Contact centers have come a long way over the last couple of decades, nearly unrecognizable to an agent from the 1990s. While using social media, chat, and email to communicate with customers was unimaginable at that time, these channels are now essential for delivering a positive customer experience for a modern-day enterprise.
As technology continues to rapidly develop, contact centers will need to revisit the tools they use in order to keep up. Consider how the contact center landscape changed during 2021 alone. Let’s review what happened over the last year to see what lies ahead for 2022.
Recapping How Contact Centers Evolved In 2021
Unquestionably, the biggest change to contact centers over the last year was a shift to fully remote teams. While many contact centers made the switch to a distributed workforce in 2020, it was predominantly seen as a temporary situation. But plans to start moving agents back to on-site operations didn’t come to fruition, and contact centers put in place systems that prepared them to be remote permanently.
Research from Gallup shows that 45% of U.S. employees were working fully or partially remote in September 2021, and 91% of those individuals want to continue working at least partially remote. From an agent’s perspective, working from home minimizes many stressors they were previously facing: long commutes, limited time with family, and so on.
Contact center leaders have also changed their attitudes on remote work. According to CCW’s November Market Study, only 12% of contact centers believe they’ll ever go back to an on-site model. Perhaps the reason why is because agents have made it clear that they prefer a remote environment. This leads right into another top trend from 2021: a move toward leveraging analytics to promote agent empowerment.
It’s no secret that employee retention is an issue for many contact centers. It became even more problematic as the “Great Resignation” set in. While tactics like gamification or offering incentives can help encourage retention to a certain extent, there are more effective methods to keeping your talented agents on board:
- Providing effective and thorough training
- Fostering a supportive work culture
- Giving agents the tools they need to deliver exceptional experiences
- Providing individualized coaching
A robust coaching program that leverages metrics is especially critical to empowering agents to be at their best. A report from McKinsey & Company shows the most successful teams are those in which leaders devote 50% or more of their time to coaching. Analytics can help by providing supervisors a 360-degree view of agent performance, allowing them to focus on topics that are most likely to help their agents improve.
Finally, 2021 saw contact centers focus even more on personalization to enhance the customer experience. This ultimately contributes to a positive reputation as well as a healthier bottom line. Research from Accenture reveals that 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize them and provide recommendations that are relevant to them.
5 Contact Center Technology Trends To Expect In The Coming Year
With 2021 in the rearview mirror, it’s important to look ahead with a plan to improve your operations and enhance the customer experience.
1. Voice-Enabled Self-Service Will Give Valuable Time Back To Agents
The trend toward agent empowerment isn’t going anywhere. In fact, contact centers will take it a step further by leveraging voice-enabled self-service to free agents from tedious tasks that take up much of their time. Benefits of voice self-service also include improved convenience for customers and greater personalization.
How much can voice self-service actually handle? Here’s just a short list of examples to give you an idea of what’s possible:
- Password resets
- Order status updates
- Payment processing
- Locating professional services
- Troubleshooting technical issues
- Answering common questions
When voice self-service enables customers to resolve these types of issues, agents are able to devote their time to more complex issues that truly warrant their attention. That makes for a more rewarding experience for agents and faster resolutions for customers.
2. Advanced Speech Analytics Will Enable Targeted Coaching
Coaching is already an integral part of developing agents’ skills, but to ensure this tactic is as effective as possible, contact centers will likely rely more on advanced speech analytics. This solution leverages natural language processing (NLP) to reveal not only what customers are saying, but how they’re saying it.
Armed with this information, contact center supervisors can quickly identify areas where agents could use some additional coaching. Analytics can also reveal trends that indicate when it may be time to provide some training for the broader team on how to handle common situations.
3. SMS Capabilities Will Make For More Conversational Experiences
While many customers still reach for the phone when they need assistance resolving an issue, we’re starting to see a change in how exactly they use their device. A poll conducted by Harris Interactive found that 64% of customers with texting capabilities would prefer to use text over voice for service. For contact centers, this means an SMS solution will prove critical to keeping up with customers and competitors.
Leveraging a robust SMS solution delivers personalized experiences that customers are seeking. Research from VoiceSage shows that 90% of SMS messages are opened within 3 minutes, indicating customers are poised to continue the conversation.
SMS solutions also simplify life for agents who can use templated or customized messages. You can also send SMS-based surveys to gauge customer satisfaction and automate alert messages, such as outages.
4. IVRs Will Get A Much-Needed Update
Interactive voice response (IVR) systems have developed a bad reputation over the years. According to research, more than half of customers think IVRs deliver a poor customer experience due to irrelevant options, long menus, and eating up valuable time.
IVRs can be problematic for contact centers as well because they don’t always integrate with the primary system of record, which leaves valuable customer data siloed from the customer experience. More often than not, contact centers also have to reach out to an external provider or a separate department to make updates to the IVR, which can be a significant issue during peak call volume or outages.
In 2022, more and more contact centers will upgrade to an IVR solution that’s capable of leveraging data from their CRM or cloud platform and gives them full control of the customer journey. Not only will they be able to create lifelike workflows, which you can see in action in the above graphic, but they’ll also be able to keep them up to date.
5. Natively Integrated Platforms Will Become The Gold Standard
An IVR that’s not connected to the CRM or cloud platform is just one example of a larger issue many contact centers have identified. CCW’s 2021 November Market Study actually shows that disconnected and fragmented tools are the number one operational pain point facing contact centers right now.
What does this mean for 2022? That organizations will increasingly seek a contact center solution that natively integrates with their system of record, such as ServiceNow, Salesforce, or Microsoft Dynamics. This enables a seamless experience for agents, allowing them to access all relevant customer data and trigger automated workflows within a single, intelligent platform.
Start Becoming The Contact Center Of The Future
While we can’t exactly predict what will happen in the new year, each of the above contact center technology trends signals a movement toward intelligent solutions that deliver innovative, personalized, and integrated experiences for agents and customers alike. Achieving those outcomes will be important no matter what takes place throughout 2022.
Some organizations have already made significant strides toward future-proofing their contact centers. Consider Nissan’s Global People Services division, which recently selected 3CLogic’s contact center solution to help them deliver a complete omnichannel experience and identify opportunities for continuous improvement. Will your organization be next?