Ok, so we don’t have flying cars powered by recycled goods like Doc Brown thought. But technology is changing our world fast.
Every industry is more digitalized and more automated every year. It’s hard to keep up. And, It’s easy to think “oh, my contact center needs that,” every time you see a new product come to market. Believe me, I’m tempted every year to upgrade to the newest phone, get the newest laptop, buy a newer model of x,y, and z. But, that gets expensive. Fast. And, some upgrades aren’t actually for the best.
Before you jump all in on the latest trends and tools, you need to know what the future of the contact center looks like.
You can’t get a new software system every year. You can’t build every new trend into your processes every six months. You’ll never be able to learn and train your team on every new project management tool. How on earth do you discern what trends will stick around? How will you know when to go all-in on a new tool or when to pass?
Keep up with where your industry is heading, so you can predict what technology you need. After all, you don’t want to get left in the dust and have to play catch up.
Let’s look at some statistics and coming trends, so you can prepare your workforce and digital landscape for 2020 and beyond.
The Future of the Contact Center
1. By 2020, 25% of customer service operations will use virtual customer assistants like chatbots, up from 2% in 2017. (Gartner)
Think of how many Google Homes and Amazon’s Alexas live in homes worldwide. In the last year, there were more than 100 million Amazon Alexas sold. And, nearly 1 billion devices worldwide use Google Assistant. These voice assistants in our homes and our phones shift our expectations of service. They make our calls, answer emails, order retail items, or play music with a simple command.
Why wouldn’t customers want the same experience from the brands they interact with?
Gene Alvarez, Managing Vice President at Gartner, expects use of VCAs to rise as customers turn to more digital channels. These virtual assistants will take on the tedious tasks for your agents. And your agents will tackle more challenging problems that need a human touch.
Aside from how your customers feel, think of what voice assistants can do for you and your agents. With basic tasks off your agents’ plates, agents have more free time to help customers with bigger questions and issues. Those more meaningful interactions make their jobs a whole lot more rewarding. And, their engagement and retention increases. Consider VCA technology as you digitally transform you team. Then, you can advance agent skills and create time for the more important challenges you face.
2. 33% of consumers who ended their relationship with a company last year did so because the experience wasn’t personalized enough. (Accenture)
It’s not just business. It’s personal. Digitalization makes unique customer experiences possible. And as unique becomes the norm, customers will look for brands who cater to them and personalize their service. It’s important for customers to feel like the companies they do business with know them and care about them. When they don’t feel valued, they’ll bail.
Your customers want their service experience tailored to the right moment in their digital journey. They want your agents to know if it’s their first time reaching out or their 21st.
Think creatively to meet your customers where they are, and test out different training methods.
Break your team of agents into small groups. Give each group a specific set of customer problems or common cases. Get them talking about how to work through these customer pains, and coach them how to handle each scenario. The next time a customer reaches out, your agents will be better prepared to help them.
3. A reskilling imperative is on the horizon. By 2022, at least 54% of employees will need significant re- and upskilling.
Of these employees, about 35% will need at least six months of in-depth training. Another 9% will need at least a year of added training. And, some 10% of employees will need training that lasts more than a year. (World Economic Forum)
Navigating through a new system can be overwhelming. Every time you upgrade your tech or choose a new tool, your team will need new skills and training. Assuming they’ll learn as they go will only lead to frustration and some serious growing pains.
And, your agents will feel other pains, too. With the uptick in bots and VCAs, agents will need a more technical skillset to help customers. Bots will take on the typical tier one support tasks. So, your tier one agents will need to bump up their skills. They’ll handle more complex customer interactions and need to diversify their knowledge.
With that in mind, agent upskilling will be more than training on new technology. It means training for more in-depth product and service knowledge, too.
Consider how these digital changes will affect your hiring process. Are your prospective hires quick to learn technology? Are they on board with continued learning… all the time? Are they good at multitasking? Think about these essential skills as you hire more agents, too.
4. 70% of customers say connected processes, like a seamless move between channels or conversations backed by context from previous interactions, are crucial to winning their business. (Salesforce)
Customers want to reach out to your company and speak to an informed agent who can pull up their complete customer history. Your contact center is expected to know how each customer prefers to communicate with you, what products or services they use, and when they’ve reached out for help in the past.
Investing in intelligent analytics tools lets you collect detailed customer info from interactions. Use your contact center data to your customers’ benefit and to the benefit of your team.
Use data to power your omnichannel communications. Know where your customers reach out and how your agents can access data on each channel to solve problems. The future of your contact center is omnichannel communication.
Your customers should feel free to reach out via email, chat, or phone, and get the help they need. Find a system that is inherently omnichannel and customizable. It’s important for your omnichannel experience to rope in customer data to inform conversations. Omnichannel will empower your agents with knowledge to solve problems faster, without the stress of switching between platforms.
Can your current systems support these expectations? If not, it’s time to look to the future.
5. 77% of customers have a more favorable view of brands that ask for and accept customer feedback. (Microsoft)
Customers today want companies to adapt their needs. With so many options available, why would a customer stay loyal to a company who is resistant to customer feedback?
Feedback is everything when it comes to growth. As a manager, it’s part of your job to offer feedback to those under you so your agents can grow. As a team, it’s important to show your customers that you’ll take their feedback, and act on it.
Let’s say you have a customer who had a poor experience. She sat on hold for 30 minutes, so she decided to reach out using your live chat. But, after shooting off several “Hello? Is anybody there?” messages, she grew frustrated. After finally reaching one of your agents and getting her problem fixed, she offered some advice about her experience. She likes your product, but she wouldn’t want to go through that service experience again to get some help. Loyal customers want to see their own experiences get better with time. Wouldn’t you want customers to offer constructive criticism instead of turning to the internet to leave a bad review? Or worse, churning without a word?
Asking for customer feedback welcomes your customers into your contact center strategy. Embed customer surveys in your emails and chats to customers. Then, you get feedback right after an interaction instead of flooding their inbox days later. As customer experience grows as a differentiator, feedback is essential for growth and customer satisfaction.
6. A 2019 investment focus for 61% of organizations, training represents the top investment priority. Coaching narrowly follows; it is on the immediate radar for 60%. (CCW)
With new bots and shiny tech, it’s easy for your focus to veer from your agents. But, it’s incredibly important to invest in them as much, if not more, than the new digital tools you add to your team. Yes, digitalization is the new frontier. But, investing in employee engagement and empowerment is an industry mainstay. It’s vital to maintain the human touch in your contact center. That comes with a deeper investment in your agent empowerment.
Your team can’t successfully connect with customers when your agents don’t have the autonomy to deliver incredible service. Your agents need to be top-notch and not on the brink of burn out to provide amazing service. In the future of contact center work, pursuing agent empowerment means prioritizing learning. Agent empowerment happens in a variety of ways, but training your agents is one of the most critical. Invest in agent learning through your contact center platform itself.
Coach and train your agents, often. And, make it easier on yourself with coaching tools built into your contact center software, so you can offer real-time feedback and advice to your agents. In-line training saves you time and gives you an opportunity to pour into your agents’ development. Apart from coaching your agents, consider humanizing your KPIs, too. Metrics like the Agent Experience Score are agent-centered. This metric advocates for your agents. It tracks their holistic experience, so you can produce happier, more empowered employees. If it’s not a priority now, invest in your contact center agents for success in the present and future of contact center work.