Call center industry trends in 2021 are laser-focused on customer experience. And, quite frankly, when you consider the findings of the below study, it’s an approach that can pay serious dividends.
Consider that 84% of consumers based purchasing decisions on customer experience pre-COVID (ZenDesk). Now we’re seeing 59% say customer experience matters even more than it did before the pandemic (CustomerThink). In other words, customer experience will continue to dictate revenue and retention in 2021. In response, the call center industry is becoming increasingly customer-centric.
This might surprise anyone who still subscribes to the old notion that cost reduction is the main selling point for contact centers – call center industry trends to prove otherwise. While reducing labor and support costs is still a major incentive, the most appealing feature of modern call centers is the ability to prioritize customer satisfaction above all else.
So now that we have the main, overarching theme of the call center industry trends for this year, let’s take a look at six specific manifestations of that trend and how your business can benefit.
1. Artificial Intelligence/AI Empowering Human Agents
Set to be a multi-trillion dollar industry by 2030, there is virtually no industry on the planet that won’t be affected by artificial intelligence/AI – call centers are no exception.
But over the past few years, contact center technology trends have revealed that the call center industry has a much faster AI adoption rate than most.
Which makes perfect sense, considering all the use cases and benefits that artificial intelligence provides.
Automation is not only one of the easiest ways to reduce expenses, but it’s also a great way to improve customer experience. Leveraging artificial intelligence for self-service, personalization, repetitive transactions, and intuitive call routing, are just a few ways contact centers use automation to enhance the customer experience.
To that point, 62% of customers believe it’s very important that they don’t repeat their previous interactions, according to a Gladly study. Not only does this frustrate customers but it also presents a revenue drain to your company.
Why? Because every moment a customer spends repeating themselves is a moment that ties up an agent and prolongs a resolution, leading to longer wait times, more dissatisfied customers, potential customer attrition, to name just a few issues.
More modern contact centers also use artificial intelligence to enhance traditional IVR solutions for a more personal and humanized customer experience.
Interactive Voice Response
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) has been around for decades and is one of the first examples of technology being used to modernize and create a more efficient customer experience. IVR, in essence, is just an industry term for something you’ve no doubt experienced: the robotic voice on the other end of a customer service line, which directs you to the appropriate department using touch-tone or voice recognition.
IVR is typically designed to follow this general workflow:
- A customer makes a phone call to your service line
- They are presented with a selection of languages
- After their preferred language is selected, the robo-voice asks them a series of questions
- After answering the questions, the customer is funneled towards the appropriate representative
- Customer answer by selecting a predetermined response or a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’
Note the word ‘funnel’ above. Historically, one of the major drawbacks is that in complex situations with a variety of responses or issues at play, IVR doesn’t use logic or common sense to understand user intent. As a result, there are plenty of opportunities for IVR to route customers incorrectly.
The way customers interact is changing – your contact center should too.
Get top-of-the-line call center solutions for your business when you work with Humach
AI Is Only Getting Better
But as machine learning technology develops, we’re seeing artificial intelligence become more intuitive and applicable each year, benefiting from innovations like conversational AI. These AI systems, after all, can consolidate vast amounts of information and data (see the next section) and learn from them.
AI tech can collate that information and detect patterns. These patterns inform AI’s predictive analytics and properties, which in turn makes future interactions smarter, smoother, and more intuitive. Learn more about AI and machine learning and how businesses are applying them to enhance their customer experience.
In other words, AI learns each time it interacts – just like a human. This constant improvement helps identify and eliminate uncertainty and improve accuracy in order to provide the best possible customer experience.
All this isn’t new in 2021, but it is better.
A final key point: the oft-repeated tagline of ‘AI is used best when it doesn’t replace human workers, but compliments them’ is true here as well.
While AI is growing in sophistication and applicability, the optimal arrangement is not to replace live agents, but instead to make their jobs easier. AI can resolve a wide variety of repetitive, manual tasks and transactions, as well as escalate more complex issues to the appropriate agent via live chat or phone. This allows live contact center agents to focus on assisting the customers who need them most. Learn more about how AI actively enhances the strengths of live agents and improves customer experience.
In other words, the optimal arrangement has AI working to help resolve easier tickets while streamlining the workflow of a live chat or call agent.
2. Data-Driven Decision-Making with Real-Time Analytics
Your AI, however, is only ever going to be as good as your data. The more data and real-time analytics your AI can access, the better the experience will be.
But the importance of data doesn’t start and stop with AI.
A recent Deloitte survey of the contact center industry found that 80% of businesses say that customer feedback is:
- Core to their DNA
- A core input to business decisions
Only 45% of respondents said the same in 2013. Again, this represents a continued call center trend putting primacy on customer satisfaction.
Analytics are also gaining traction. Businesses in the Deloitte survey were asked to list the most effective methods of capturing customer feedback moving forward. They included the following:
- Customer surveys (77%)
- Call monitoring (64%)
- Social media listening (45%, representing the fastest-growing channel)
Many dashboards are even incorporating real-time analytics into their displays, so agents can monitor the time of a call and compare it to average call time metrics, providing insight into how long these types of calls typically take and informing their next actions.
Customer data is becoming an increasingly important focus for call center managers as the data can fuel improved customer experiences.
3. Creating a Cohesive Customer Experience
Data and AI are ideally going to power an omni channel (also known as ‘omnichannel’) experience.
This means creating a single cohesive customer experience of your brand across all communication channels that a customer may interact with. This is achieved by harmonizing remote, on-premise, and AI-powered digital agents, so they’re aligned and provide a consistent message and unified communication.
Considering Microsoft’s State of Global Customer Service Report found that 59% of customers used three or more channels to get their questions answered, the importance of an omni channel strategy has never been greater.
The same report found that two-thirds of consumers believe that omni channel customer service is getting better, which means that if you’re not taking advantage of this strategy, it’s likely that your competitors are – and customers are taking note.
Omni channel capabilities – voice, SMS, chat, email, artificial intelligence, messaging – are more than underlying technology. A true omnichannel strategy is about leveraging that technology, with customers in mind, to drive better business outcomes. In 2021, more businesses will turn to tools like AI-powered digital agents to personalize the customer experience.
4. Cloud Migration and Digital Transformation
In 2020, we saw the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine restrictions dramatically increase companies’ reliance on digital transformation and cloud-based call center solutions. To continue business as usual, companies shifted toward digital interaction channels, moved agents into the home, and set up call centers in the cloud.
The cloud’s primary appeal is that while it continues to increase in sophistication, it has not grown in cost or complexity. In addition, the cloud’s agile and seemingly limitless nature makes it easy to prioritize digital transformation – resolving a common struggle for most organizations.
According to a recent McKinsey survey, when executives were asked why digital transformation initiatives weren’t implemented before the pandemic, just over half of respondents said it wasn’t a top business priority.
Reasons included fear of customer resistance to change, organizational silos impending execution, insufficient IT infrastructure, and that changes represented too big a shock to established work processes.
However, the pandemic accelerated many businesses’ need to digitally transform and migrate to the cloud, with nearly all respondents said their companies implemented solutions 20 to 25 times faster than expected (11 days on average).
We reached a new tipping point for technology adoption and digital disruption in 2020, and since the pace of change is not likely to slow down, businesses will continue to accelerate their digital transformation and cloud migration priorities in the call center industry in 2021.
5. Customer Journey & Customer Experience: The New Competitive Advantage
All of the above trends, as mentioned at the start, have one thing in common: they prioritize the customer experience.
Which makes perfect sense.
As expectations evolve, call center solutions must be lean and agile, so businesses can continue to meet customers where they are and provide the best possible customer experience. Delivering an exceptional, customer-centric experience is no longer just a call center trend – it’s the competitive edge businesses must have in order to succeed.
Gone are the days of hyper-focusing on cost-cutting measures above all else. The nightmare of dealing with a call center agent who is unknowledgeable, uninterested, and barely speaks your language is something that consumers are simply not willing to put up with any longer.
COVID-19 Impacting New Call Centers
As much as we’d like to forget about COVID-19, the fact is that it will continue to have an impact on call center trends for years to come.
Unpacking the economic consequences of a global pandemic would take a whole piece unto itself.
But the main things we can expect as far as COVID contact center trends are concerned are:
- Market growth, as more businesses look to outsource and work remotely
- Work-from-home setups proliferate to support business continuity
- Contact centers that are expected to remain closed due to lockdown measures require unique management methods to cope and continue to grow and thrive
Call Center Industry Trends and Enhancing Your Business
There’s never been a better time to leverage these trends to the benefit of your business.
A third of all executives in a Customer Contact Week study believe that AI and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) now justify strategic investments.
But 63% of respondents in the above Deloitte survey believe that system integration is the biggest obstacle to hitting intended ROI.
For over 33 years, Humach has been helping global brands integrate new technologies to help enhance the customer service experience. What’s more, we’re experts at integrating new technology and call center software into your existing systems so the transition is seamless and you’ll see results fast.
When you partner with Humach, we can:
- Automate 30% of customer interactions in 120 days or less.
- Improve first contact resolution by 22% via next-generation customer engagement
- Assist with 100% migration of your omnichannel platform to the cloud in 90 days
- And much more.
If you’re looking to accelerate your lead generation by transitioning to an AI-augmented operation – or just want to take advantage of innovations in phone system technology and customer service delivery – contact us today!