The Contact Center in 2018: Helping Customers Help Themselves

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Also expected to show “hockey stick growth” is robotic process automation (RPA), according to Fluss, largely because of its ability to improve customer experience, reduce operating costs, and make life easier for agents.

Conversational, voice-based interfaces will also continue to gain influence, as analysts predict that people will prefer to conduct searches using their voice instead of a keyboard. This trend drove Amazon to add an interactive screen to its Echo Show device, the latest iteration of its smart technology equipped with the Alexa voice assistant. The screen also allows users to communicate via video.

Indeed experts expect video to become an important capability in the new and ever-evolving customer service model. “As we automate, there’s going to be less potential for making a human connection,” Leggett says, placing more of an emphasis on visual engagement channels like video, video chat, screen sharing, and co-browsing.

“Another interesting area of change and enhancement” will involve adaptive intraday workforce management, Fluss says, noting that “companies will always look for ways to reduce operating costs.” NICE in October acquired a company called WorkFlex to bring those capabilities to its own workforce optimization suite, and Fluss expects to see more innovation in the areas of workforce management and adaptive scheduling. “It’s finally starting to catch on,” she says.

These technologies will be especially helpful as companies continue to struggle to fill their most undesirable contact center shifts, particularly during late nights and weekends, Fluss adds.

Jamison notes that the technologies will also help companies deal with a growing Millennial workforce, whose members prefer work-life balance over pay and would rather bid on shifts and work in groups. For instance, if a group of coworkers want to take the night off to attend a baseball game together, they’d appreciate the option to submit a bid as a group. Similarly, this cohort wants the convenience of on-the-go access to schedules and the ability to make changes on the fly.

Jamison says another outgrowth of the burgeoning Millennial workforce will be a greater focus on creating better mobile apps for contact center agents and their supervisors, as well as for customers.

CHANGE IS INEVITABLE

No matter which technologies shine forth throughout the year, though, one thing is certain: Change is definitely coming to the contact center in 2018. And as that happens, companies can expect to see benefits on three levels: improved efficiency, greater customer satisfaction and loyalty, and rising strategic value to the entire organization, according to Brad Cleveland, cofounder and senior advisor at the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI).

Companies that have matured beyond the first two levels are now looking to extend the contact center’s influence into other areas of the organization, including marketing, product development, and IT, Cleveland says.

Companies in this last stage routinely use analytics to see what the technology can reveal about their customers and establish cross-functional communications channels that enable them to share innovation and ideas, he adds. They also coach and train their agents to have “business antennas” and harness desktop tools to captures insights.

“There’s a lot of innovation happening right now” in the world of customer service, Cleveland says. “If we don’t keep up with it with our technology road maps, with our strategy build-out, we’re going to be putting ourselves at a big disadvantage. It’s an exciting time, and one [in which] a lot of customer service VPs [will] get a great sense of responsibility to really be thinking ahead.”


Associate Editor Oren Smilansky can be reached at osmilansky@infotoday.com.

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