Contact centers were set to change in 2020 if you go by the recent predictions. However, the coronavirus outbreak showed that hype outstrips reality. Intermedia Opens a new window CEO Mike Gold says the crisis revealed several infrastructure and technology inadequacies in the contact center industry. â€œDuring the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our partners’ customers found themselves unprepared to operate with their legacy on-premises contact center systems, meaning they had an immediate need for a cloud solution that would allow their employees to be productive while safely working from home. Even as companies start to go back to working in offices, we have all seen how important it is to have a business that can function as well remotely as it does in the office, and that’s why I think we’ll continue to see high demand for cloud solutions, including contact center, long after the pandemic passes,â€ Gold told Toolbox.
The far-reaching nature of the crisis means that IT leaders who are still chalking out digital transformation plans now have a ready business case to adopt cloud and AI to lead the shift to cognitive contact centers. Cisco defines cognitive contact centers as a hub that weave AI and cloud data analytics to drive â€˜predictive, proactive experiences for customers’. The crisis has also sped up the demand for automation and self-serve technology â€” virtual agents, IVR, and RPA in contact centers. HFS research predictsOpens a new window around 55% of major organizations will boost their investments in automation solutions. The survey also hints at an uptake in AI technology â€” indicating IT vendors are expecting an increased spending on AI.
Analytics and AI Will Rises to the Fore
For long, analysts have been evangelizing the vision of cognitive cloud centers that have become all too relevant in the current scenario. Experts Opens a new window peg around 80% Opens a new window of the call center operations can be â€œautomated away.â€ So, what’s stopping IT leaders from implementing integrated experience with omnichannel connectivity. Typically contact centerOpens a new window managers had to justify the investment in automated technologies through lower agent costs.
But that’s changed â€” in the remote-firstOpens a new window environment, metrics may need to shift from efficiency (e.g., get this person off the phone ASAP) to mostly experience-driven metrics (e.g., Net Promoter Score), Forrester’s Principal Analyst Ian Jacobs sharesOpens a new window .
Intermedia’s Gold notes customers want to use their preferred method of contact â€“ whether it’s a phone call, chat, text or via social media. â€œIn today’s world, people are looking to communicate beyond a simple phone call and frequently prefer other means of communication. A modern contact center needs to handle all of these different methods, and solutions born in the cloud are best suited to do that,â€ he said.
Short-Term Impact of COVID-19 on Contact Centers:
1. AI bots and virtual agents will be the new cost-effective touchpoints: The short-term impact will be an uptake of automationOpens a new window and AI technology. In these challenging times, self-service options such as chat and virtual bots can resolve low-value interactions in real-time, enabling agents to tackle complex queries in a sympathetic way. Virtual bots that respond to FAQs can help in reducing voice volumes and help agents focus on high-value tasks.
2. Self-service solutions will drive smarter interactions: Customer-facing organizations will need to double down on self-service tools such as diagnostic tools, knowledge base, virtual assistance and make it available across channels so that customers can access it easily. Besides owned channels (app, website, social media) organizations will need to leverage relevant forums to connect with their customers and provide answers to a range of questions.
3. Customer experience analytics will gain ground: According to Salesforce’s Opens a new window 2019 State of the Connected Customer report, 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. Investment in speech and text analytics solutions will help gain insights from call recordings, chat sessions, email, and other streams to understand sentiments and derive insights. This data can be used to identify gaps in CX and build meaningful customer interactions and also improve operational metricsOpens a new window .
4. Natural Language Processing tools (NLP) will help respond proactively: At a time when contact centers need to evolve from a reactive model to growth-oriented, Natural Language Processing (NLP) software can help support agents categorize tickets by events or issues and get more visibility into requests, thereby helping agents save time and resolve issues proactively.
Long-Term Impact of COVID-19
The digitization of contact centers is inevitable, but as Jacobs Opens a new window highlighted, don’t expect fully automated customer service organizations over the next five years. And while digital transformation has become a catch-all term for modernization â€” for contact center leaders it boils down to meet evolving customer and business requirements in the long-term.
That means staying in step with next-gen technologies and complementing it with traditional services. Business leaders can’t buy any off-the-shelf solution to accelerate the shift to digital but will need to do a blunt assessment of their needs to find the best-fit solution that is scalable for the post-pandemic landscape.
Has COVID-19 sounded the death knell for legacy call centers? Comment below or let us know on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window . We’d love to hear from you!