Welcome to 2021 (almost), where companies finally recognize the value of having a cloud-native customer contact solution. The Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) industry is witnessing endless growth from opportunities created by the migration to cloud and shift of the global workforce. This includes buzzworthy concepts like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, real-time analytics and IoT, hastening the changing ways that companies serve their customers.
According to Gartner, CCaaS will be the preferred model of adoption for 50% of all contact centers by 2022. On top of that, the sector is expected to exceed a total addressable market of $50 billion by 2025. Even many enterprise contact centers heavily reliant on legacy solutions are now taking baby steps into the cloud. All over the world, the industry is evolving, with some locations like the US and UK moving faster than others.
Today, it’s not really a matter of “if” but “when” your company will move to the cloud. The value of a cloud-native solution is endless, including; easy customization, scalability, and always being on the latest and greatest solution. Easily adding new features ranging from AI to sentiment analysis has changed the way that we address customer needs.
As in all technology solutions, data is king. With CCaaS, we are seeing a large shift towards predictive customer engagement solutions. Simply put, there are a lot of things agents spend millions of hours on that could be out-sourced to machines. Most of the time your customers don’t want to call you to resolve their problems. They just want things to work. Businesses store a lot of information about their customers, but much of this remains unstructured and underutilized. This data is most likely not being used to its fullest potential while determining when to engage customers, and make suggestions that are relevant to their needs.
Technologies such as AI can help organizations determine when to engage the customer with the right resource, or determine the next course of action. This has really made a push as of late with rise of Expert Systems.
AI and Machine Learning are driving next generation CCaaS features, including:
Contact centers are crucial to good customer engagement, but exceptional experiences require more coordinated solutions from the entire business. This need will likely drive consolidation in the space as solution providers focus on delivering both UCaaS and CCaaS offerings to meet the needs of modern businesses. These experiences will demand personalization, and will drive more real-time AI solutions to help augment agent capabilities in the process.
There is an increased demand for more integrated products, with many CRM/ITSM providers now offering open app market ecosystems, which fosters more innovation. Allowing agents to leverage a single pane of glass has become paramount.
Organizations are now simply expecting that these solutions contain seamless, omni-channel solutions. This includes voice, web, email, chat, text and social media, preferably leveraging bots for self-service. Consumers are increasingly digital-first, and want seamless interactions regardless of channel.
Chatbots and Virtual Assistants are continuing to improve, and are the best way to deflect volume away from a contact center through self-service. With technologies like Alexa, Google Assistant and Watson driving the market, we expect this technology to be more integrated into integrated solutions going forward. Not all of these solutions are comprehensive yet, but those that focus on this technology are strong and continue to improve. Some that we are seeing are driving as much as 90% of the call volume out of the contact center.
During the global Covid-19 pandemic there has been a massive resurgence in voice-based interactions. Some of this shift is being attributed to the arrival of home assistants like Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant. This resurgence is also related to the die-hard preference many people have of speaking to an actual human being for their customer service needs. Many companies are still committing the cardinal sin of poorly designed IVR applications, which tend to confuse consumers and drive down CSAT and Net Promoter Scores. As AI and ML continue to drive innovations in voice, it’s natural to assume that these voice applications will improve.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) continues to step out of the proof-of-concept (POC) stage and become more mainstream in the Unified Communications and Contact Center spaces. Now that companies such as AWS are doing real-time transcription, NLP has become a tool that can deliver unprecedented insights into your voice data and customer journey analytics.
Cloud-enabled applications have made it possible now to perform real-time analytics on the agent-customer voice interaction. Leveraging a sophisticated mix of keywords, tone of voice, and volume create a much deeper picture of the caller and their needs for the agent. With this information, businesses can ensure that each caller is routed to the agent or department best equipped to deal with their inquiry. It also arms an organization with the ability to understand escalation potential by listening to what a customer might may be saying while on hold on in queue.
Since many applications manufacturers are building solutions from similar platforms (AWS, GCP, Azure), differentiating has become fairly difficult. This is actually good news for businesses as the best way to stand out is to deliver at the best price, service and features.
Video chat has been the ‘next big thing’ in customer experience for a good number of years. However, recent global health scares may accelerate the integration of video chat into a wider omni-channel portfolio, as more and more customers choose to interact online rather than in-person
Over the past five years, many technology leaders and customer advocates have collectively wondered how many contact centers would benefit from servicing their customers through video channels. The reality is, not all business cases demand video interactivity. However, the ones that do, need it as soon as possible. One such use case is the financial industry, where some banks can connect to mortgage advisers and other experts from the comfort of their own home. Another would be medical provider video interaction in the healthcare sector.
So, this means we are witnessing an evolution in the use of video collaboration and conferencing tools within the contact center. This includes contact channels for customer interactions and for virtual agent monitoring, I.E. workspace monitoring. That being said, research indicates that most use cases don’t demand this kind of interaction.
The reality is, most use cases don’t demand video, and customers are not yet demanding this as a communication medium in the short term. This will change over time however.
Anecdotal evidence shows that a decent majority of customers still prefer to use phone or self-service automation to resolve queries. Generationally speaking however, most millennials and Gen-Z customers don’t want to speak with customer service, they just want their problem resolved. They would rather research their issue in a knowledge base, using intelligent IVRs or chatbots. This means that solutions need to have the answers they are looking for. These solutions continue to improve so companies can drive down the call load on the contact center. This ends up in happy customers and happy companies.
Global companies have been searching for less expensive ways to service their customers for years. Over the past several years, technologies like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat have grown significantly as cheaper alternatives to SMS or voice. During that time, these companies have opened up their API’s so they can integrate with different omnichannel solutions. This is something that will grow significantly over the coming years. If companies choose to use these platforms, they need to remember that customers are expecting the same high level of experience. They are all solid platforms but you’ll need to have a plan to make everything work smoothly within your processes.
Through this analysis we see that there are a lot of great solutions that solve today’s challenges in the contact center. All of these solutions will evolve quickly over the coming 12 to 24 months, resulting in the addition of more intelligence and real-time customer experience solutions. This will improve overall customer experience and help companies keep long term customer relationships. The key here is, when evaluating solutions in the marketplace, selecting a future-proofed ecosystem can help save time and most importantly, money.