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The Top Customer Service Trends: Building Better Service Beyond Voice

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Grand View Research valued the global contact center software market at $16.3 billion in 2018, but the firm expects it to reach $47.8 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual rate of 17.6 percent. Among the factors expected to drive this growth are advances in artificial intelligence and the evolution of contact centers from voice-centric facilities to ones driven by multimedia, multichannel customer interactions.

A greater emphasis on cloud deployments has also played a role. Though the contact center market is currently split pretty evenly between hosted and on-premises solutions, Grand View expects hosted solutions to see greater demand going forward due to their ease of deployment, accessibility from anywhere and at any time, and simplicity in integration with other systems.

“Nowadays, buyers widely prefer cloud-based systems, owing to benefits such as usage flexibility, elimination of installation time and costs, and reduced maintenance charges,” it concluded.

The firm also expects robotic process automation, where companies turn over some of their more mundane tasks to automated solutions like bots and virtual agents, to be a vital part of the contact center software market going forward.

“RPA reduces errors and improves work quality,” Grand View analyst concluded in their most recent market forecast. “Organizations are seeking solutions that allow managers and agents…to invest their time in analytical activities and decision making for organizational development and rely on robots for routine tasks.”

Technologies included within Grand View’s market analysis include computer telephony integration (CTI), interactive voice response (IVR), automatic call distribution (ACD) and dialers, call recording, customer collaboration, reporting and analytics, and workforce optimization (WFO). Of those, the firm expects the customer collaboration segment to see the greatest expansion through 2025, growing more than 25 percent per year.

Video is among the most noteworthy trends in the collaboration space, allowing agents not just to communicate with managers, subject matter experts, and others within the company to better assist customers, but also in direct contact with customers.

Visual assistance allows agents to see what customers see by sharing either their smartphone cameras or screens. Agents can then provide visual guidance when and where it is needed.

“Visual Assistance is a transformative technology that enhances customer service [key performance indicators] across the board. These double-digit improvements are a real game changer for contact centers,” said Amir Yoffe, cofounder and chief operations officer at TechSee, a provider of visual customer assistance technology that combines AI and augmented reality.

According to TechSee research, visual assistance technology was shown to deliver faster service, reduce escalations, and improve outcomes. For companies that have used the technology, first-contact resolution rates increased by 22 percent, average handle time decreased by 12 percent, and Net Promoter Scores increased by 25 points.

THE AI EFFECT

Grand View and other analysts are also paying close attention to social media, mobile, and analytics, though they can all agree that the one technology innovation that is having the most disruptive effect on the contact center market is artificial intelligence.

Mike de la Cruz, chief business officer at Directly, a provider of customer experience automation, expects AI and automation to continue dominating the conversation for many years to come, despite some early missteps.

“Most early investments in AI and automation failed, and the primary reason for this is not the implementation or the technology itself,” he says. “It is a lack of training. AI systems need to be continuously trained to expand their abilities, and companies need to invest more in the training technology that enables machine learning systems to learn more quickly and comprehensively.”

And while the growing fear in the contact center industry is that automation will eliminate the need for human beings, de la Cruz and others see things differently.

De la Cruz advocates for involving agents in the training process. “When the expertise of human workers is systematically injected into the AI, it becomes more accurate. This means that AI will continue to rely on the expertise of human workers to be successful. And because the more input from domain experts the AI receives, the better it becomes, the demand for workers to train AI will only grow,” he says.

Customer service consultant Brad Cleveland, a senior advisor, founding partner, and former president of the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), also thinks that AI will only increase the need for highly skilled agents.

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