As the white-hot core of customer experience, the contact center needs to fundamentally evolve for organizations to remain competitive in an increasingly digital world. But what kind of changes are we talking about? What does this “new contact center” look like? Research suggests five essential investments for navigating the contact center of the future:
- Effortless self-service: Gartner predicts that by 2023, customers will prefer to use speech interfaces to initiate 70% of self-service interactions, rising from 40% in 2019. Powerful self-service automation capabilities provide simple, easy-to-navigate conversational interfaces that improve the accuracy, efficiency and effectiveness of self-service. If a customer decides to escalate the interaction, an agent will be prepared with all context of the conversation including communication and transaction history. In this way, “effortless self-service” means augmenting—not replacing—human connections; it recognizes the importance of both physical and digital along the customer journey.
- Agent augmentation: With so much emphasis on the customer experience, it can be easy for brands to overlook the experience their employees need for effectively serving customers. The contact center of the future will empower agents with modern desktops that allow quick access to information without having to search or leave their main screen (research shows that agent screen jumping costs a typical contact center $1.57 million a year in lost productivity). This includes intelligent virtual assistants that can siphon off repetitive or tedious interactions to keep agents productive, immersed and engaged (according to Dimension Data, 62% of executives expect virtual assistants to have a place in their companies within the next two years).
- Interaction insights: According to Accenture, 81% of customers want brands to understand them better to know when and how to approach them. Organizations must move from communication to conversation to drive the greater level of personalization customers demand. This means using real-time conversational analysis to better understand the types of experiences customers are having across communication channels (top trends, preferences, issues occurring). It also means analyzing these conversations to improve the agent experience, gaining a better understanding of their preferences, overall satisfaction, and where they may struggle with things like limitations in applications, procedures or policies.
- Smart Pairing: Needless agent transfers remain one of if not the greatest frustrations within the contact center. Interaction insights can be used to intelligently pair customers with agents based on key business insights (i.e. communication history, conversation patterns) and characteristics (i.e. sentiment, relatability, emotion) to drive more meaningful human connection while increasing revenue and lowering labor costs. At a bank, for example, a caller could be routed to a money management expert based on the fact that the last five questions asked via live chat were about account spending. Smart pairing helps avoid exhaustive efforts to get people to the right service rep and/or channel, accelerating outcomes and increasing the likelihood of loyalty and advocacy.
- Application ecosystem: An application ecosystem approach enables organizations to flexibly assess the contact center technologies they need for providing incredible customer and agent experiences. They can gain access to seemingly endless “click-to-add” apps and features (i.e. speech analytics, advanced reporting, smart routing, knowledge management, robotic process automation) to create a custom-fit contact center environment that meets the exact needs of their employees and customers. Gartner predicts that by 2025, the average contact center organization will be exploiting the benefits of an application ecosystem approach to better equip staff and enhance service.
There’s one thing all these investments have in common: artificial intelligence (AI). AI is driving truly revolutionary capabilities in the contact center that play into the sweeping trend of digital transformation, with most organizations now using some form of AI in this area of business. When implemented effectively, AI in the contact center reduces costs, improves revenues, strengthens workforce performance, and, above all, drives more meaningful human connection. The contact center of the future is built on AI, to the point that 81% of brands believe failing to get on board with AI now will cost them for the next decade.