WFO Trends in 2020
2019 was the year of artificial intelligence (AI), automation and analytics, a trend that has continued in 2020 and into the foreseeable future, despite the pandemic. Vendors are making large research and development (R&D) investments in these product areas, and end users are eager to realize the proven benefits from automation and the promised payback from AI.
The greatest areas of investment in service organizations and contact centers are in AI, robotic process automation (RPA), big data and digital-oriented applications, all of which are delivered via the cloud. While most systems and applications are still available on-premise, in the cloud and in a hybrid mode (in cloud/on-premise), the R&D is focused on the cloud-based solutions and, in some cases, applied to the on-premise offerings. (There are also a growing number of situations where vendors are targeting their R&D investments at their cloud offerings and not applying them to their older on-premise solutions.)
When it comes to contact center WFO applications, the vast majority of enterprises are still purchasing premise-based solutions, although a growing percentage of new sales are for cloud offerings, a trend that has picked up momentum due to the pandemic. Organizations in almost every vertical, including financial services, which was one of the last holdouts, are purchasing some cloud-based solutions, even if it is not yet for their core systems. Every one of the 14 WFO-related applications is available in the cloud, with surveying, workforce management (WFM), interaction analytics (speech and text analytics), predictive analytics and RPA leading the way. Adoption of cloud-based recording is starting to pick up momentum, as is analytics-enabled quality management (QM).
Predictive analytics, an AI-based application, is getting a lot of attention, even if these solutions are still in their infancy. DMG has been saying for years that the future of contact centers is predictive analytics, which, by the way, will require massive processing capabilities, making it likely that these applications will be delivered in the cloud.
WFO vendors are also investing to enhance the scalability of their solutions and are talking about the need to transform from suites to true platforms. The platform concept is very important to the future of WFO, as well as other contact center systems and applications. The idea is to make systems interoperable through easy-to-use application programming interfaces (APIs). The WFO competitors have not yet set up ecosystems to promote the development and sale of third-party applications to enhance their capabilities. With the exception of WFM, where integration to an automatic call distributor (ACD) or other form of routing and queuing system is a necessity, WFO vendors have not traditionally made it easy for third-party vendors to integrate to these suites. This is starting to change, but more progress is needed before contact center WFO solutions will be considered to be primarily open platforms.
The digital economy is coming on strong. The amount of voice-based contact center activity and seats have reached their peak, and DMG predicts that sales of voice-based solutions will stay flat through 2020 (at best) before starting to decline. It’s not that the total volume of contact center activity is declining, but instead, it’s moving to digital channels, with messaging well on its way to being one of the most popular. The market is seeing an increase in the number of digital-only servicing organizations and growing investments in self-service applications.
Sales of WFO functionality to mid-size and small companies is on the rise, driven by the availability of cloud-based offerings. Sales of WFO solutions outside of North America are also increasing. Two trends are fueling this market growth: an increasing number of partnerships for some vendors and the establishment of new offices for other companies.
These trends are foundational to the future of service and contact centers, and they will be enablers of essential enhancements that will prioritize customer needs, changing the service dynamic in a lasting way that will benefit the economy, customers and enterprises. Companies will continue to invest in WFO-related applications because of their proven benefits, which are expected to increase as some of the newer modules, like customer journey analytics (CJA), mature. The pandemic has slowed investments in some applications and driven sales for other solutions. However, there are a number of WFO applications that have traditionally sold well in good and challenging times, and this seems to be the case during the pandemic.
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.