Table of contents
- 1. Hybrid work puts the spotlight on interaction analytics
- 2. Contact centers emerge as the epicenter of organizational analytics
- 3. Increased focus on learning and development to attract and retain talent
- 4. Optimization of self-service channels and automated workflows
- 5. Rising customer expectations trigger demand for omnichannel CX
- 6. A return to in-person networking shortcuts the learning curve
- 7. Digital transformation roadmaps get revamped
- Bonus prediction: Contact centers prepare to enter the metaverse
Events dominating the end of 2021 have confirmed that the coronavirus pandemic is not yet done disrupting the contact center industry. The surge of the Omicron variant, emotionally strained consumers, staffing shortages, rising inflation, supply chain troubles—these are just a few of the challenges signaling another unpredictable year ahead.
The good news is that contact centers have proven to be resilient in the face of constantly changing conditions. Despite the turmoil of the past couple of years, quick adaptations to people practices, processes, and technology adoption have helped centers address the gaps exposed by the pandemic-related fallout.
But what’s next? How can businesses apply the lessons learned over the past two years toward a more sustainable, growth-oriented operating model? We’ve identified 7 notable trends shaping the contact center environment in 2022 and beyond.
1. Hybrid work puts the spotlight on interaction analytics
The latest COVID-related developments are a reminder that we are still in the grip of a global pandemic that has companies once again postponing their return-to-office plans—some are pushing target dates out to 2023 while others are doing away with them altogether. With this uncertainty surrounding the future of the workplace, the hybrid work model is emerging as the most viable approach to provide the safety and flexibility of work-at-home with the on-site presence that employers and employees crave.
That said, contact centers have been wrestling with the complications of monitoring, coaching, and supporting teams that split their time between on-site and at-home. As hybrid work models transition from concept to reality, businesses will need to reevaluate agent performance and quality management processes without losing a step in their service delivery. Expect interaction analytics to move to the forefront of contact center technology suites as the most scalable and sustainable solution to monitor performance and trends across 100% of customer conversations. With a comprehensive view of the voice of the customer across all channels, contact centers will be able to align and tweak workforce models as customer behaviors and expectations evolve.
2. Contact centers emerge as the epicenter of organizational analytics
Contact centers gained prominence during the pandemic for their vital role in maintaining the business’ connection with its customers. In the coming years, center leaders will continue to build on that hard-earned momentum by positioning their operation as a valuable repository for customer data.
Companies will increasingly look to the contact center to provide the insights that enable fast, informed decision-making across the organization—a strategic differentiator in today’s rapidly changing business environment. The center’s ability to capture the voice of the customer and deep-dive into the data to uncover trends in customer intent, sentiment, and service outcomes, will enable managers to deliver relevant insights to senior executives across marketing, sales, R&D, billing, and other functions. As a result, we will see contact center leaders finally earning a long-sought-after seat, and voice, at the C-suite table.
3. Increased focus on learning and development to attract and retain talent
Uncertainty about the future and fears about job insecurity in the early days of the pandemic took a psychological toll on hourly employees. The economic implications of the pandemic pushed frontline workers to reevaluate their occupations and strive for something better—a career vs. a job.
Agents are demanding fair compensation, flexible schedules, and remote work. But the differentiator in the coming years will be personalized learning and development opportunities and clear paths for career advancement. Job candidates are choosing the employers who can demonstrate an investment in helping employees to succeed in their profession, and they’re willing to quit those that don’t follow through.
To avoid a talent shortfall in 2022 that may tank your CX initiatives, think beyond tactical actions to boost agent motivation and morale for the short term. Developing an employee value proposition that focuses on a robust skills development and professional growth program will give your company a competitive edge in the war for talent.
4. Optimization of self-service channels and automated workflows
With contact center transactions on the rise and ongoing labor shortage challenges, companies will seek to deliver faster, high-quality CX with more sophisticated, scalable self-service options and by expanding their use of automated workflows.
To provide the ROI and CX required, companies will move beyond simple FAQs and chatbots with limited responses. Artificial intelligence will provide the capabilities to optimize self-service channels and provide the quick resolutions customers desire. More contact centers will adopt AI-powered solutions that can deliver intelligent, intuitive, contextual, one-stop problem-resolution.
Besides optimizing self-service, more contact centers will leverage automated workflows to streamline service delivery across dispersed teams. Increased adoption of low-code/no-code tools will give contact center managers and supervisors the ability to take quick action to improve efficiencies and productivity within teams and across the operation. It’s not agent vs. machine, it’s agent + machine.
5. Rising customer expectations trigger demand for omnichannel CX
Customers are increasingly aware of the data that is being collected. They expect companies to use that data to know who they are when they reach out—no matter how they choose to communicate—as well as their preferences, and purchase and transaction history. They’re growing increasingly impatient with companies that can’t connect the data in real-time across channels.
The ability to consolidate disparate sources of data into a single view of the customer has been a sticking point for companies in the past, but for customers, a consistent omnichannel experience has become a basic expectation. Customers don’t think about a company’s organizational structure or who owns which channel when they need help, so they get frustrated when they’re forced to repeat their information as they move from one channel to the next, or transfer to an agent.
Companies that are still struggling with data silos risk falling far behind the competition in the coming year. Besides streamlining the end-to-end journey, unified data is key to supporting frontline agents by providing the right information at the right time to deliver a personalized customer experience.
6. A return to in-person networking shortcuts the learning curve
Contact center industry conferences have been sorely missed over the past 18 months. As restrictions lift, a return to in-person events will once again foster an opportunity to build collective knowledge and collaboration among contact center practitioners, something virtual events have not been able to replicate successfully.
Evolutions in the market take place when industry professionals interact. Expect to see progressive developments across people, processes, and technology in 2022 and 2023 as contact center leaders gather to share ideas, tap into best practices, and learn how to avoid time-consuming (and expensive) mistakes.
7. Digital transformation roadmaps get revamped
It’s safe to say that digital transformation planning took a detour during the pandemic. Companies scrapped their original roadmaps and instead shifted to self-service tools and remote working to safeguard their employees and maintain their operations during the sudden lockdown.
So what now? The outcomes companies set out to achieve early in 2020 may be largely irrelevant today. Initiatives have emerged that may not have been a priority in pre-pandemic planning, such as hybrid work, agent experience, or creating an inclusive digital culture.
Company executives have embraced the “new” rules of digital transformation with fresh beliefs and a pioneering mindset. Pre-pandemic, reducing costs was a top priority. Today, companies see digital technology as a competitive advantage to improve CX and drive growth. With years-long planning timelines for digital technology adoption reduced to months, we will see the pace of business change speeding up in 2022.
Bonus prediction: Contact centers prepare to enter the metaverse
As more leading brands announce plans to create virtual shops, games, products, and services in the metaverse economy, it’s safe to say others will eventually follow. What does customer care in the metaverse look like?
Contact center and CX leaders will need strategies and processes in place for delivering service and support in a virtual world, as well as what that customer experience might be and how to measure it. Will digital customer service avatars staff a virtual service desk or will they roam freely and proactively engage with customers who need assistance?
For agents, providing customer care in a virtual world may be closer to delivering an in-person service experience—avatar to avatar. What skills will they require and how will their performance be measured?
The metaverse may be virtual but the competitive gain will be very real for contact centers that can align with and support the brand experience. And as we say in the industry, you need to be where your customers are—whether that is a voice call, text-based channel, or a simulated digital world.