Hello, 2024: 5 Contact Center Predictions
It’s that time again—out with the old year, in with the new. If you’re like most contact center leaders, you’re prepared to say goodbye to 2023—but how ready are you to greet 2024?
We don’t have a crystal ball, but as a leader in cloud contact center software, we have a close pulse and keen eye on what’s happening in the market. For their September market study, CCW surveyed the customer contact community about the contact center of 2030.
Your actions in 2024 can set the course for your contact center to seize these opportunities by 2030. Based on CCW’s 2030 outlook, we predict what this upcoming year has in store for contact centers, from technology to people and more.
1. Accelerated cloud transformation
Cloud transformation has been—and will continue to be—a staple in contact center predictions for almost the last decade. And while many of us might view a move to the cloud as “old news,” according to Metrigy’s Customer Experience MetriCast 2023, 41.5% of companies using contact center platforms still use on-premises solutions.
This number will inevitably continue to drop, though. According to CCW, “a whopping 92% of leaders say the majority of their contact centers will exist within a unified, cloud-based platform by 2030.” While the key word here is majority, and that prediction is still seven years into the future, we believe that in 2024, at least part of your contact center will be.
The path to the cloud looks different for every contact center. While many visualize cloud transformation as rip and replace, most contact centers gradually migrate their operations. This may be for change management purposes or, more commonly, due to existing investments, contracts, and unamortized on-premises infrastructure.
It’s easier than ever to migrate a part of your contact center. The key here is to partner with a contact center vendor that has the flexibility to meet you where you are and help you forge a path that makes the most sense for your business.
For example, you might have a legacy on-premises ACD or IVR but want to introduce new digital customer engagement channels or AI-powered conversational capabilities. Sharpen’s messaging capabilities can connect with your on-premises systems to offer your customers digital channels like SMS text messaging, web chat, video calls, and digital messaging and transform your voice-only call center into an omnichannel experience.
2. Accessible and actionable data will be more critical than ever
Data and analytics are the lifeblood of contact center success. According to CCW, 88% of contact center leaders feel data will inform most major business decisions in 2030. While this might initially elicit an “um, duh?” response from many, the reality is that many contact center leaders and agents are still flying blind when it comes to making real-time, day-to-day decisions.
A 2023 Gartner survey found that “47% of digital workers struggle to find information or data needed to effectively perform their jobs.” Although this research extends across work environments, it definitely applies to the typical contact center.
Most contact centers have loads of data to work with, but identifying meaningful data points across several systems can be challenging. The data is there but lives in different systems, is not easily accessible, and requires manual manipulation to extract actionable insights. Making heads and tails of this data often requires sophisticated expertise, and most contact centers don’t have data scientists on staff.
The inability to easily access, interpret, and act on their data creates organizational bottlenecks and impedes contact center leaders’ ability to shift from reactive to proactive operations and respond to changes in the market, customer preferences, etc.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Modern contact center software makes it easy for leaders to get (and deliver) actionable insights in real-time to impact change without data science expertise.
We believe that in 2024, data accessibility will rank as one of the top selection criteria for contact centers evaluating CCaaS solutions—just as high, if not higher, than omnichannel capabilities.
3. Proliferation of usable AI
While many organizations have been using artificial intelligence and automation in some way, shape, or form for some time, 2023 undoubtedly took it mainstream and ushered in a widespread era of AI.
So it’s no surprise the CCW Contact Center of 2030 found that “84% of technical leaders feel they need to implement AI into apps to maintain a competitive advantage – with 70% agreeing that the technology has graduated out of its experimental phase and now provides meaningful business value.”
We predict that in 2024, contact center leaders will move beyond the hype to identify applications of usable AI. But what do we mean by usable AI?
Usable AI is relevant, solves a specific problem, or addresses a specific need. In simplest terms, it’s using AI where it makes sense. Most importantly, it must have an obvious immediate impact.
A trick that you can ask vendors and partners is: “What is the low-hanging fruit we can go after first?” The answer to this question is actually the answer to a different question: “What does your software actually do today versus what is a vision of the future?”
The companies that experience first-mover advantages in the contact center industry will be those who roll out quick time-to-value, high ROI AI (“Usable AI’) versus those that find themselves in unending science experiments.
In addition, AI must be easy for your contact center leaders and agents to learn and interact with, and it should be industry and use-case specific. The cutting-edge AI out there doesn’t require you to have a PhD in machine learning. The analogy here that I like to use is that the internet really exploded when it was simple for users to engage with. Today we all use the internet without thinking about it. Usable AI must be so simple that there is no upskilling required.
We believe in 2024, the greatest opportunity for contact centers to reap the benefits of usable AI is in the context of the agent experience. According to Gartner research, 30% of reps will automate a portion of their jobs by 2026. From using automated quick replies in text interactions to sophisticated contact wrap-up/summarization capabilities and predictive interaction guidance based on the customer journey, usable AI and automation can eliminate time-consuming, mundane tasks so agents can focus on their most important task: serving customers.
Sharpen is investing in contact center AI where it makes the most impact on the metrics that matter—customer wait time, handle time, response time, agent productivity, and agent satisfaction and performance. It shouldn’t be hard to get value out of AI, and we should focus on the value it can inherently bring.
4. Increased investment in agent development and empowerment
Years ago, there were lively debates about whether AI would usher in the end of the contact center agent. And while the full impact of AI on the agent role is still unknown, most industry leaders now agree that agents aren’t going anywhere.
They will continue to play a critical role in the customer experience in 2024 and beyond—and, if anything, only increase in importance. In fact, “60% of leaders believe 2030’s contact center agents will only be responsible for highly complex or personal matters.”
But what is the profile of your average agent? Are they trained, equipped, and ready to manage sophisticated and complex issues effectively? If you’re like most contact centers, the answer is probably a resounding “NO,” or at least a shaky “MEH.”
The good news is that the aforementioned adoption of usable AI also equates to increased agent development and empowerment. Here are some key ways we expect contact centers will use AI to double down on agent development and empowerment in 2024.
- Timely interaction feedback. Pinpoint specific interactions where agents deliver or fall short of leadership and customer expectations and provide timely feedback.
- Targeted training and development. AI-powered insights can enable you to identify emerging trends and issues that agents need training to handle so you can provide training.
- More time for agent development. Contact centers have historically struggled to find time for training and development—it’s usually the first thing to fall to the wayside when things get hectic. However, the combination of AI-powered customer self-service options and the automation of mundane agent tasks should afford you more time to develop agent skills—and your agents will need them as they take on resolving the most complex issues.
But caution: don’t be tempted to equate higher self-service success with reducing headcount. Although there will undoubtedly be long-term shifts in contact centers’ workforce needs, we challenge contact centers to instead think of this as a long awaited opportunity to dedicate more time to agent development.
5. Closer partnership between marketing and customer service
For years, the contact center industry has been talking about changing the organizational perception (and reality) of customer service from “cost center” to “value center.” Increased customer-centricity across companies has helped elevate the function, and we believe this will continue to increase in 2024 as relationships strengthen between customer service and other functions—especially marketing.
Today, many organizations silo customer-facing interactions across teams. For example, marketing commonly handles all things social media—from posts and comments to direct messages—proactive upsell and cross-sell email campaigns, etc., and customer service handles all one-to-one communications.
However, 78% of leaders surveyed for the CCW Contact Center of 2030 believe the contact center will go beyond service to handle most customer-facing communication. That’s because today’s leaders realize that functional lines drawn in the customer journey create disjointed experiences.
We don’t believe this shift in ownership will happen overnight, but it begins with strengthening relationships between customer service and other functions. We predict that in 2024, organizations will take more deliberate steps to foster close collaboration and partnership between functions to break down data, system, knowledge, and cultural silos.
We also believe that the right contact center software can help expedite that process by unifying teams behind common customer engagement data and making it easy to gradually integrate new channels into customer service interactions.
Build the contact center of the future with Sharpen
2030 sounds so far away, and you might be thinking, “I’m just trying to make it to 2024!” But as you know, time flies when you’re having fun, and the steps you take in 2024 will determine your contact center’s trajectory into the new decade and beyond.
The good news is you’re not on this journey alone. Acting on these predictions in 2024 is easy with a partner who’s invested in your contact center’s long-term success. Sharpen’s cloud-native platform and passionate people will help you get up and running, achieve business outcomes, and never stop transforming. With a finger on the pulse of the contact center industry and ongoing investment in AI and other emerging technologies, Sharpen will ensure you have all the tools in your toolkit.
To learn more about what the future has in store, check out CCW’s Contact Center of 2030.