We must look to the past to design the contact center of the future

While there is a debate over who said “never make predictions, especially about the future”, the words certainly contain a lesson in caution. That said, Abraham Lincoln is often quoted as saying that “the most reliable way to predict the future is to create it”.

The future of contact center is being designed, with advances in cloud computing exponentially changing what is possible. A recent white paper titled The State of Contact Center Technology, authored by CCW, found that 52% of companies believe their contact center technology is very useful to them for the continued prevalence of remote and hybrid working. However, more than a fifth feel unprepared for the growth of self-service, agent-led digital interactions.

It creates a useful snapshot of the kinds of conversations that are happening, but ignoring a basic truth about humans makes any discussion of technology somewhat irrelevant. Despite the pandemic, despite the fourth industrial revolution, despite digitization and despite artificial intelligence, the human does not change.

Humans want a personalized experience, and we want to engage in the channels and at the times that suit us. Understanding these fundamental truths enables businesses to use the abundance of technology at their disposal to prepare for a future that would be foolish to predict, but wise to achieve.

We often hear utopian or dystopian stories about a future driven by technology – good or bad depends on who is making the predictions. Perhaps the most sobering caveat for businesses is this: beware of automating to the point that the human touch is completely lost. Remember that we as humans need that human touch.

What does it mean? This doesn’t mean a customer has to talk to a human all the time; this means that as we adopt more and more technology, we need to ensure that when the chips are down, a customer has to have access to a human at the touch of a button, and that the experience is designed with human nature in mind.

In other words, there are basic products, improvements and integrations with amazing third-party platforms and technologies, but when a human needs a human, it has to be transparent, and then that human has to know enough about the customer’s context to resolve the call in the first place.

Unique challenges

To be fair, South Africa faces challenges that may not be found in other markets, and the cloud has gone a long way in mitigating risk and enabling businesses. For example, socio-economic unrest or power outages could bring an on-premises server to its knees, whereas in the cloud the user simply needs a laptop with battery life and connectivity.

Beyond that, remote and hybrid work environments would be much more complicated without the cloud. To run a contact center in a distributed work environment, a business needs to take care of two things: it needs to give the agent the tools to work remotely, and it needs to give supervisors and managers the tools to track agent productivity.

These are fundamentals, but the South African market is becoming aware of the fact that contact centers must improve the customer experience. In truth, even though there are outliers, in this market, we’re probably behind in some markets by about two to three years, on average. While everyone understands the importance of an omnichannel strategy, many organizations aren’t quite there yet: instead, they are applying variations of a multichannel strategy.

What does this mean and why the differentiation? True omnichannel requires interaction with third-party systems. For example, the adoption of channels like WhatsApp has been great, but to unleash the true power of omnichannel, the platform’s API needs to make seamless integration a reality – remember, folks believe that by default you have all the options available in a contact center as you would from your smartphone, but this is not the case. How is the platform designed to enable this type of integration?

Think about the people around you: younger people prefer WhatsApp, older people may prefer SMS or email. The older among us, in general, prefer to make voice phone calls. All of these people are customers, and they all need the freedom to engage where they feel comfortable. The youngest among us, Generation Z, prefer self-service functions. Businesses know this, which is why we’ve seen an increase in the adoption of mixed voice, email, whatsapp and web chat.

The author, Walroux Engelbrecht of Telviva

Perhaps one of the biggest changes in contact centers is the move away from information-driven reporting. Today, dashboards make old reports archaic. Today, managers want actionable insights. They don’t just want to be told things. They need a dashboard that can tell them something and then what to do about it. They need to know how to reproduce a positive result and how to avoid a negative result. They also need to know when it is likely to happen again. All of this actionable insight needs to be visualized simply and tailored to each company’s unique context and circumstances.

Perhaps most exciting, certainly from an automation perspective, is the increased role that AI is playing in contact centers. In 2022, it’s safe to say that while people are still talking about bots, that ship of pre-determined queries and pre-determined results has sailed. Today, we have the ability to integrate third-party systems and bring them to the forefront to better interact with customers. AI brings a host of features including natural language processing, voice authentication where voice biometrics can extract a complete customer profile and support third-party information, while voice emotion analysis can help with a host of functions such as resolution and sales – all of which build context on the customer without them having to do anything.

How does this happen in the real world? Imagine knowing that a service in a particular area is down. Usually this would result in a deluge of calls, with all customers asking for the same thing. Using AI, the contact center can resolve customer issues before they ask by sending automated, location-based messages, with a built-in link if the customer still wants to engage with a human. Similarly, automated prompts could remind a customer to pay their bill or make payment arrangements with a seamlessly integrated third-party payment portal before the customer can access other features.

Humans will always be humans and need to rejoice while solving their problems

Limited only by imagination, the contact center of the future is designed for efficiency and effectiveness. As Lincoln said many years ago, we are already making that future a reality using the technology at our disposal. This will continue with more and more advancements and the ability to layer specialized integrations.

The key here is not to get carried away with technology for technology’s sake. Yes, in no time we will be able to get customers to engage before they even think about engaging, but there needs to be a plan. A partner needs to engage a customer and work and analyze their business, methodically finding the business case for automation and other added value: how will it improve the customer experience, how will it improve- it internal efficiency and how is it likely to affect the bottom line? ?

Perhaps the best quote to keep in mind when planning the contact center of the future is: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Humans will always be humans and need to rejoice while solving their problems. A business, whether on-premises, remote, or in a hybrid work environment, needs to implement the most effective and efficient unified communications platform that can integrate with a plethora of applications. cloud-based and third-party systems. It’s the future.

Do not hesitate to contact our specialized contact center team if you have other questions.

  • The author, Walroux Engelbrecht, is Head of Field and Professional Services at Telviva
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