3 Significant Innovation Trends Powering the Future of Contact Centers

By: Michele Nieberding

December 8, 2021

Tags:
Contact Center

It can seem like a constant race to keep up with the burgeoning customer service channel options available to consumers today – direct messaging, call-backs, live chat, bots, social media, and more. And savvy consumers are increasingly demanding higher degrees of personalized care wherever and whenever they roam! Contact center leaders have the daunting task of identifying and adapting systems, processes, and people to accommodate the latest technology shifts and consumer needs, while also reducing costs, preventing churn and agent attrition, and driving revenue.

Fortunately, there are several innovation trends helping early adopters transform and future-proof contact centers. Read on!

Trend #1: Intentional Automation

In a 2021 poll by LiveVox, 51% of executives said that integration issues like inefficient workflows and a lack of automation were critical barriers impacting business goals.

Leading contact centers are choosing to “automate with intention,” which means using conversation intelligence to inform what to automate and to track the impact of automation on customer and employee experience. They are using the actual words of customers and employees — analyzed at scale –to inform investment decisions.

There has been an explosion of chatbots and Interactive Virtual Assistants (IVAs) deployed to help customers self-serve on less-expensive channels, but leading contact centers are also looking at internal agent workflows for automation opportunities. Post-call work, such as writing up a summary report or cataloging reason-for-contact, costs contact centers millions of dollars in lost productivity. Improvements in AI-powered natural language understanding (NLU) are helping tech-forward contact centers automatically assess, tag, and summarize all customer-initiated interactions, while freeing up agents for more productive service-oriented tasks.

Trend #2: Harnessing the Speed and Predictive Powers of AI in Analytics

We have been hearing about Artificial Intelligence (AI) for quite a while and it can be hard to separate the hype from its practical use. We use AI every day – every time we type in a web search or encounter a set of product recommendations on an e-commerce site, for example. Artificial Intelligence is essentially leveraging the speed and power of computers to identify patterns in large data sets and solve complex problems. Every day, your agents and customers are interacting on the phone and through digital channels, leaving a massive data trail just begging for pattern discovery! Here are several tried and true use cases for AI:

  • Chatbot Optimization: Think back to your chatbot. Forward-thinking contact centers are using AI-powered analytics engines to evaluate the conversations between bots and humans, identifying opportunities to improve chatbot understanding of human lingo, expressions, typos, unpredicted questions. These improvements increase issue resolution, decrease live agent handover and abandonment rate, and reduce channel switching. With 83% of customers saying they would avoid a company after a single poor interaction with a chatbot, this small use of AI is proving its value!
  • Agent Well-Being and Retention: With agent turnover on the rise, agent engagement and well-being is more important than ever. That’s why future-forward contact centers are investing in tools that can automatically measure the tone and words used in 100% of customer interactions to identify concerning interactions that may be impacting the agent’s mental health. This includes flagging when a customer is using profanities, cursing at, or using abusive language towards an agent, ranging anywhere from being rude to being offensive and insulting.  By automatically flagging and routing these emotionally charged and likely distressing interactions to a manager with a note to “check in on the agent,” agents feel better supported and more mentally prepared to take on the next interaction.  When your agents feel taken care of, they are more empowered to take care of your customers!
  • Adaptive Service Models: Leading contact centers are using AI-enhanced analytics solutions to be more predictive and proactive. AI engines make predictions based on historical trends related to attributes such as contact volume, service level performance, handle times, and customer satisfaction. Savvy contact center leaders use these predications to proactively plan for similar future scenarios. Predictive analytics answers questions such as:
    • How many agents will we need staffed on Christmas Day?
    • How will a new product rollout affect call volume on weekends?
    • What will this change to fee structure do to customer satisfaction score?
    • Based on a pattern of interactions with my company, how likely is this customer to purchase an additional product or service?
    • Based on total number and severity of compliance infractions, how likely is it that this agent (or this team) could cause a negative financial or reputation impact?

 

Predictive analytics can also be used to identify emerging issues, enabling contact center leaders to prepare teams to respond. It is also being used to proactively escalate high-risk interactions, such as emergency service needs, likelihood to churn, or high sales potential.  A top healthcare used the predictive powers of artificial intelligence and NLU to increase enrollment by 18%, resulting in over $2 million in additional annual revenue.

Harnessing the speed and predictive powers of AI for analytics can help you re-think your approach to service and put your company lightyears ahead of your competition.

Trend #3: Real-Time Technology “Assists”

There is no time like the present, and this is even more true for agents servicing customers. With “real-time” becoming another trendy buzzword, it is important to define what this means in the context of customer service. Workforce Performance Management systems in the contact center are providing features that assess conversations as they are happening in order to provide on-screen visual cues (called “pops”) to guide agents to the most favorable outcome. They transcribe and evaluate conversations in real-time. This powerful new tool is increasing first call resolution by automatically surfacing the best Knowledge Base Article and increasing sales effectiveness by providing tips on how to handle customer objections. The most successful real-time tools provide recommendations based on agent or customer language patterns or behavior, using Natural Language Understanding (NLU) for context and to create better recommendations on what actions to take and when.

Why Now?

Kearney has found that artificial intelligence (AI) and automation solutions can reduce the amount of time customer service agents spend on typical processes by up to 25% by 2022 and by up to 40% by 2027.  The technology exists today to help you make smart investments in automation and analytics that will drive future success in your contact center. What are you waiting for?

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