The Evolving Landscape of Contact Centers: Embracing Technology and Empowering Employees

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Over the past decade, contact centers across the globe have experienced a whirlwind of transformations to adapt to customers’ changing needs. New tools for leaders, including improvements in technologies like artificial intelligence, and talent management transformations, with agents continuing to work from home, have altered the landscape for both contact centers and their customers. This dynamic environment means that processes for constant improvement, flexibility, and change management need to be baked into every aspect of contact center operations.

What we found in Deloitte Digital’s 2023 Global Contact Center Survey—which we’ve conducted for the past 12 years biennially to better understand contact center leaders’ priorities, challenges, and opportunities—is that contact center leaders are answering this call like never before to nurture positive employee experiences and culture and drive brand loyalty and, ultimately, business success. The need to embrace constant improvement and flexibility as core principles has grown. And as markets radically change, businesses can no longer thrive without an agile mindset and robust processes. The survey identified two key areas where contact center leaders are answering the call.

Investment in Technology

More than 50 percent of companies reported that modernizing infrastructure is a top investment priority for them, and 1 in 3 said that deploying agent-enabling technology is also a top priority. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw an overwhelming amount of people begin to take advantage of self-service capabilities as wait times skyrocketed. Although we’re well past the pandemic, business leaders are still actively investing in these types of technological advancements to maximize the potential of their existing workforce. 

Following this and other global events, leaders are paying more attention to the landscape with the increasing talk of generative and conversational AI. We saw a staggering 74 percent of organizations that reported they are currently at some stage of testing or deployment of customer-facing chatbots. Leaders are using these types of tools to their advantage to figure out how they can limit things like single transaction calls—store hours, making a payment, etc.—which allows organizations to think about how they can use their agent population to handle the relational calls that matter, improve the customer experience overall, and simultaneously empower agents to manage service requests more efficiently.

With this operation model possible, leaders are not asking themselves “if” they invest; they’re asking “how” they can invest in these technologies for their businesses. We will only continue to see these numbers climb as leaders continue to prioritize automating end-to-end customer journeys.

Talent Retention and Company Culture 

Harnessing emerging technology not only helps contact center employees be more efficient but also helps leaders reinforce a passion for service and enhances connections to company culture. One of the biggest developments for contact centers is that a critical mass of people has been working from home since March 2020. In fact, 69 percent of surveyed organizations—compared to 34 percent in 2018—still have a work-from-home program in place, with 73 percent expecting to have a work-from-home program in place within two years. And with that, leaders have found it difficult to reinforce the culture and passion for customer service over the past several years. 

Investment in new technology only enhances these connections. Over half (63 percent) of contact center leaders said they are facing staffing shortages, which has forced contact center leadership to be more creative and proactive in finding and hiring agents and, more importantly, retaining those they already have. Investing in optimization services that allow contact center employees to focus on more meaningful interactions has enabled leaders to lean into building more robust, more positive work environments and has helped them foster a strong customer-centric culture.

In the end, we are at the forefront of an era characterized by significant shifts caused by both the pandemic and emerging technology. Every day, we are faced with conversations about the potential opportunities and pitfalls of technology and how it can address the numerous challenges facing our world. As we continue to navigate the changing landscape, it’s important to remember that this landscape is more dynamic than ever before. The future is still being determined, but fortunately, we have a glimpse into how leaders and organizations are approaching and will continue to approach these changes. It remains essential to be flexible, don our marketing hats, and adapt to the evolving landscape.

Timothy E. McDougal is a managing director at Deloitte Digital and brings more than 27 years of experience to his work in optimizing customer interactions and transforming the contact center. He has advised clients across the industry on how to balance strategic objectives, the practical realities of contact center operations, and promises of new technology.

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