A significant number of industries and organizations experienced significant business disruptions over the course of 2020. Government restrictions suspended supply chains, forced the closure of some companies and forced others to adapt to remote work when possible, while also accelerating delivery adoption of new technologies to facilitate changes in labor practices.
While 2020 brought big changes to the way our society operates, it also provided lessons that call centers can use to predict the unpredictable and plan for the uncertain future. Across the industry, we have seen a significant change in the way contact centers are managed and how agents respond to changing customer behaviors and needs. This change is likely to continue into the new normal and will affect two of the key factors.
Remote Agents and Technology: 7 Future Trends for Call Centers
Changing Trends for Call Center Agents
The global workforce underwent a significant change in 2020 as companies increasingly embraced remote work to adapt to the pandemic. This was an important adjustment for many employees, and one that provided much more flexibility than traditional call centers. Over the next several years, a steady increase in hybrid work environments is anticipated as fewer people return to the office, impacting the workforce in three ways:
1) Shift to Hybrid Work Environments
The transition to new work environments will see a change in the need for workforce management and agent engagement. With greater flexibility, more employees will want to work from anywhere. Workforce management and engagement solutions should help manage people and their schedules and workloads more easily.
2) Greater Flexibility Will Expand the Workforce
Having access to more flexibility has changed the perspective on work practices. Being able to work from anywhere at any time has the potential to greatly expand the workforce. Scheduling time for work offers more opportunities for people who only want to work part-time or informally, or with more flexible hours to accommodate other priorities.
3) Better Access to Resources
COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of business continuity and the value of having access to resources. The flexibility and availability of new generations of workers can help overcome these limitations.
Enhanced Role of Technology in Contact Centers
While changing work environments will provide many opportunities for agents to work more flexibly, supervisors will take a closer look at technology and automation solution to augment this new reality.
Most significantly, there will be increased investment in digital and cloud solutions, including automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI), although it will affect businesses in different ways:
4) Increased Acceptance of Cloud Software
As a direct result of the business disruption that organizations suffered in 2020, companies will continue to seek cloud solutions to protect their operations and ensure resilience and business continuity in times of crisis. In terms of usage concerns, organizations will look for solutions that offer flexibility and scalability tailored to their needs and requirements, and the ability to better supervise agents by hosting call centers centrally.
5) Greater Adoption of Digital Solutions
Digital solutions will also become increasingly important to help agents while working from anywhere. For every 100 people in a workforce, we might see 50 bots deployed to support them. In terms of business continuity and consistency, this will pose challenges around what happens if a digital employee doesn’t show up for work due to a system failure, for example.
As a result, we will see an increase in the technologies that are being built to manage AI-based solutions like digital assistants. Employees will also focus more on managing AI-based solutions and the digital workforce as they support agents by completing more of the repetitive, rule-based manual work, allowing them to focus on prioritizing more complex tasks.
Changing Technology Trends and Their Impact on Contact Center Agents
The way that technology and people interact and work together in the future will come together to be part of the ongoing transformation towards a more digital and flexible future. As a result, call centers will see an increased dependency and need for analytics and automation to work symbiotically, to better support and enhance the Work from Anywhere workforce. The main emerging and developing trends in this space are:
6) Continuous Investment in Automation
Companies will continue to invest in automation solutions to reduce costs and optimize processes. To better support agents, call centers will invest more in integrated solutions based on AI and analytics that work collaboratively to improve the employee experience, facilitating greater collaboration and flexibility with human and digital agents.
With the increasing use of AI-based solutions that automate the qualitative analysis of call monitoring, and with machine learning helping to quantify these results, organizations will be able to assign a numerical value to previously unquantifiable data sets, such as agents’ behaviors or customers’ emotions. Similarly, with continued investment in quality automation and analytics solutions, companies will be able to better optimize agent and workflow management, reducing time and costs invested.
7) Increased Commitment to Business Intelligence and Analytics Solutions
By further integrating customer interaction analytics software into processes and combining them with AI models powered by machine learning, supervisors will be able to assess new data insights and predictive behaviors in real time. This will provide actionable insights as calls progress, allowing agents to act on prescriptive guidance in real time with the help of virtual assistants.
This will allow agents to make immediate changes to make more productive calls. By improving the employee experience, this will generate a more positive experience for customers, leading to better future engagements and greater loyalty. In addition, managers will have access to key information on customer churn, propensity to buy or vulnerability, among others, allowing them to act on agent behaviors before they can have a negative impact on the organization.
These advances will significantly change the way agents and call centers work in the future, both at the micro and macro levels.