Hitting the mark

All this winter, we are asking our featured contributors to offer their near-term predictions of the future of contact center-industry customer service. Here is what four of our contributors predicted: 

Murphy Fraser, Client Success Manager, Skillshare for Teams

Measuring Customer Effort (CES): As we move towards building experiences that are easy and efficient for customers, measuring this VoC data point will be increasingly important for contact center leaders. Our omnichannel world now requires us to think more thoughtfully about where friction exists in customer experience, and we should be focusing on asking customers in clear and creative ways questions like - “How easy was it do business with us?”, “How easy was it to contact us?” or “How easy was it to get the help you needed?” Our ability to better serve customers and their experiences hinge on our ability to understand where and when we can reduce a customer’s level of effort throughout their journey.

Emotional Intelligence Hiring/Training: The importance of having emotionally intelligent (EQ) individuals working in the contact center may seem like a given for many in the industry, but it’s time that we get serious about bringing in and upskilling folks around the importance of EQ in their work, especially in outsourced spaces. We also need to be doing a better job of setting our agents up for success by providing them with new training opportunities around EQ. With the rise of AI, chatbots, and a whole host of other automated services that are increasingly integrated into a customer’s experience, it will become more important than ever that the front-line humans serving and supporting customers directly when they need it most have the necessary communication, empathy, and tactful problem-solving skills that ensure we are delivering the highest possible quality care.

Self-Service: As a younger generation of consumers gains more purchasing power, they also want and expect to find their own answers when they need help. This is not to say that phone support is dying, but the rise of digital purchasing, social media, and text-obsessed users with short attention spans will require the contact center to provide customers with more opportunities to help themselves. This might seem counterintuitive, but given the treasure trove of customer data contact centers sit upon, leaders in the space will continue to invest energy and resources into providing customers with ways to get the help they need without requiring a live interaction - whether that’s via carefully crafted and managed knowledge centers, IVRs that don’t make you want to pull your hair out, or help flows that are built into apps. The theme here is that we should be saving our human energy for high-touch, high-value interactions that truly need a person on the other end.

(Connect with Murphy on Linkedin)

Nick Glimsdahl, Director of Contact Center Solutions at VDS 

Customer Experience (CX): Companies will focus on CX to keep pace with rapidly changing expectations, as customers expect seamless, personalized, and easy experiences. CX will trump price and product as the primary brand differentiator within the year.

Companies like Amazon, Uber, and Zappos are raising the CX bar, and in the next three to five years, more companies will focus entirely on customer experience. According to the Northridge Group, 81% of consumers will leave a company because of a poor customer experience. Hence, successful companies will make it a strategic priority to retain customers because they know retention has a significant impact on their bottom line.

Automation: Self Service: Companies will provide more self-service options across more channels. Customers are using self-service more often, and they commonly use it to change a password, update an address, or check the status of an order. By 2023, Gartner predicts customers will prefer to use speech interfaces to initiate 70% of self-service customer interactions. If customers prefer a self-service option, companies need to ensure they are solving customer issues on preferred channels. The quicker a resolution is provided, the happier the customer.

Hybrid AI: Agent Assist: Companies will perfect the balance between people and machine. While robots are not expected to replace agents, companies will maximize on what AI does best, such as quickly sifting through data. The AI and agent combination will provide more personalized customer experiences. Contact Centers will bring in AI to help agents become more efficient, which will help them receive the correct information at the right time to help customers.

Cloud Contact Centers Will Become More the Norm. Cloud-based solutions empower companies to lower costs, improve the customer and employee experience, create an executable disaster recovery solution, improve scalability, and enhance security. Additionally, switching to a cloud contact center offers businesses of all sizes other significant benefits, including newfound flexibility, new and often better cost structures, and a competitive advantage when it comes to cost, speed, and accessibility. According to Garter, by 2022 contact center as a service will be the preferred adoption model in 50% of contact centers, up from approximately 10% in 2019.

(Connect with Nick on LinkedIn)

Brett Holleman, Client Strategist at LiveVox:

Regulation is Coming: One of the most significant trends which I see for the next year, especially for outbound dialing efforts will be the renewed regulatory environment particularly around TCPA, multichannel consent, and the pending FCC regulation. The new specifications, particularly the partnership between carriers and regulatory agencies, will have a profound effect on the ability of companies which rely on outbound efforts to complete their calls and establish right party contacts.

The Machines are Coming: Another significant development will be the rapid acceleration of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning into the contact center environment. While the full effects of this technology will probably be minimal during the coming year, this application of technologies will have a profound impact on staffing, knowledge-based responses and customer interactions. This potential disruption should be massive from both a customer and agent perspective.

More Digital Channel Interaction is Coming: I believe that digital channels will be the new focus of companies from a customer experience perspective, as preferences for methods of contact shift from predominantly voice to SMS/text, email and chat.

(Connect with Brett on LinkedIn)

Jessica Harris, Workforce Manager for SafeAuto:

Remote Workers: The percentage of remote workers will continue to increase over the next three to five years and will be a competitive benefit candidates desire. Companies continue to recognize the value in leveraging work-from-home resources not only for business continuity but for fulfilling less desirable schedule gaps. This practice will become even more relevant for supervisor and manager positions within the contact center. Many organizations are getting over the hurdles of data security and the technologies to train and manage remote workers continue to advance making the expansion in this space much easier.

Employee Self-Care: With health care costs continuing to rise, organizations are looking for additional incentives to save on these expenses, and this is where encouraging employees health and wellness will be a focus in an effort to off-set some of these costs. Offering employees courses such as healthy cooking demos, stress management tools/techniques, and competitions encouraging staying active will become more commonplace. In a contact center, this could equate to increased shrinkage time, and might require Workforce Management teams to get more creative with the balancing of resources to protect the customer experience.

Phone calls are not going away: Despite the significant rise in social media and chat interactions, the phone channel will not be going away. Although artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly popular, these technologies won’t be able to replace a live agent interaction, one that should deliver the more personalized service that customers still desire. It will be imperative that training strategies evolve and that agents selected for phone interactions be more consultative and have the ability to tailor each interaction. Differentiating service will continue to be a top customer demand, so the focus on the phone channel should not be short-sided just to accommodate additional media within the contact center.

 Have a prediction or an article idea you want to share? Email ICMI Resources' managing editor, Craig Idlebrook, at [email protected]