Technology changes fast. The tech tools that we use to be productive today make the tools from five or ten years ago nearly unrecognizable. Moving time in the other direction, it can be extremely difficult to predict which tools will be available in the future. The only safe prediction is that the pace of this improvement will continue to increase.
These advances increase what customer experience teams can do, but that also comes with a rising level of customers expectations. Not too long ago, customers handled all of their communication with companies via the phone: bookings, support, payment, etc. Today, people still use phones, but those devices aren’t just a way to connect people by voice, they’re now powerful computers that connect people in lots of new ways.
At the end of the day, contact center jobs are about communicating in the manner that solves a customer’s problems best and new contact center technology has to take that into account. Here are a few predictions about what contact centers (and contact center jobs) will look (and sound) like a year from now.
Multichannel vs. omnichannel
It’s no secret that companies need to use more than one channel to communicate with customers. The bigger question is how well those channels are integrated. In the recent past, channels have been spread wide, but not necessarily deep. Customers learned to interact with brands through Twitter and Facebook, but the content exchanged wasn’t that different from what would have been exchanged through a support email chain or a live chat. The conversations essentially stayed the same, but moved to different channels.
It’s probably wrong to say that channel expansion has stopped, but there’s a definite shift to omnichannel support that’s placing importance on the integration of channels rather than the number of them. Customers in the future will still want send companies texts and pictures related to their support issues, but outstanding support teams will find ways to connect one customer’s live chat to a Tweeted image and again to an email in a way that builds customer loyalty.
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It’s true, many contact center jobs of the future might be held by chatbots. As apps automate more personal and professional processes, support teams are going to find ways to let those apps communicate with each other to solve problems.
As 2016 came to an end, we saw a rise in chatbots that will continue to increase throughout 2017. These AI solutions save support agents time and attention bandwidth while also keeping customers satisfied with quick responses to standard requests. There are too many positives here for the trend to die down. That doesn’t mean that robots are going to replace agents, it just means that AI can start handling some basic customer requests while agents can focus on more high-touch requests.
Part of the increase in AI support is going to come in the form of text messages. It’s an easy way to provide customers with basic information while using no additional agent bandwidth. SMS messaging can be configured to keep customers happy in high urgency, low complexity situations.
To tie some of these trends together, SMS messaging can be incorporated into an omnichannel support solution so that customers who text or Tweet a photo of a product malfunction can then call a support line to discuss that image with an agent in real time.
In the upcoming year, video is going to find it’s footing in customer support. It’s more personal than a voice call and it provides an extra layer of context that standard phone calls don’t include: visuals. Think of all the times you’ve been on the phone with a company and have spent minutes describing something when a video could have fixed everything in one second. Contact center jobs will always include a lot of conversation, but the future is moving toward a combination of speech and visual demonstration.
Enterprising contact centers will find a way to solve problems using video. Not only is it visual, it’s also real-time, giving both customers and agents as much information as possible. Even better, it works the other direction too. Customers with issues about a product or a service can call support agents to literally show them a solution. Today, videos like this might exist in knowledge bases or how-to channels, but imagine how effective they could be if a real person were on the other end interacting with comments in real time!
Ultimately the future of contact center jobs is unknown, but the most heroic teams will develop strategies to use the available technology to stand out.