2020 Contact Centres – Priorities and Opportunities in the Search for Broad Customer Engagement

There is clear demand for omni-channel customer engagement in consumer sectors, particularly those industries which are heavily transaction-based. However, where there is complexity or where a buyer-supplier relationship is important, for example in smaller B2C organisations, and most of those which are B2B, voice is still used as the primary communication medium outside of email.

Ultimately, every business needs to make a call on whether it makes sense to invest in omni-channel tools, or whether that investment would be better spent on understanding the interactions they are already having.

Artificial Intelligence: Customer-facing or Back-end Technology

The effectiveness of AI will largely depend on the scale of the contact centre, the volume of the interactions, and the nature of those interactions. For transactional and simple queries, customer-facing AI via chatbots, for example, can present great benefit. When dealing with large numbers of queries, particularly during unexpected peaks, the benefit of AI-powered routing might be greater.

As we’re only just leaving the discovery stage for AI – and really only for deep learning AI at that – it’s impossible to say where the most benefit is. What we do know, however, is that purposeful CX improvement isn’t achieved by implementing new technologies that improve processes without accounting for the element of feedback. Measurement is critical, both for justification of CX investment and for improving it over time. AI is helping to improve analytics and in extracting key insights from complex or voluminous data, and as such is creating massive opportunity for resellers and service providers to drive these advanced technologies forward, safe in the knowledge that they will be able to prove its value.

Addressing Contact Centre Pain Points

As customer experience becomes a priority for many businesses, the contact centre’s pain points have morphed. They still face the challenge running a frictionless, efficient contact centre, but now also have to consider how to do so whilst delivering, managing and measuring positive customer experience. One of the dynamics inherent to this is providing a personal experience, where agents have access to the right information at the right time. This outcome touches processes throughout the contact centre. Information has to be related to that customer, it has to be accurate, it has to be relevant to the specific interaction that is ongoing, and it has to be presented in the right context. In addition, that personal experience should include acknowledgement of the fact that customers like to make contact in different ways, so the omni-channel element also surfaces.

In order to do this well, organisations need to have a good understanding of their customers’ expectations. From this, they can generate metrics, KPIs and SLAs that help them to keep their performance on track and deal with emerging trends before they become truly established. Call analytics and recording solutions are essential for this, but more to the point, these tools need to be flexible and wide-ranging to the point where they can provide that joined up view of how individual metrics impact overall business performance. Only when contact centre supervisors have this comprehensive understanding can they generate a consistently excellent customer experience.

The Future of the Contact Centre Agent

The role of the contact centre agent will change, but not as dramatically as some might think. Yes, omni-channel will bring some change – for example, in a smaller business, agents might be required to deal with multiple channels of enquiries, whilst larger businesses might specialise – but the main change, if it can be considered as such, is that the value that agents add is in making customer engagement more human. The role of chatbots and other AI-powered contact centre technologies, like routing, will be to seamlessly escalate conversations to agents when they are truly necessary – for issues that are complex, emotional or sensitive perhaps – but the contact centre agent will be largely focused on customer experience rather than volume-based quotas. We’re seeing that many organisations are already doing this, enabled by advances in managing and measuring CX, and agents within these companies will see little change.

Third Party or Home Grown?

As any vertical specialist in the channel knows, industry specific context really matters. This is all the more critical for AI, where knowledge of jargon or case-specific data within the learning library is the difference between a product that’s effective or simply doesn’t work.  That means it’s important that companies with a strong vertical understanding use that knowledge to bring appropriate and effective solutions to market.

That said, it doesn’t mean that partners should develop and protect their own IP. Not only is IP law in the UK and beyond in its infancy when related to AI, but it could create an ecosystem that dissuades companies from engaging collaborative deep learning efforts, slowing down development and resulting in taking much longer to bring contextual contact centre products to market. We’re working with a range of partners to enhance the solutions we provide to them whilst allowing them to maintain ownership of their customers – an important dynamic in this age of cloud and churn.