Trends before the pandemic
Let’s start with the definition of digital channels. It can be pretty broad, we will focus on the communications digital channels. Saying so, I exclude website content marketing, SEO, etc.
Businesses used digital channels before the pandemic, the growth was pretty prominent. At the same time, voice and voice communications were the main focus for most of the companies. In parallel companies started to care about the customer experience, not just about contact center efficiency. Contact Center is not about calls anymore either. It’s a blend of voice and digital channels.
A customer can be an introvert and prefer to chat instead of calling. That’s ok. If a company cares about customer experience, there will be a way to communicate the most comfortable way. Somebody starts a conversation from their desk PC, continuing the conversation on the go using their mobile phone. Companies meet their customers where they prefer to communicate.
Contact Center started as complicated, expensive on-premise hardware. Now it’s a secure cloud solution that allows working from any point for everybody: technical administrators, agents, supervisors. There are desktop and mobile apps that support that distributed environment.
The pandemic had an impact on all businesses, including contact centers. People were stuck at home, they started to order more food, cloth, and entertainment. The demand increased in a blink of an eye. Businesses needed to transform in a moment or die. Those businesses who had on-premise contact center solutions, paper reports needed to perform a digital transformation immediately. It was a question of survival. The hardest skeptics went online and in the cloud.
Contact Centers experienced an enormous load of requests. The wait time for hospitals and clinics could go up to several hours. At the same time, customer experience expectations skyrocketed.
Those people who hated bots and other self-service tools for their lack of empathy started to implement them for their businesses not to sink in the ocean of lost requests and complaints.
Businesses started to include alternative communication channels like messengers (WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, etc), email, webchat. And the great thing is that it is possible to connect a bot to multiple channels to multiple the outcome.
Outreach notification tools helped to provide the latest information for hospitals, shops, restaurants, and other businesses, preventing calls in the contact center.
There is a joke now that pandemic was the main trigger for most digital transformations.
Now we are on our way to normal life. We don’t know yet that will be our “normal”, but vaccination gives us hope to establish a new normal.
The omnichannel trend continues. Business goes where the customers are, where they communicate all day long: messengers and social media. Just having multiple channels is not enough. The trend is to be able to mix and switch from one channel to another. And the most important note: the channel switch should be seamless. “Please repeat your account number, ticket number and what the previous manager told you” is not acceptable anymore.
People are lonely at home, but they don’t want to spend their time talking to strangers. They want to have self-service to get what they want. Conversational bots, that can not only answer the questions but also discuss the weather or the latest song released. Ability to deliver the service and show care is what the new self-service trend is about. People aren’t afraid to talk to machines anymore.
Analytics and forecasting
Contact Center is a complex structure that requires management and regular adjustment. It produces a lot of data. Data visualization is key, it makes the system understandable. Forecasting is what makes the adjustment easy. Forecasting can optimize resource planning and decrease costs. Predicting the next step in the contact center is a trend that can make Contact Center accessible to a larger number of companies.
AI (Artificial intelligence)
AI is here with us to stay. There are a lot of areas that rely on AI in contact centers. AI helps conversational bots. AI helps to analyze data, propose action items, and make predictions. AI helps agents by finding the Knowledge Base articles based on the call context.
AI analyzes the calls and chats and highlights conversations that require the Quality Control team’s attention.
Video becomes a separate communication channel in contact centers. Telehealth, personal fitness training, video services, consultation, and much more became a part of our daily lives and will not disappear after the pandemic. Customers don’t want to spend time commuting if they can get high-quality service via video call.
A lot of companies started to hire remote employees during the pandemic. Now we can see that people would rather leave the company than return to the full-time office schedule. It means more and more companies continue to hire remote employees. Companies in expensive and competitive areas benefit from hiring remote employees. Remote work truly changes the landscape.
Wait time decrease
Customers have more and more expectations regarding customer service. There are a lot of alternatives for almost every service possible. It means if the customer care is not excellent, a customer switches to another company in a blink of an eye. It leads to a decrease in wait and resolution time. It is true not only for calls but for SMS and messaging channels as well.
Sending non-personalized messages to the customers can trigger them to leave. Personalization is not an advantage anymore. Now It is a requirement to keep customers stay with the company. At the same time, too personalized messages can be perceived as a stalker message and privacy invasion. There is a balance that each company tries to find.
The overall trend for contact centers is to provide a personalized experience where the customer service predicts the desires and prevents the issues. Contact Center becomes more proactive than reactive.