Seven call centre trends and predictions for 2021 and beyond
A number of industries and organisations have experienced major business disruptions during 2020. Government lockdowns and restrictions interrupted supply chains, requiring some companies to adopt new technologies to facilitate changing working practices. While 2020 brought about many changes, it also provided lessons that contact centres can use to predict the unpredictable and plan for an uncertain future.
NICE has identified seven emerging and developing trends that will continue to change the way contact centres work in 2021 and beyond. Darren Rushworth, President of NICE Asia Pacific, noted that 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,” said Rushworth.
NICE forecasts that the shift 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 their own workloads more easily.
Increased flexibility and being able to work from anywhere, at any time, is also predicted to expand the workforce. This also has the potential to integrate a gig economy style of working for contact centres. Scheduling time for work provides more opportunities for people who only want to work part-time or casually, or with more flexible schedules to accommodate other priorities. This will also enable older workers and those with carer responsibilities to re-engage with the workforce, with more access to remote working and part-time schedules.
The changes to the contact centre workforce also present new opportunities for the industry, as COVID-19 highlighted the importance of business continuity and 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.
As a 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 continuity in times of crisis. In terms of usage concerns, companies will look for solutions that offer elasticity and scalability that best meet their needs and requirements, and the ability to better supervise contact centre agents by hosting contact centres centrally.
Digital solutions will also be increasingly important to help support human contact centre agents as they work from anywhere. NICE predicts that for every 100 people in a workforce, there might be 50 bots deployed to support them. This will raise challenges around what happens if a digital employee doesn’t work due to a system failure. As a result, there will be an increase in technologies being built to manage artificial intelligence (AI)-based solutions.
To better support human agents, contact centres will invest in integrated AI-based and analytics solutions that work collaboratively to improve the employee experience and facilitate greater flexibility with human and digital agents. With continued investment in quality automation and analytics solutions, such as automating workflows, companies will be able to streamline agent and work management, reducing time and costs spent on unnecessary actions.
NICE predicts that contact centres will also increase engagement with analytics and business intelligence solutions. By further integrating customer interaction analytics software into the processes and combining these with machine-learning-driven AI models, contact centre managers can assess new data insights and predictive behaviours in real time. NICE predicts that enhancing the employee experience 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 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,” said Rushworth.
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