Seven emerging and future trends for contact centres

| February 9, 2021

A significant number of industries and organisations experienced major business disruption over the course of 2020. Government lockdowns and restrictions interrupted supply chains, forced the closure of some companies and required others to adapt to remote working where possible, while also accelerating the adoption of new technologies to facilitate changing working practices.

While this year brought about huge changes to how society operates, it also provided lessons that contact centres can use to predict the unpredictable and plan for an uncertain future.

There has been a significant shift in the way that contact centres are managed, and how agents are responding to changing customer behaviours and needs.

This shift will likely continue as we settle into the new normal and will impact two of the key factors in how we Work from Anywhere: people and technology.

NICE has identified seven emerging and developing trends that will continue to change the way contact centres work in 2021 and beyond:

1. Shift to hybrid working environments. The transition to new working environments will see a changed need for workforce management and employee engagement management. With increased flexibility, there will be more workers wanting to Work from Anywhere and at any time. Workforce management and engagement solutions will need to help manage people and help them manage their own schedules and workloads more easily.

2. Increased flexibility will expand the workforce. Being able to Work from Anywhere, and at any time, has the potential to vastly expand the workforce, and even potentially integrate a gig economy style of working for contact centres. Scheduling time for work provides more opportunities for people that only want to work part-time or casually, or with more flexible schedules to accommodate other priorities. This will also let older workers and those with carer responsibilities re-engage with the workforce as they have more access to remote working and part-time schedules.

3. Better access to resources. The changing face of the contact centre workforce presents new opportunities for the industry. COVID-19 highlighted the importance of business continuity, and the value in having access to resources onshore. The trend of contact centres coming back in-country has the potential to extend beyond the pandemic, and the flexibility and availability of new generations of workers can help to overcome resourcing limitations.

4. Increased uptake of cloud software. As a direct result of the business disruption that organisations weathered in 2020, companies will continue to look to cloud solutions to protect their operations and ensure business resilience and continuity in times of crisis. In terms of usage concerns, companies will look for solutions that offer elasticity and scalability that best meets their needs and requirements, and the ability to better supervise contact centre agents by hosting contact centres centrally.

5. Increased adoption of digital solutions. Digital solutions will also be increasingly important to help support human contact centre agents as they Work from Anywhere. For every 100 people in a workforce, there might be 50 bots being deployed to support them. In terms of business continuity and consistency, this will raise challenges around what happens if a digital employee doesn’t show up for work due to a system failure, for example. As a result, there will be an increase in technologies being built to manage artificial intelligence (AI)-based solutions like digital assistants. Human workers will also focus more on managing AI-based solutions and the digital workforce as they support human workers by completing more of the repetitive, rules-based, manual work, letting human contact centre agents focus on prioritising more complex tasks.

6. Continued investment in automation. To better support human agents, contact centres will invest more in integrated AI-based and analytics solutions that work collaboratively to improve the employee experience, facilitating greater collaboration and flexibility with human and digital agents. Increasingly using AI-based solutions that automate the qualitative analysis of call monitoring, with machine learning helping to quantify these results, organisations will be able to put a numeric value on previously unquantifiable data sets such as agent behaviours or customer emotions.Similarly, with continued investment in quality automation and analytics solutions, such as automating workflows, companies will be able to better streamline agent and work management, reducing time and costs spent on unnecessary actions.

7. Increased engagement with analytics and business intelligence solutions. By further integrating customer interaction analytics software into their processes and combining these with machine-learning-driven AI models, contact centre managers can assess new data insights and predictive behaviours in real time. This will provide actionable insights as calls happen, empowering agents to act on prescriptive real-time guidance with the help of virtual assistants. This will let contact centre agents make immediate changes for more productive calls. By enhancing the employee experience, this will drive a more positive experience for customers, leading to better future engagements and increased loyalty. In addition, contact centre managers will have access to key insights on churn, propensity to buy, fraud and client vulnerability, letting them act on agent behaviours before they can negatively impact on the organisation.

The way technology and people interact and function together in the future will come together to form part of the ongoing transformation towards a more digital, flexible future for contact centres in 2021, and beyond.