We enter the new decade with great momentum in technological innovation. Start-ups and large enterprises are investing billions in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation-based initiatives that are going to change the way we live our lives and conduct business over the next 10 – 20 years. Technologies that have been talked about for generations, such as self-driving cars, will alter the way people get around, making the argument for or against new transportation business models from companies such as Uber and Lyft merely a stepping stone to a vastly transformed future.
DMG’s crystal ball shows an amazing outlook for the world of service and contact centers. In the year 2020, we’re going to see new and continued investments that will finally allow companies to decrease the number of live agent resources needed in contact centers, the number-one goal for these people-intensive organizations. Self-service solutions, which are the preferred way for consumers in the more advanced economies to obtain assistance, will experience a resurgence, as AI-related technologies emerge that provide omni-channel concierge-level service. (The displaced contact center employees can be absorbed into new functions such as administering robotics and AI initiatives.)
The workforce, which is increasingly populated by Millennials, will continue to take the reins from Boomers and Gen X’ers, intensifying the need to satisfy the lifestyle requirements of the most technically advanced generation of workers. The digital transformation will continue to take place slowly in many companies. Investments to replace 40- to 50+-year-old solutions that remain at the core of some of the largest corporations in the world, including major banks, will finally occur, as the resources and cost required to support systems built in the “dark ages” of technology will be too high. This doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy, just that it’s going to happen, as the alternative is no longer viable.
The changing workforce will drive much of the innovation in companies. More business (and personal) activities will be accomplished through mobility. The need for enterprise-wide workforce management (WFM) solutions to help companies find, hire, train and schedule the resources needed to operate their business cost effectively (not just in their contact centers) will supersede negative preconceptions. This will be supported by a new generation of flexible, AI-based WFM solutions designed for real-time, omni-channel and multi-function forecasting and scheduling that share only a name with the solutions of the past.
After decades of claiming to need highly knowledgeable workers, enterprises will act. New systems, training programs and policies will be implemented, driven by the vast amount of data required to support a hybrid human and automated workforce. It’s still debatable whether every employee will have their own automated bot to assist them, as it’s unlikely to be necessary, but there is no doubt that many types of automation (and workflow technology) will emerge to handle tasks that do not require or even benefit from the cognitive capabilities of live employees. This will be a major boon for contact centers and back-office operating departments, where live agents and employees are still engaged in many repetitive, non-cognitive tasks that require them to cut and paste data into multiple non-integrated systems, manually create and enter summaries of customer conversations, place orders received via faxes (yes, this still happens all the time), manually perform fulfillment activities, and a lot more.
New automation and AI-enabled technology will deliver innovations that make it easier for companies to support the work/life balance requirements of Millennials and, looking to the future, Generation Z. As these capabilities enhance the customer and agent experience and improve productivity, adoption will be relatively swift.
Smart technology will position companies to improve the customer experience, as long as the initiatives are combined with changes to outdated policies and procedures. One of the biggest impediments to delivering an outstanding customer experience, regardless of technology, is the conflicting goals of sales, service and marketing departments. For digital transformation initiatives to succeed, enterprises must invest in reinventing their relationship with customers and employees, as much as updating their technology.
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.