Contact centers are dynamic, evolving workplaces, which makes industry trend spotting an exciting sport — sometimes prone to error — but always full of discovery! Like many industries, contact centers have seen the pace of change accelerate during the COVID pandemic. Last year was no exception.
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2022 was a wild ride as people continued emerging from COVID lockdowns but retained many of the new behaviors and norms established during the pandemic. This includes an expectation for flexibility in the workplace, the option to work from home and a desire for sophisticated tech tools that support more personalized digital interactions. Set against the backdrop of global labor shortages and increased importance placed on customer service, call center agents find their status rising.
It’s one of several positive trends we’ve seen emerge from the cultural change wrought by COVID. Bigger, faster data also continues to change how we work and communicate with each other. And its impact is felt in the contact center too. You can check out all of our predictions for the upcoming year in our newest in-depth resource: Contact Center Trends 2023. Since you’re here, you can enjoy an appetizer before the main event. Let’s dig in!
A New Focus on Agent Well-Being
Call center agents drive sales growth, create happy customers, and gather data that’s essential to innovation — and this is the year we think they’ll be recognized and rewarded for it. It’s not just us: Businesswire reports that 90% of business decision-makers say they’re focusing on improving their contact center agent and employee experience.
The facts paint a compelling, and troubling, picture. Agent churn is at a staggering high in the contact center industry. At the same time, call center agents are central to the sales process in product-led growth companies where they convert freeware users into paying customers with their excellent customer service. In this business model, no customer support means no sales.
These factors add up to a new industry focus on keeping agents engaged, healthy and happy. Did we say happy? Yep. The Harvard Business Review reminds us that happy employees are the key to happy customers.
Here are some of the improvements we expect agents to see in 2023:
- Higher wages and sales commissions
- Improved tools and technology
- Flexible work arrangements
- On-going training and advancement opportunities
- Employee health and wellness recognized as a KPI
IVR and Self-Service Step Up
Explosive growth in raw computing power is transforming self-service tools like Interactive Voice Response (IVR), making them smarter and more powerful — and customers are noticing.
But IVR is not new, you say! And you’re right. IVR was one of the first automation trends in call centers, but the technology is even more relevant today. In fact, in the past three years, 40% of companies say they’ve dramatically increased their use of IVR, and one in three companies adopted IVR for the first time.
What’s changed? AI-powered advanced speech recognition and natural language processing (NLP) allows IVR and chatbots to handle much, MUCH more sophisticated conversations and transactions.
We’re sure that 2023 will see widespread adoption of even more IVR applications.
Smarter self-service tools are powering this adjacent trend: pro-active self-service. Gartner says proactive or outbound customer engagement interactions will outnumber reactive interactions by 2025. Uber’s live delivery tracker is an excellent example of proactively giving customers the self-service tools to answer their questions — “when will my food arrive?” — so human customer service can be used for more pressing concerns. Analytics will be key to this process and will help call center leaders know what’s working, what’s not, and where adjustments are needed.
The Data Domination Continues
Data still rules and the impact the data explosion is having on the contact center industry is profound.
Cheaper data processing and storage capabilities are fueling artificial intelligence, natural language processing and machine learning — which means companies can now distill customer understanding drawn from millions of data points. Faster than you can say “quantum computers” (they’re real; they’re here), you’ll be able to offer your customer an experience as unique as their own fingerprint.
This data processing power will be fueling self-service tools, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here are more ways AI capabilities are starting to improve contact center operations:
- Predictive analytics help with staffing and can track and record how things like product rollouts affect call volume.
- Speech analytics identify tone and emotion in customers’ voices, tagging and analyzing them to find shortcomings in customer service scripts, and correcting them with more effective versions.
- Text analytics do a similar deep dive on written interactions, mining conversations for emotions and patterns so businesses can understand how customers feel about the service they’ve received.
A word of caution: Explosive data growth and computing at this level consumes massive amounts of energy and is not environmentally sustainable. Without practices like shared data pools and hardware certification, AI will consume more energy than the entire human workforce in a few short years. Regulatory oversight and swift development of best practices is a must.
Full Speed Ahead for 2023!
We predict that 2023 will be a full-speed-ahead kind of year, where some of the trends we’ve seen simmering away for a while begin to reach the boiling point. More than ever, call center agents are at the center of the conversation — driving growth, supporting sales, and providing expert CX with the support of state-of-the-art self-service tools. Their stock is going up and it’s a welcome change!
READ THE FULL GUIDE:
(It doesn't cost a cent, we promise!)