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Welcome to the 2024 Contact Center

2024 is starting off against a backdrop that includes an uncertain economy, massive technology innovation, and a workforce with changing expectations. Here are the top 5 practical considerations for contact center leaders as we enter the new year:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay, and it’s time to get on board – The hype surrounding AI is extremely high and generating a lot of noise, making it hard to figure out what’s actually real and working. Every vendor wants to sell you their AI, and since so much of the messaging sounds the same, it can be difficult to determine what’s best for your contact center. It’s a confusing time, and the risks are significant as these solutions are new, can be expensive, and may take longer than expected to implement. DMG recommends that each contact center draft an AI strategy containing specific goals, such as improving self-service or reducing post-interaction wrap-up time. Keep the strategy and goals simple and find solutions that will help you address them. Conduct a pilot with time, cost, and resource limits to manage risk. If the technology works as promised, roll it out to the rest of the department; if it doesn’t function as promised, move on. And keep in mind that many new capabilities will be introduced on an ongoing basis. 
  • AI-enabled automation will reduce the volume of “tasks,” but will not eliminate the need for live agents – Approximately 20% – 30% of work done by live agents can be performed by intelligent business automation and workflow applications. It can reduce the burden placed on agents to perform less complex activities, freeing them to spend their time helping customers. This is also better for customers, as it speeds up processes and increases accuracy while ensuring they get the right information, thus improving the customer experience while boosting productivity.  
  • Self-service is better than ever and can reduce operating costs – The new generation of intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) and bots interact naturally with consumers. These AI-enabled self-service systems invite customers to “converse” like they would with a live agent, instead of using predefined scripts to direct them down narrow paths. The IVA or bot may not know how to handle every inquiry, but when it doesn’t, it sends the request to an administrator to find the right answer so the solution will be able to help the next consumer who has the same question. In an era when companies are finding it difficult to locate and hire qualified resources to staff their contact centers, these enhanced self-service capabilities are doing a great job of filling the opportunity gap. They will require a significant initial investment of time and resources to realize their full potential and benefits, even with the assistance of generative AI, but it’s worth the effort. 
  • Digital interactions have caught up with voice – The volume of digital interactions is growing and if activity in all digital channels is added together, it is likely to be greater than the number of calls received by contact centers. While phone calls are not going away anytime soon, as they remain the channel of last resort for many consumers, contact centers have reached a pivotal point where they must be retrofitted to properly handle digital interactions along with voice-based communications. This is no easy task, as the mathematical characteristics of asynchronous interactions, such as email and many of the social media channels, are very different from synchronous ones. As a result, contact centers must replace multiple existing applications, including their routing and queuing solutions, customer tracking systems, and workforce management. 
  • Gen Z is shaping the workforce and consumers of today and tomorrow – This is a generation that grew up consuming video and other digital channels but will not hesitate to call if necessary. They prefer helping themselves and expect to get the right answer or information during the first contact. This is the smallest generation to enter the workforce in decades, and they require employers to treat them with respect and provide schedule flexibility. 

Fueled by AI and automation, the pace of innovation and change in contact centers is accelerating. As exciting as this is, leaders must not lose sight of what is most important to their customers, company, and employees as they make investments and changes to position themselves for a successful 2024. Happy New Year!