The Long View on Contact Centres – 2020 and Beyond

Filed under - Industry Insights,

Richard Kenny of Poly shares his contact centre predictions as we move through 2020 and beyond.

The death of the contact centre has been greatly exaggerated.

The industry continues to thrive with a growing workforce that increasingly plays a central role in supporting organizations to meet evolving customer needs.

If you work in the contact centre segment, you’ve doubtless read more than a few 2020 predictions for the industry.  We’re taking a slightly different tack here.

Rather than evaluate the factors impacting the contact centre space for 2020, we’re taking a long view on how the top five trends will play out over the next five years.

1. Benefits of Cloud – 2020

This is the year cloud goes mainstream.  We’ve already seen growth in adoption of cloud services for contact centres, and 2020 will be the year we start to see the benefits of this move.

Organizations will be able to scale up and down rapidly to manage demand.  They’ll be able to add new features, channels, or processes within days rather than months.

Significantly, we’ll also see organizations move to the same platform for UC and CC – why?

With the rise in complexity of calls, employees need to collaborate more internally to get customer issues resolved, so there are efficiency gains to being on the same platform.

What Does It Mean for Employees?

For employees, they’ll notice more changes – new features added, new channels to work on, and increased complexity.

Are your supervisors ready for their new role as coaches rather than managers?

Employees are also going to notice a very different desktop – moving from the physical phone to an application or browser on their PC.

My Recommendation

Don’t dilute the power of your voice channel.  This is the channel that your customers turn to when all the others don’t work, or when they are angry and upset.

The voice channel consistently rates high on customer satisfaction so ensure your investment in people and technology matches this.

2. Remote Working – 2021

The cloud going mainstream will enable a big change in the way organizations approach their workforce in 2021.

We already see 60% of companies planning or using remote workers – this will continue in 2021 but will move from the current small-scale trials to much larger proportions of the workforce.

Employees will have the choice of home or office, so there will be a renewed importance on workforce planning to meet planned customer interactions at the right service level.

What Does It Mean for Employees?

Working at home is a significant change and benefit for most employees.

They’ll need to be ready to work efficiently and ergonomically at home – not just sitting in the kitchen with a laptop and headset.

Help them set up a dedicated space with the right equipment.

My Recommendation

Working from home is like adding another workplace. You can’t simply send people home with a laptop – a full plan is needed.  Determine what business problem you are solving and build a plan around this.

Examples are efficiently meeting out-of-hours demand, expanding workforce once the building has hit capacity, or reaching employees in different geographical areas.

You’ll also need to determine which of your employees have the right personality traits for homeworking – it’s not the ideal environment for every work style and personality type.

3. Video – 2022

Yeah, I know – video has been going big “next year” for about the last 5 years now.  What’s changed this time?

Building on the move to remote working in 2021, video will become an essential internal communication channel to bring teams together, collaborate on complex support issues, and enable supervisors to keep an eye on their team’s health and well-being.

We’re also going to see a generation of customers (and employees) coming through who have the expectation that every interaction is visual – for them a phone call is a video call.

There is also some emerging evidence that video is the only channel to exceed voice on NPS/CSAT scores – customers really like seeing a person on the other end as it enhances their trust in an organization.

What Does It Mean for Employees?

(Hypnotism sound effect) “Look into my eyes…” It’s a whole new skill looking the part on a video call. Employees will need to be set up with the right background (even if it is imposed on a green screen), they will need a uniform, and training on how to get the most from this new channel.

Also, they’ll need a real-time support network to ensure they never have to put the customer on hold.

My Recommendation

Start the learning process now.  Enable all your homeworkers with video so you can start to understand who is comfortable with it, and what the internal needs are.

Determine which are the right spaces within your buildings for the video interactions – employees need to be able to do these at their desk rather than move into a dedicated room.

4. AI – 2023

This is another technology that is always going big “next year”.  After a few false starts when AI (and other technologies like robotic process automation and machine learning) was predicted to replace all contact centre jobs, it has finally found the role that organizations and consumers are comfortable with, helping or augmenting the employee to deliver better service, especially with the increase in remote employees that a supervisor may not be able to coach easily, and the increase in complex channels such as video.

AI will continue to take more of the easy routine interactions on digital channels, but it will also be the constant coach for an employee – with consumers expecting seamless service, employees will not be able to review in real time all the interactions that a customer has had across all the channels.

What Does It Mean for Employees?

As AI takes more of the easy digital interactions, the employees’ role is going to become more difficult, but the coach in their ear (or on screen) is going to become more intelligent with better and better guidance for them.

My Recommendation

AI has the potential to offer incredible enhancements to your service, but also to create incredible dissatisfaction.

The industry already has a reputation for asking customers to repeat their information multiple times, so with AI the focus should be on ensuring a seamless transition from AI to employee when the AI system recognizes it can’t resolve the issue or detects increasing negative emotion in the customer.

5. Organizational Integration and Unified Naming – 2024

Where do you work?  Is it in a contact centre, or in customer service?  Maybe you are part of a customer experience team, or in the customer success group?

Regardless of the name, it’s great to see more groups and employees with customer in their title.

With the advance of AI, more and more interactions will be handled automatically through digital channels, so the trend we’ve seen of the interactions that reach employees being more complex will continue.  This means employees will increasingly need to collaborate across the organization to get issues resolved.

Organizationally, this will mean that the contact centre becomes more integrated across the organization to facilitate this.

Under the CXO or CCO, the organization will become truly customer facing, with other teams supporting their activity – bringing together all the customer-facing roles we have now, and many more that are yet to be defined.

What Does It Mean for Employees?

Rather than being hired for good phone skills, employers will now look for empathy, team collaboration, problem solving, and the ability to create memorable experiences in recruits.

Let’s also (finally!) find a job title that recognizes their hard work and stop calling them agents.

My Recommendation

Traditionally, organizations have hired into the contact centre, and then these employees have moved to other roles within the business.

Plan to reverse this approach – hire into the back office, and then when employees have proved their ability, they get promoted into customer-facing roles.

Long Live the Contact Centre

A thumbnail photo of Richard Kenny

Richard Kenny

Poly has been at the forefront of driving innovation in the contact centre segment since the very beginning of the industry… over fifty years!

As those of us at Poly look ahead, we’re excited about the confluence of these trends and their potential to empower organizations with the right technology and support services to nail their shift to the cloud, enabling a remote workforce, establishing a video-first culture and implementing next-gen technologies that will become true differentiators in the decade to come.

Author: Robyn Coppell

Published On: 7th Feb 2020 - Last modified: 11th Feb 2020
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