With 2019 coming to an end, it is now time to check the rear-view mirror, reflect on the evolving realities throughout this year, and to look further up the road as new trends set the pace of a decade ahead for contact centers and customer service strategy.
In 2019 the adoption of AI made strides moving from an often confusing and amorphous concept to real-world application in customer service. Since many companies are still hesitant to trust automated “bots” engaging directly with their customers, the initial strategy along the AI maturity curve has been to point AI-based assistants toward the agent to help them resolve inquiries faster. In this case, if the bot isn’t able to help, at least the agent can continue with the resolution process — no harm, no foul. Agent-facing AI assistants are impacting service strategies by improving traditional KPIs like Average Handle Time (AHT), First Call Resolution (FCR) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT).
As AI-based assistance moves increasingly to customer-facing roles to handle simple, rote queries, live agents will be left to handle more difficult questions. The strategic consequence of this is that agents will need to be equipped and empowered to handle these more complex issues. This may require changes in hiring practices, as well as enhanced training. It may also impact compensation, as these will be more senior roles. The good news is that AI will also be there to assist agents in handling these tougher questions, and finding qualified agents will be easier because they can be hired anywhere.
Also, this year we have started to see an acceleration of the “contact center without walls”. Due to several converging industry trends, the notion of the traditional “sea of heads” in a massive room is being replaced by a more distributed model where ‘support staff’ can be located anywhere. The next three resolutions relate to these trends:
Contact centers need business agility to expand (and contract) their pool of agents and finding qualified staff in one location can be difficult. If agents can be located anywhere, your options to build a great team will exponentially grow.
Today’s generation of agents demands more empowerment, autonomy and flexibility in their roles. Sometimes referred to as the “Millennial factor”, this trend must be considered, particularly given the role’s already high turnover rates.
Recognize that subject matter experts may not exist within the walls of the traditional contact center — they may be in the legal, finance or engineering departments, for instance. These people have often been disconnected from the contact center because they are on a different phone system (UC), making collaboration difficult if not impossible.
This final resolution relates to the reality that traditional on-premises and first-generation cloud contact center platforms cannot support the ever-evolving nature of customer service. Technology will continue to evolve to support the distributed and empowered agent, and the enterprise subject matter expert. These technologies include:
To help you start 2020 on the right foot, customer service strategies must follow these trends through a new cloud platform. Cheers to an exciting new decade ahead for innovative companies wishing to make customer experience a competitive advantage.
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