Today's contact centers are far from the antiquated call centers of yesteryear; they integrate technologies such as AI, chatbots and cloud computing to improve customer experience.
Call centers used to be the norm, in which agents handled customer service solely through inbound and outbound calls. Now contact centers are more mainstream, and involve a variety of communication channels, such as instant messaging, chatbots and interactive voice response systems.
These four contact center trends aim to improve a business's workflow, which will ultimately improve customer experience.
Cloud contact centers
Cloud hosting is one major contact center trend that promises improved scalability and near-instant access to new features, but a migration from an on-premises contact center to a cloud-hosted one is no easy feat.
Cloud contact centers aren't a good fit for every business. Organizations that have recently invested significant resources into an existing on-premises contact center should probably not transition to the cloud. Businesses with defined siloes must break them down before implementing a cloud contact center, because service agents must interact with teams in various departments.
If businesses decide that a cloud contact center is a good step, they must select the right software. Key capabilities often include both real-time and after-the-fact reporting, workforce management, call flows and transaction routing. Businesses must then determine the contact center use cases and a pricing scenario and find a cloud contact vendor that fits those parameters.
Chatbots are another contact center trend that can improve workflow, but businesses should understand their limitations first. Driven by AI and machine learning, chatbots can only respond to simple inquires; the success rates of more complicated requests tend to be lower for chatbots. Still, the ability to handle simple requests is helpful because chatbots can perform tasks such as reset passwords and take payments.
When a customer needs help that only a human can handle, chatbots can help by transferring the customer to the correct live agent, offer recommendations for the next step or provide solutions to a live agent by conducting research in the CRM system.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of chatbots is the consistency of service. Chatbots can help customers 24/7, which can ease contact center staffing concerns.
Other AI tools
AI technology is just beginning to work its way into contact centers, and the opportunities are plentiful. AI won't replace live agents; instead, it will help them do their jobs more effectively. AI tools can 'listen' to live chat interactions between an agent and customer and perform automated inquiries into a CRM system or knowledge base. If there isn't a clear answer to a customer's inquiry, AI tools can also provide response options to live agents, who can then select an appropriate response.
AI in contact centers can help businesses by predicting behaviors such as the number of calls that a contact center will likely receive in the upcoming shift, so businesses can schedule the right number of live agents. Some AI technologies can even predict what the calls will be about.
Improving the contact center agent experience
Historically, contact center agents have experienced a variety of problems such as low pay, limited room for internal career growth and lack of coaching. These factors likely contributed to high turnover rates among contact center agents. Another contact center trend is an increased effort to improve these experiences.
These efforts include improving compensation, investing in agent analytics, increasing coaching and developing more stable, long-term career paths for live agents. Some businesses attempt to inspire agents with gamification programs that encourage competition with weekly badges or gift cards.
One contact center trend that will drive change in the agent experience is the addition of a chief customer officer (CCO). About 37% of organizations in 2019 had a CCO, an increase in 25% from 2018, according to Nemertes Research. The CCO is responsible for improving customer-facing strategies and investing in resources such as a contact center.