, Mila D’Antonio
Published: February 23, 2023 | Comments
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 75% of contact center agents were forced to work from home. A move to the cloud and digital self-service operations enabled agents to work remotely and contact centers to adopt a digital-first approach to support. Since then, enterprises have been moving back to the office, but the majority (58%) “are encouraging a hybrid return to the office by working with employees to identify patterns that are favorable,” according to Omdia’s “Future of Work 2022: Hybrid Work Insights” report.
Looking ahead to a post-pandemic world, preferences for remote working environments, combined with the growing acceptance of hybrid work, will likely keep both environments around for the long term. In preparation for this, contact centers will require an omnichannel approach, AI-powered automated self-service options, remote workforces, and new technologies and tools that optimize work-from-home environments.
“Automation, cloud, voice, and AI technologies can transform customer and agent engagement.” – David Myron, Principal Analyst, Omdia
The world of work will continue to change, presenting businesses with many new challenges and opportunities. Cultural shifts and changing work styles are moving us into an era of “Great Experimentation” as organizations look for new and digital-first ways to improve customer outcomes. Given these circumstances, enterprises of all sizes must balance the need to reduce operating expenditures and improve their customer experience (CX). Customers want their experiences to be simplified, digital, and unassisted. As a result, enterprises across all sectors and regions share the urgent dual need to adopt a digital-first approach for engaging with customers and continuously innovate and scale to stay competitive.
Omdia sees four key trends affecting contact centers in 2023:
- Declining agent populations: After years of steady growth, 2023 marks the beginning of a multiyear decline in North American and European agent positions. High labor costs and high interaction volumes have encouraged contact centers to leverage automation and AI where possible.
- Cloud licenses surpassing on-premises installations: Hosted/cloud agent positions are expected to grow through 2025, surpassing on-premises deployments in mature markets and growing at a more rapid rate in emerging markets.
- Voice joining the digital revolution: Call recording and speech analytics are growing in importance because once calls are recorded, transcribed, and stored as digital data, they become searchable. This data can then be used for compliance efforts, customer satisfaction, and sentiment analysis, agent behavioral analysis, real-time agent assistance, and coaching.
- AI enabling personalization and automation at scale: AI helps customers and agents shift from unassisted to assisted digital experiences. The most popular use of AI in the contact center is for social listening and ticketing, with 58% of enterprises stating they have already deployed the technology. As for AI that centers plan to deploy next, intelligent call routing leads the way with 50% of centers planning to deploy it within 18 months, closely followed by agent assist at 47%.
Omdia predicts that the customer engagement market will focus on automation and intelligence to enable precise decision-making. The changes will primarily focus on moving data to the center of
customer engagement architecture to enable real-time, AI-powered insights. This trend will prompt consolidation of customer-facing interfaces, as enterprises seek unification of systems and applications that surface the data.
- What else can contact centers do to prepare for this changing world?
- Create one workforce of humans and bots. The number of agents in developed regions is declining, so hiring enough talented agents will remain a challenge. To fill the employment gap and ensure positive customer experiences, call center managers must build a workforce with a carefully balanced mix of people and bots.
- Optimize for cloud-based deployments. The COVID-19 work-from-home mandates highlighted the work-from-anywhere benefit of cloud and CCaaS solutions. As executives face macroeconomic concerns in 2023, the original benefits of the cloud (e.g., low upfront costs and less IT maintenance) come back into focus.
- Provide multichannel voice and digital accessibility to customers, including self-service applications. Multichannel access based on customer choice that is handled on a remote agent basis must retain the control that managers have become used to in premises-based systems. Investments in enhanced workforce engagement management (WEM) must be planned for and made.
For more on the trends shaping the contact center in 2023, and Omdia’s insights and recommendations, join the conversation Mila D’Antonio and David Myron are having with Zoom on March 14, 2023. Register today!