Published: January 05, 2022 | Comments
Contact center leaders have been through a lot of upheavals this year. Customers are using more channels than ever, but they still expect seamless journeys and effortless, personalized engagement. Moreover, many agents continue to work from home, at least part of the time, removing them from their regular sources of support. And all the disruption we’ve seen—in contact centers and throughout society—has created new opportunities for fraudsters.
But there are plenty of reasons to be confident that contact centers will overcome these challenges in 2022. In my conversations with customer engagement leaders, I’ve heard four major trends that have stood out as the ones that will have the biggest impact next year.
The shift to digital contact centers has taken off and will accelerate
Almost every brand has seen a massive shift toward digital channels over the last year, and that’s not about to change. We often talk about meeting customers where they are—engaging them in their channel of choice—which is why the transition to a “digital contact center” will become a key priority.
A digital contact center is a cloud-based customer engagement environment where voice and digital channels blend to create effortless and seamless experiences in any channel customers choose.
Crucially, this relies on taking an AI-first approach, where brands automate the majority of interactions through engaging and effective self-service experiences. Today’s self-service is powered by conversational experiences that allow customers to speak naturally and seamlessly navigate to the channel that best suits their needs. AI won’t just boost self-service containment and reduce contact center volumes, it will also support human agents to work more effectively.
Brands will prioritize automation—and agent empowerment
In the digital contact center, AI will automatically resolve most routine inquiries, freeing human agents to handle more complex or high-value cases.
So next year, I expect to see a renewed focus on agent experience. As digital self-service experiences become more effective and resolve more issues, agents will need support to deal with complex queries efficiently.
By using AI to give agents real-time customer insights, advice on the next best response, best practice guidance, product recommendations, and leveraging sentiment to allow the agent to respond in the most appropriate manner, digital contact centers will empower agents to bring their A-game to every interaction.
As a result, contact center leaders should expect to see significant gains in performance metrics like agent handle time, speed of answer, and ultimately improved CSAT scores. They should also expect to see a reduction in agent turnover, as AI reduces their cognitive load and helps them deal confidently with customer issues.
Personalization will step up into hyper-personalization
Personalized customer experiences are nothing new, but most are still fairly basic, like greeting people by name or recommending products based on purchase history.
In 2022, we’ll begin to see the move toward hyper-personalization accelerate. In a hyper-personalized experience, every interaction is based on a deep understanding of customer needs at that specific moment based on their relationship with the brand.
Powerful machine learning will underpin every customer journey in the digital contact center, pulling together the current conversation context, historical data, and recent interactions in every channel to create a complete understanding of each customer’s needs. In fact, the best AI solutions will even predict customer needs, offering customers the answers before they even have to ask.
Balancing CX with security will become much simpler
In the past, strengthening security meant adding friction to the customer experience, with multiple hoops for customers to jump through before getting answers to their questions. Plus, the knowledge-based authentication (KBA) methods contact centers have used for years aren’t even secure—criminals can buy or steal PINs and passwords with ease.
Many brands have already replaced KBA methods with biometrics solutions that identify customers based on unique characteristics in their voice or digital behavior. They’ve found that authenticating people using biometrics creates a win-win situation. Customers get a faster, less frustrating, and more secure experience, and contact centers get lower AHT, higher agent efficiency, and dramatic reductions in fraud losses.
Next year, it’s likely we’ll see many more organizations turning to biometric authentication as a way to bolster their fraud defenses while giving customers simpler, faster experiences.
Is your contact center ready for 2022?
Each of the trends I’ve outlined here depends on one thing: the power of AI to transform customer engagement and contact center operations.
Plenty of contact centers already use AI in various ways to do small but important things, like having a basic FAQ chatbot answer simple queries or an IVR that can intelligently route calls to the right agent.
But in the digital contact center, AI supports everything—from personalized self-service experiences to ironclad security—helping customers and the business get more value from every interaction. It’s a compelling business case, which is why I predict we’ll see lot more brands join the digital contact center revolution in 2022.