The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the entire business landscape. As customer behavior shifted from physical interactions to contactless digital transactions, businesses found themselves unable to cater to the emerging support and customer service needs.
Contact centers, particularly those in the health care, travel, government, and financial services industries, were overly burdened with inquiries from thousands of anxious callers seeking information and comfort. While remote employees struggled to balance work and home life, the contact centers witnessed significant absenteeism as workers tended to family commitments or lacked the necessary knowledge and infrastructure to operate from home.
Albeit measures to improve contact center performance, including setting up infrastructure, reskilling, and training agents to work in a distributed environment, many key performance indicators were negatively impacted –
Consequently, contact centers focussed on deploying technologies, like automation, artificial intelligence, and cloud technology, that helped them gain efficiency and cost-saving while redefining customer and employee experiences.
Here we present the top 9 contact center trends for 2021 to build agile, scalable, and resilient contact center operations.
In 2021, Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) will become a preferred operating model for contact centers around the globe. In the new normal, CCaaS will enable remote working for agents by offering a future-proof, cost-effective, and secure cloud environment for contact center deployment.
Additionally, AI will augment CCaaS platforms, empowering staff with real-time actionable insights and improved decision-making. Moreover, the COVID-19 crisis accelerated the need for alternate support channels; and AI chatbots will help provide quick and interactive engagement on various customer touch points, freeing up human agents to focus on other critical tasks.
Therefore, in the post-COVID era, organizations, small or large, will replace traditional on-premise infrastructure (brick-and-mortar structures) with scalable cloud contact centers for providing seamless omnichannel customer support.
Talkdesk, in its survey, concluded, 93% of leaders believed their contact centers would be hybrid or fully remote post-COVID.
The rapid technological transformations that contact centers underwent to serve customers better during the pandemic won’t disappear in a jiffy. Many companies have found operational benefits in continuing to function remotely.
The same goes for millions of people who have reaped the advantages and adjusted to remote working life, and given a choice; it is unlikely they would want to return to the workplace.
Therefore, investments in making a shift to remote work will translate into enhanced data security, increased customer analytics, and improved workforce management for contact centers. At the same time, customers will enjoy the benefits of a happy and productive contact center staff.
Amidst the uncertainty and panic surrounding the pandemic and lack of face-to-face interactions, customers called up contact centers to receive support on various issues. While phones alone could not handle the influx of customer demand, organizations needed more avenues to deal with the unprecedented pressure.
Alongside voice and email, organizations invested in other channels, including instant messaging apps, SMS, and social media, integrated with AI chatbots. By establishing omnichannel chatbot support, organizations were able to provide real-time customer service, economically, and at scale.
However, providing consistent customer support across all avenues requires cohesive backend integration and channel blending, and 2021 will be a year where brands will undergo such integrations to reach where their customers want them to be.
At Acuvate, we help clients build AI-enabled omnichannel chatbots with our low-code bot building platform, BotCore, to provide customers uniform support and easy access to information across a multitude of customer channels. With advanced machine learning (ML) capabilities, our bots can learn from past conversations and retain original context, so customers can switch channels without the need to start the interaction from scratch.
Having witnessed and experienced the massive upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 will also be the year when contact centers will increase expenditure on building a resilient, agile, and future-proof operating model, which would mean –
The integration of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) with AI chatbots to solve significant operational issues and automate contact center processes end-to-end will be a major trend in 2021.
An RPA powered chatbot can integrate with multiple, siloed back-end enterprise systems to retrieve information and manage more complex customer requests and queries at scale.
With RPA, chatbots will not only handle conversations and find information but also perform transactions on users’ behalf.
At Acuvate, we’re helping clients achieve this by integrating Microsoft Power Virtual Agents and Power Automate.
As more and more customers make a permanent shift to digital channels, artificial intelligence (AI) will play a significant role in contact centers by complementing human effort. Organizations will leverage AI and analytics to optimize operations and predict customer needs in the following manner –
As AI and analytics take up routine process optimization, the contact center manager’s responsibilities will focus more on enhancing HR and people management.
Having established dominance amidst the pandemic as the channel-of-choice in solving customer issues, IVR continues to have a stronghold in contact center operations. Improved customer service in 2021 would mean investing in better IVR functionality to tackle challenges related to traditional IVR, like navigating various menus and facing longer wait times before reaching the right agent.
With the increased adoption of IVR, customers expect a speedy resolution of their queries, which will involve a shift towards conversational IVR services.
Conversational IVR leverages text-to-speech technology in bots to provide engaging, accurate, and personalized human-like voice support. For example, the next time you want to book a flight, just call up support and say, “I want to book a flight to New York.” So, instead of going through the multiple IVR options, the bot will ask you for other details, including date of journey, time of the flight, etc., and book the available flight of your choice, or directly route you to the concerned booking agent.
Thus, conversational IVR will redefine customer experiences in 2021 by making quick and interactive engagement available to users.
At Acuvate, we help brands develop a voice of their own and deliver exceptional customer support by converting text to lifelike speech with Microsoft’s Azure Cognitive Services.
Learn More: Conversational IVR: The what, why and how
As contact center operations go digital, leaders will invest more money in ensuring information security and compliance with data privacy rules.
To retain customer faith in digital channels in 2021, organizations must place utmost emphasis on ensuring customer data isn’t compromised through various measures, like mandating remote login from a secure VPN. Automating IT security through AI is another method to reduce data-protection risks and prepare contact centers for a post-COVID era.
As uncertainty loomed during the pandemic, contact center agents worked 24X7 to help customers with critical inquiries and provide emotional support.
Contact center agents are responding with genuine empathy and care since they feel as worried and concerned as their customers do about this pandemic and its impact on everyone’s lives. That ‘I really know how you feel’ awareness will stick with them hereafter.
Bill Quiseng, CX Speaker & Consultant
At the same time, customers were also considerate about the longer than before waiting times. And as contact centers redefine practices, such mutual empathy is expected to continue in 2021 as well.
Contact centers are at the heart of every customer-serving enterprise. In an increasingly virtual world, developing highly personalized, valuable relationships with customers requires organizations to augment human interactions with technology.
The trends highlighted above will pave the way for next-gen contact centers. And, as you explore them, do have a look at our digital solutions, including our enterprise chatbot builder platform (BotCore), our Microsoft-powered RPA-bot integration, and advanced AI and analytics technologies that can reshape your contact centers in 2021 and beyond.
For more information, feel free to schedule a personalized consultation with our technology experts.
If you’d like to learn more about the top customer experience trends to watch for in 2021, please feel free to get in touch with one of our customer experience experts for a personalized consultation.