Future gazing: contact centre predictions for 2020
With every passing year, the expectations of what constitutes excellent customer service increases, continually impressing upon businesses to identify areas where they can improve and align themselves with expectations.
Those lofty expectations are the product of digital technology, which has drastically changed contact centres over the past two decades. As technology develops, customers’ (in particular, the digital savvy generations) expectations of a seamless omnichannel experience grow.
We’ve certainly come a long way from single-channel, one-way call centres of the 1960s and 70s. Contact centres today have diversified from telephones and now encompass all channels: social media, email, the internet, text messages and live chat, to name just a few.
Given the proliferation of communication channels, contact centres are rapidly becoming better described as “engagement centres”. So, what’s on the horizon for contact centres – or engagement centres – in 2020?
1. Away with the scripts
Although tech has influenced the interactions, it’s the call handler’s personal interactions that make the biggest difference.
Customers want personalised and sensitive responses from advisers, which are geared towards a solution. Scripts are used as a means of standardising each call and ensuring that the conversation doesn’t fall outside of the adviser’s comfort zone.
But they can limit the boundaries for conversation, which can be detrimental when an adviser needs to help somebody in need of emotional support.
Instead of using a script in 2020, internal teams or outsourced call centre agents should be highly trained to ask the right questions in order to solve a problem quickly, while being empathetic and sensitive.
Script budgets should be replaced with investment in staff training and quality assurance.
2. AI continues to rise
There are at least two reasons why artificial intelligence (AI) should become embedded in contact centres in 2020 – and neither of them involve replacing humans with robots.
AI can power a self-service offering for customers, providing them with the right information they need at the right time via chatbots, removing the need for a call to customer service.
Should customers need help that goes beyond self-service, customer service representatives have all this background information to help solve the issue in the most efficient and satisfactory way possible.
With AI picking up the slack answering routine questions, agents are ‘saved’ for the cases that involve real problem solving and require their expert knowledge.
The result is a great customer service and improved employee engagement – nobody wants to be answering the same mundane questions every day.
3. Omnichannel as the norm
“We endeavour to respond to your message within two working days.” With ‘promises’ like that, it’s little wonder that many customers still feel the need to pick up the phone to have the question answered.
This two-tiered service, which caters for calls first and foremost and everything else as an aside, is becoming increasingly outdated and out of line with customers’ preferences.
If your customers clearly prefer to make contact through web chat or email, treat their questions with the same urgency as you would if they had called.
It’s high time that omnichannel – where each channel is treated equally – becomes the norm in 2020.
4. Around-the-clock service
I’m generalising a little, but it’s probably fair to say that the average consumer is working between the hours of 8am and 6pm. This can make contacting a business difficult if they’re operating within the same hours.
Is it time contact centres went 24/7/365 in 2020?
Consumers want to see it happen – nearly two-thirds of people said that access to a 24-hour service would benefit them. This tallies with a West Unified Communications Services’ “Customer Engagement – the Road to 2020“ report, in which over two-thirds (70%) of UK consumers would like customer service to be more convenient and offer more channels to get in touch with organisations.
Ultimately, it depends on the demand for customer services ‘out of hours’. But perhaps we’re back to AI, which could be the best enabler of a 24-hour service. Chatbots don’t need to be paid for working unsociable hours.
5. Messaging apps
With 1.6 billion active users, WhatsApp is now the most popular messaging app in the world. Contact centres, aware of its popularity with their customers, are adopting the app for their business – a trend we expect to continue in 2020.
You might already by offering customer service support on Facebook Messenger, wondering if you really need to be active on WhatsApp, too.
But, again, it comes back to being omnichannel and aligning with customers’ preferences. With WhatsApp, you don’t need an active Facebook account, you just need to download the app.
As WhatApp’s popularity has risen, Skype has seen fewer people use its service for video calls. But don’t feel too sorry for Skype. Experts are predicting that one in five new contact centres will be run on Skype for Business by 2020 “due to rising need for full multichannel capability, as well as call recording and PCI compliance.”
It seems we’re quickly moving towards omnichannel becoming the norm, with customers expecting seamless customer service regardless of how they choose to engage. This puts pressure on organisations in 2020, who must find a cost-effective way of being across all channels without spreading themselves too thin.