There have never been more technology solutions available to contact centre operators than there are today and the rate of growth only seems to be accelerating. Whether it be for agents, customers or management teams, technology is striving to make our interactions quicker, easier, more efficient and lower cost. But with so many products on offer, how do you choose which technologies and business strategies to embrace and which to turn away from? How do you ensure that you invest in something that will make a meaningful difference?
Our product team, always on hand to help, uncover their thoughts on the short, mid and long-term future states of the contact centre.
What is driving change today?
Currently the contact centre technologies landscape seems to be driven by two phrases, that in most cases mean more or less the same thing - ‘Digital Transformation’ and ‘Digitalisation’. These are bywords for the application of digital technologies that can be split into two broad camps, customer facing technologies which enhance experience and agent technologies which enhance efficiency.
The drivers that sit behind this change are relatively simple, customer behaviours are changing and with it their expectations of how brands should interact with them. The proliferation of choice that is making our technology landscape so complex is happening everywhere. Customers won’t wait on hold for 20 minutes anymore, they will just choose a different supplier who better meets their needs.
In many cases it is brands like Amazon that have trained them to feel like this. What once took a trip to the shops, an interaction with a sales person and an interminable wait for delivery is now available with one-click ordering and same day delivery. Our expectations around access to information are the same, if it isn’t in an app, online and instantaneous it’s a negative experience. So let’s explore the changes we see coming to meet this need.
The big digital transformation initiative to discuss in the short-term is the multichannel to omnichannel journey. Contact centres are at different stages with this, the more advanced contact centres have already added digital channels that include email, text messages and in-queue callback. Some are going further to add chatbots and direct messaging within social platforms such as WeChat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber.
However, these additional channels are not always linked in such a way, that makes data from multiple channel easily attainable for the agent, or that allows customers to channel hop without losing the thread/progress of their conversation.
The next stage is to optimise these tools and applications by creating an omnichannel platform. An integrated system which can ease the workload of the agent by having a single view of customer interactions with all tools and data aligned. Take a look at this video about the BuzzEasy Customer Orchestration Platform, which offers a simple way to deliver this.
A large part of the short-term planning, needs to be around business processes - training agents to become digital natives and ensuring our recruitment practices give us agents adept at the written word. The adoption of chatbots and crucially the connection between these and our online information will continue to be a key digital transformation project for many brands in the foreseeable future. The more information we have online and the better it is structured will exponentially increase the usefulness of bots to our customers.
The adoption of cloud based contact centre systems and contact centre systems based on common UC technology such as Microsoft Teams and the outgoing Skype for Business system is also going to power the change to an omnichannel and bot supported experience.
Whilst we will see the cloud contact centre becoming the dominant technology in the near future, the true impact of this will be felt a little further out with changes to working practices. Cloud applications support new more flexible ways of working, which address employees requirements for more flexible hours and work locations, whilst reducing overhead to management.
Cloud based systems can be accessed at any time from anywhere and performance monitoring can be conducted efficiently without the need for face to face management-agent interactions. Carbon emissions are coming under scrutiny and questions around the requirement of certain journeys are being raised, if the job can be done professionally somewhere closer or at home.
We will also begin to see customer to agent interactions dropping as natural language processing continues to develop. Digital versus human interaction is a question much discussed, our view is that in the short to mid-term the reduction of workload to human agents will be relatively modest.
We can see from currently adopted technologies, such as interactive voice response, that options for a call back or transfer to an agent are still preferable to a lot of customers. Human beings require emotional understanding and empathy to solve their problems and this cannot be substituted by artificial intelligence. Yet.
Driven by human acceptance of technology, AI and machine learning will continue to evolve and play a larger role in customer experience management and the contact centre. It is likely that it will seriously reduce human agent workload. It is much debated about when this will be, what it will make a contact centre of the future look like and whether ultimately customers will be happy with a tech heavy user experience. There are two key areas we can see its strengths:
The first is in identification. Presently, there are many customer experience journeys where you need to be identified by verifying your secure information. AI could play an impressive part in moving these (at times trying) processes forward with voice (or other personal features) recognition.
The second is with natural language processing. As machine learning learns about style and tone of language it will be better placed to deal with more conversational situations. We are already seeing AI models that are able to alter their tone, manner, volume and even voice to suit the mood of the customer. Being able to respond in the most empathetic way possible is likely to increase customer satisfaction.
Ultimately, this is likely to be the tipping point where we begin to truly accept these kinds of interactions and customers grow to favour them in a lot of easy to solve situations. However, it is our belief that human agent intervention will still be wanted by the customer and needed by the contact centre for more complex scenarios.
Geomant is at the forefront of research and development in contact centre technologies. We are ideally placed to do everything from integrating digital channels into your legacy contact centre system, to deploying a Microsoft Teams based cloud contact centre. We can even help lead your deployment of conversational AI into the business.
Get in touch for a free consultation on how to future proof your contact centre.