Before Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in January 2007, the most advanced wireless technology was a RIM BlackBerry that gave you basic access to your email and outlook calendar. 15 years later, you can do almost anything on your mobile device that you can do from your office computer – and then some.
In a matter of years, the way people interface with technology has massively shifted. Before we were equipped with smartphones, business was typically conducted in one central location. Everything from integrations to networking was configured from the office, so employees had more technical capabilities at their office desk than they ever had at home. This paradigm has flipped itself on its head. We can do anything from the palm of our hands that used to only be possible in an office setting.
In addition to shifting technical paradigms, COVID-19 forced organizations to accelerate digital transformation and rapidly enable remote and distributed workforces – making technology innovation and agent enablement top strategic initiatives for many contact centers.
The contact center technology landscape is rapidly evolving. Today’s consumers expect to self-serve and access information at a moment’s time – and they take these expectations with them into their professional lives as contact center agents. To keep up with rising consumer and agent demands, here are four contact center technology trends to pay attention to in 2022 and beyond:
1. Self-service is now driven almost entirely by consumers’ preferences and behaviors
While self-service was once a business efficiency play, it has transformed into a fundamental and strategic customer-centricity strategy. Historically, businesses focused on deploying self-service capabilities to expedite customer requests, save operating costs, and improve agent efficiency. Self-service is not a new trend. Instead, over the last 16 months or so, self-service has become more driven by consumers’ preferences, behaviors, and needs than ever before.
According to research by Zendesk, 67% of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative. Consumers today expect to be able to access website content, engage with chatbots, check their accounts through mobile applications, opt-in to text updates, and engage in other self-service activities – regardless of the business they are interacting with. COVID-19 heightened these expectations even further as businesses digitally transformed to continue serving customers.
For many organizations, consumers’ expectations have outpaced current self-service capabilities. As a result, companies must develop new strategies for unified, omnichannel experiences that consider interaction channels, technologies, and escalation processes – from self-service to live agent. Businesses that deliver consistent, relevant experiences to their customers across all channels – enabling them to do business on their own terms and by their own means - will be more equipped to remain competitive in 2022.
2. Agent enablement tools are key to a unified and simplified employee experience
Just as your customers need the ability to self-serve, your agents need to be enabled and empowered with the right technologies and tools to do their jobs.
Contact center agents often have to navigate multiple systems, which can complicate and overwhelm their ability to service the customer. Your agents need to access information across a number of systems like your CRM, ERP, billing system, and others. Key to solving this challenge is leveraging a fully integrated platform that provides the agent with a unified view of important customer information.
In addition to providing a unified agent desktop experience, agent enablement tools and technologies like softphone integration, workforce management, customer assist solutions, bots, and Robotic Process Automation can help you simplify and streamline your agents’ workload, giving them more time to focus on delivering high-quality, memorable interactions to your customers.
Without foundational agent enablement tools and technologies, you risk distracted agents, long wait times, inaccurate data representations, and worst of all, frustrated customers. Your customers shouldn’t have to wait for your agents to load new screens or navigate different systems. Nor should they feel neglected by an agent who is preoccupied by confusion with your organization’s systems. It’s critical that you treat your agents the same way you would treat a customer – give them the tools and technology they need to effectively and efficiently do their jobs, so they can focus on fueling exceptional experiences for your customers.
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3. Operational data and reporting is essential, but no longer sufficient
Every day we create roughly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. We live in the information age in which people are hungry for all the data they can get their hands on. As a result, the contact center landscape has developed strong, foundational data practices and operational reporting.
Contact center managers are often tasked with optimizing the expenses associated with their contact centers so they need access to data points like call resolution, response times, handle times, escalation rates, and others.
Analyzing these data points is critical to maintaining an optimized, high-performing contact center. However, many organizations fail to think beyond operational reporting because they think of their contact center as a cost center instead of an investment. Organizations should think beyond operational reporting to data that paints a bigger picture about how their contact center is impacting their bottom line. Once you have your operational contact center data in place, it’s time to answer strategic business questions like:
- Has our churn rate decreased?
- Have we seen increases in up-sell and cross-sell?
- Are our agents staying at the company longer because of job satisfaction?
- Is our lifetime customer value increasing?
- Are our customers generally more satisfied?
- What is our Net Promoter Score?
- Are our customers brand lovers, loyalists, or detractors?
- What is our cost to acquire customers?
- Has our revenue increased?
Remember, it isn’t just about the data you collect, it’s about how you leverage that data to uncover gaps or linkages impacting results, foster stronger relationships, personalize the experience, and measure customer profitability. We’ve merely scratched the surface in terms of what’s available in the contact center data and analytics sphere. Looking ahead, organizations are going to get much more sophisticated with their data strategies, especially as technologies like machine learning and AI advance toward every day deployments and standardized tools.
2022 will re-establish the importance of effectively leveraging large volumes of data from multiple systems, multiple sources, and across all ends of your organization. The end goal of any strong data and analytics strategy should be to make your data live and actionable, drive the next best action, and deliver exceptional, personalized experiences to your customers.
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4. Virtual assistants, chatbots, and AI will exit adolescence
When it comes to virtual assistants, chatbots, and AI vehicles, contact centers are still in the early stages of deployment. I like to use the analogy that we have the new car, but we’re still learning how to apply the power and limitations of autonomous driving.
That’s not to say organizations aren’t deploying these technologies. In fact, the opposite is true. The use of virtual assistants, chatbots, and AI to fuel customer interactions is steadily increasing. According to research from Gartner, 70% of customer interactions will involve emerging technologies including chatbots by 2022.
Most organizations are deploying chatbots with a specific goal in mind. Many of them are looking to automate more mundane tasks and free agents up to be more efficient in the role. Others are looking to deflect or contain calls to save costs.
The problem with deflection or containment is that often customers may be open to more valuable interactions if the technology doesn’t have the flexibility or range to identify opportunities. These can include upselling or cross-selling additional services, identifying gaps or issues seen, or creating more personalized experiences.
I believe we will slowly move away from basic call deflection and containment strategies. Instead, organizations will structure chatbots and AI to ensure their customers are getting not only what they want out of the self-service experience, but the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with the brand.
We’ve opened the door to the potential that chatbots and AI can bring forth for contact centers. The next step is to improve these technologies to center on emerging customer-driven self-service demands and superior customer experience and relationships. Customer journey mapping, voice of customer research, and continuous feedback loops will be key to understanding your customers and designing these self-service experiences accordingly. In 2022, we’ll see organizations reshaping the future of AI. They will shift to think about AI in terms of the total experience, not just a single interaction.
A strong customer experience rests on a strong technical foundation. Technology advances quickly, and it can be difficult to keep up. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. Avtex, a TTEC Digital Company has decades of collective experience in CX that enables us to help organizations innovate, enhance, and integrate technology ecosystems to deliver more exceptional customer experiences.