2020 Contact Center Retrospective
What an amazing year 2020 has been – never seen anything like it and hope we won’t again. But, despite all of the challenges, a lot of good things have happened, including in the world of contact centers. Below are 6 positive mega trends that emerged during the dark hours of the pandemic; all of these trends are here to stay and will continue to play an important role in contact centers for the foreseeable future:
- Work-from-home – When the pandemic hit country after country, many companies were ordered by their governments to close down their offices. Surprisingly, contact centers were some of the most successful in getting their employees home and back in operation. Contact centers all over the world, those with anywhere from 10 to thousands of agents demonstrated their flexibility and agility, along with the amazing commitment of their employees by being there for their customers.
- Shift from traditional retail to ecommerce – The world has gone virtual. Anything that can be done virtually, including things most people thought highly unlikely, like doctor’s appointments, has moved to the web or video. The need to socially distance has driven people and organizations to be highly creative as they figured out how to make the best out of difficult situations. Retail organizations have taken a major hit; many retailers, particularly those that could not respond quickly enough to the increasingly virtual world, have gone bankrupt. Store traffic is down and unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels for years. The transition to the web is not unexpected, but the demise of many of the traditional retailers was accelerated by the pandemic.
- Digital transformation – After years of talking about digital transformations, companies are being forced to do what they should have done years ago. They are building out digital channels to address the needs of their customers. Though consumers are expressing an increasing preference for interacting in these channels, voice calls are not going away; however, they are increasingly viewed as the channel of last resort. Digital transformations are proving highly beneficial for customers, companies and their employees.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based self-service capabilities – Self-service has become the channel of choice for customers in many countries, as surprising as it seems. Customers increasingly prefer to interact with effective self-service solutions that allow them to take care of their business without the assistance of live agents. AI-based conversational systems are automating and speeding up the handling of all kinds of interactions. However, the key to success remains being able to connect with a live agent, when necessary.
- Automation solutions – Intelligent virtual agents (IVAs), virtual assistants (VAs), robotic process automation (RPA) and workflow have emerged as essential enablers for enterprises. These solutions are being used to automate activities and tasks that do not require the cognitive capabilities or decision-making intelligence of live employees. These concepts have been around for years, but what is new is the ease with which they can be applied to all types of business challenges. These solutions are allowing companies and government agencies to reduce dependence on outsourcers by literally eliminating the human element in low-value tasks that were previously handled by mostly low-wage workers. The benefits for enterprises are clear, as is the opportunity that these solutions are creating for much higher-level employment opportunities.
- Analytics-enabled quality management (AQM) – After over 50 years of performing quality management (QM) the same way, which was highly people-intensive, even when supported by an application, AI-enabled interaction analytics is now able to automate and greatly improve the process. AQM solutions are game-changers for companies; they can now ‘listen” to 100% of their voice and digital interactions to gain an understanding of why people are contacting them, and to see which of their automated and live agents are doing a good job in handling the interactions and where changes are needed. AQM also reduces dependence on manual QM processes, which have not been effective for the last 5-plus years because companies could not afford to properly staff this function as contact volumes increased. AQM was important before the pandemic forced employees home to work, and it has become mission-critical for contact center employees and other functions since then.
The pandemic has changed the world as we know it, but some of these changes are good and will have positive and lasting benefits for society, companies, customers and employees. AI and automation are the common themes in the 6 megatrends outlined above. The pandemic accelerated their roll-out but not their viability. The companies that are going to come out of the pandemic well-positioned to succeed in whatever the “new normal” looks are those that are taking the actions needed to move thoughtfully into the digital future.
DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at www.dmgconsult.com.