By Daniela Levi
In the last few years, the customer service industry has been upended by a combination of new pandemic-driven ways of working, the growing trend of digital transformation, and the continuously rising bar for positive customer service experiences. There are many new ideas, initiatives, and technologies flooding the market that aim to help the industry address its myriad challenges. How can you cut through the noise and industry buzz to zero in on the activities that will help you achieve your business goals?
Going into 2022, we’ve got our eye on seven trends that are expected to help call centers deliver service excellence while still keeping a close eye on their bottom line to ensure business continuity in an unstable economic environment. Many of these trends are fueled by advances such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and visual assistance. These technologies are paving the way for new possibilities for the future of call centers. Let’s look at some of the trends that are expected to drive this year’s priorities.
- The Distributed Workforce
After scrambling to set up remote working environments at the start of the pandemic, enterprises have largely recognized its advantages and adopted the WFH or hybrid model. In 2021, remote working has become a standard in customer service and will remain a mainstay in the future of call centers. The distributed workforce is not just a crisis response; the pandemic proved to many leaders that employees don’t need to be physically onsite to be productive. Quite the opposite. According to research, remote workers are an average of 35–40% more productive than their office counterparts. Remote work has other benefits as well. It offers employees the flexibility that has served to reduce turnover, expands hours of operation thanks to the follow-the-sun approach, and ensures business continuity if another crisis occurs.
- Digital-first interactions
Helping customers from afar is nothing new. For years, organizations have attempted to resolve more of their customer’s issues remotely to boost overall effectiveness. According to a 2020 report by the World Economic Forum, 84% percent of employers planned to digitize their processes, with the aim of transitioning 44% of their employees to work remotely. It’s no surprise then that remote assistance has hit a peak in 2021, driven mainly by customers’ rising expectations for self-service, the growing complexity of cases, and the emergence of new technologies such as cloud-based technologies, IoT diagnostics, video, AR, and computer vision AI.
- Rising demand for self-service
Today’s on-demand generation will not be kept waiting. Customers want to help themselves through mobile, web, phone, text messages, and more. 86% of customers have come to expect a personalized and relevant experience — with conversations with agents moving seamlessly between channels. Self-service also became a godsend for organizations whose lack of manpower during the pandemic relied on the technology’s call deflection to manage the daily workload. Self-service IVR was a popular choice, with 42% of organizations increasing its use on the heels of COVID. Expect omnichannel self-service — with human backup — to become a priority for the future of call centers in 2022.
- Automation as a tool for augmentation
Next year will see call centers trend towards automation in an effort to augment call center agents — not to replace them. Call centers can leverage AI to streamline internal processes, remove the burden of mind-numbing repeat actions, and empower agents to focus their energy on more strategic or complex activities. Automation also cuts costs and drives consistency, speed, and scalability to business processes. Accenture reports their clients experiencing time savings of up to 70% with AI-driven automation. What’s more, 84% of company leadership believes that AI is the key to achieving their growth objectives.
- Analytics for insights
Companies have finally grasped the hidden gem in customer analytics. The more call center agents know about the customers, the more likely they will be able to successfully assist those customers with their immediate issue. But even more significant, they will be able to provide a more personalized and relevant interaction to enhance the long-term customer relationship. 2022 will see an increased use of analytics to predict future issues in order to take proactive action and improve communication at all customer touchpoints.
- Safety in security policies
With more WFH agents, carefully and clearly defined security processes are more critical than ever. The upcoming year will find more and more companies implementing advanced cyber technologies and updating their access policies, such as instituting VPN multi-factor authentication or even video monitoring for remote employees. There is a significant need for this as Microsoft estimates that only 11% of enterprise cloud users have implemented MFA. Providing agents with refresher courses on contact center compliance and security can better prepare them to secure their networks and avoid any breaches.
- Expand training possibilities
Getting contact center agent training right is critical to ensuring your customers have the best experience possible. The past standard of all-day classroom-based training is no longer feasible for many call center organizations. And they are also not as effective. Studies have shown that shorter training modules improve information retention by 20%. Companies are leveraging digital tools such as short bursts of microlearning modules, gamification, AI-driven training practice scenarios, and highly personalized feedback to enhance their training methodologies, along with opportunities for ongoing self-paced training. In a field prone to high levels of attrition, enhanced training can also go a long way in reducing agent turnover.
A peek at these trends in the call center industry can help your organization choose its preferred strategic direction as we move into 2022 and beyond. As the world limps away from the worldwide crisis and enters a new age of uncertainty, call center leadership looks towards the future of call centers — a future where business continuity and customer experience will definitely be intertwined.
This article was first published on the TechSee blog.