Published: February 14, 2023 | Comments
A version of this article originally appeared in No Jitter, a partner publication.
David Myron, Omdia's principal analyst for business platforms and applications, recently chatted with NICE's head of product marketing for workforce engagement management, Shahar Admon, to discuss the macroeconomic forces the pandemic imposed on contact centers. Their discussion is available rel="noopener noreferrer" as the No Jitter on-demand webinar "Enhance CX in an Economic Downturn by Migrating to CCaaS at Your Pace."
Here are the highlights of that conversation.
Macroeconomic Forces Pushed Contact Centers to a Speedy Digital Transformation
Omdia research conducted in 2020 estimated that the pandemic forced 75% of contact center agents to work from home (WFH). The transition was overwhelming for many contact centers to handle at once—and though some endured the challenge well—others didn’t. Contact centers struggling the most were housed in on-premises-based environments. Many of these contact centers didn’t offer digital channel options for customer service and had little or no experience managing remote workers.
“A move to cloud operations and digital channel implementation plans originally scheduled for five to eight years in the future were by necessity accomplished in a few days to a week,” Myron said. Suddenly, a new normal existed—one that required an omnichannel approach, an increase in digital and self-service options, location-independent agent workforces, plus new technologies and tools that optimized the worker experience.
Because of the significant increase in remote work during the pandemic, organizations wondered if a complete return to the physical office would be a positive employee experience, Myron says. He added, “Hybrid work offers greater flexibility for many employees and allows organizations to reconsider how they utilize their office space, plus rel="noopener noreferrer" how and where work gets done.” rel="noopener noreferrer" Omdia’s Securing the Mobile Workforce State of the Union report says 54% of enterprise employees who can work from home are either fully remote or hybrid.
Though the start of the post-pandemic world is debatable—i.e., some experts say it’s started or is starting soon—Omdia says organizations expect 34% of their employees will remain at home when it does. Myron also says not to ignore rel="noopener noreferrer" macroeconomic headwinds rel="noopener noreferrer" which could shape future rel="noopener noreferrer" workplace conditions. The Conference Board research group reports that 77% of CEOS surveyed in Q3 of 2022 say economic conditions have worsened over the past six months.
“When you combine the desire for employees to work from home, [with the] success enterprises have had with cloud solutions during the pandemic, and the macroeconomic forces weighing on the public and private sectors—there’s a strong case for migrating to the cloud,” Myron said.
CCaaS Investments Soar
Myron says the current economic headwinds make the old cloud benefits—lower upfront IT costs, reduced IT staffing, and instant software updates—new again.
According to Omdia data, hosted agent positions are expected to grow globally at a compounded annual growth rate of 11.4% from 2019 to 2025, while global on-premises seats are expected to decline by 5.9% per year through the same forecast period. In 2025, global hosted positions are expected to surpass global on-premises data positions, with more than 5 million agents using hosted solutions globally.
Omdia expects North American on-premises seats to decline by 7.3% per year while North American hosted agent positions to surpass global on-premises data positions as soon as next year. Additionally, Omdia expects the European-hosted agent positions to outnumber on-premises agent positions in the region during 2023 or 2024.
“One of the reasons why contact center as a service (CCaaS) investments have soared recently is because agents can use it anywhere—in the office, at home, or a hybrid work environment,” Myron said. Omdia also observed a rising interest in interactive voice response (IVR), automatic call distribution (ACD), call routing, and scheduling. “We’re also seeing AI and machine learning solutions help agents in real-time with agent assist capabilities, such as real-time recommendations.”
When looking to purchase agent assist technologies, Myron says business managers should “look for a solution that detects customer issues, finds related content in the connected repositories, and provides rel="noopener noreferrer" recommendations to help agents rel="noopener noreferrer" resolve the issue.” rel="noopener noreferrer" Earlier this year, Omdia rel="noopener noreferrer" published its first Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) Market Tracker and Forecast report, which shows that about half of CCaaS vendors include agent assist capabilities, and the other half announced rel="noopener noreferrer" partnerships to integrate rel="noopener noreferrer" these capabilities.
Customer rel="noopener noreferrer" Support Investments rel="noopener noreferrer" Excel in the Enterprise
According rel="noopener noreferrer" to Omdia’s 2022 IT Enterprise Insight survey of over 6,250 technology executives, workforce optimization (WFO) is one of the most sought-after software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications across the enterprise. The survey found that investments in cloud-based WFO systems led all other cloud-based customer support investments in 2022, and rel="noopener noreferrer" 65% of organizations worldwide rel="noopener noreferrer" expected to increase rel="noopener noreferrer" strategic or new investments rel="noopener noreferrer" or upgrades in cloud-based rel="noopener noreferrer" WFO by the end of the rel="noopener noreferrer" year.
Data from Omdia’s Workforce Optimization Technologies Forecast – 2021–26 report includes workforce optimization technology sales from 2019-2021 and forecasts sales from 2022-2025 (below).
Throughout the six-year forecast period, global WFO sales are expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 7.07%--reaching a total of 3.27 billion in 2025.
Myron attributed the sector’s growth to the top two sub-sectors: workforce management (WFM) solutions (in blue) and call recording solutions (in bright purple), in the third bar from the left of each grouping. Myron explained that WFM solutions and call recording are the only two sub-sectors with more than 500 million annual sales globally.
Myron explained that schedule management and coverage forecasting for a dispersed workforce could be challenging, so workforce management is popular.
But why is call recording getting so much attention? “The simple answer is voice has finally entered the digital revolution.” In the CCaaS Market tracker report mentioned above, more than 25 vendors surveyed offer call recording, and more than half provide transcription capabilities.
“This is a big deal because the voice channel has historically lagged in digital channels—in terms of the amount of information and insight it can capture—forcing organizations to heavily rely on agents to enter customer data manually into the customer record,” Myron said. Now, calls are recorded, transcribed, and digitally stored—and the data they contain is searchable. “Like any other digital data, [the calls] can unearth hidden gems of data and insight, such as historical trend analysis and real-time analysis.”
In today’s environment, where contact center managers are responsible for in-office, remote, and hybrid employees, it can be difficult to monitor call handling standards, agent performance, regulatory corporate compliance risks, dispute resolution, customer experience, and customer satisfaction. However, when sentiment analysis and agent assist combine with transcription and speech analytics, Myron explained that these technologies could help remote workers, for example, meet key performance indicators (KPIs).
Managers can also leverage speech analytics to identify agent's and salespeople's performance gaps for any necessary training and coaching recommendations, Myron described. “More advanced enterprises are leveraging rel="noopener noreferrer" AI-enabled speech analytics rel="noopener noreferrer" for real-time insights rel="noopener noreferrer" into customer and agent rel="noopener noreferrer" sentiment analysis for quality rel="noopener noreferrer" monitoring, customer rel="noopener noreferrer" satisfaction, and training purposes.”
Omdia’s State of the Digital CX 2022 survey reported that 93% of organizations using AI-enabled speech analytics yielded value from their deployments.
Technological Recommendations for Remaining Competitive
Even in today’s customer-focused, digital-first world, voice is still one of the most popular customer interaction channels. Consequently, to remain competitive, Myron said, “Organizations must embrace digital transformation and prioritize the customer experience by capturing and managing relevant voice data.”
With WFH environments and industry regulations, Myron says organizations must also leverage call recording, transcription, and speech analytics to monitor all employee and customer interactions. “Enterprises should leverage a call recording solution that improves customer self-service, agent-assisted interactions, and provides the intelligence needed to meet and exceed customer expectations.” He added if and when they do, “they should look for one that can be deployed in the cloud, on-premises, or in a hybrid way.”