The future of the contact center – 3 trends for 2021

What a year it has been. For the Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) industry, 2020 brought unparalleled disruption, forcing leaders to rethink their use of technologies and data to best serve their customers. But what does 2021 have in store?

Martin TaylorDeputy CEO and Co-Founder of Content Guru, discusses his predictions for 2021.

Hybrid working is the future

Distributed hybrid-working will become permanent in 2021, particularly in the contact center industry, which previously held the crown as one of the last mill-style working environments.

Organizations will need to remain agile and hybrid working helps to enable this. It will no longer be enough for contact center operators to lash together tools and technologies each time their operations are disrupted – they need to be established in the cloud with a workforce ready to work from multiple locations.

The demand for hybrid-working to continue is now two-fold – having experienced the benefits, employees are now pushing employers to offer this in the long-term. Businesses are beginning to realize that employee experience and customer experience are intrinsically linked – one drives the other. The value of tightly linking these, rather than improving each as an individual objective, is fundamental to overall business success.

This is extremely relevant in the contact center. With a greater interest in, and demand for, better agent experience, the opportunities for agents to work where they want must be available. This allows flexible shift patterns, greater freedom and healthier employee satisfaction rates – cutting down agent churn dramatically.

AI-powered NLP technology

In 2021 we will see fully automated complex voice services come of age. We’ve long become used to Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and first-gen Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) as part of the contact center mix. Now the impact of AI-powered Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies is beginning to be felt across the industry.

Voice is still overwhelmingly the consumer’s preferred route for more complex queries, and these are increasingly being serviced through automation – either at the top of the call or during it – when a decision-ready query is passed over to the call agent together with the associated data and recommendations. In 2021, we’ll see NLP applied not only at the top of call but throughout – where stereo audio breakout enables platforms to analyze data from both caller and agent, in real-time. Integrations with knowledge management systems will then feed agents a continual stream of approved information to help them solve callers’ complex issues quickly and effectively.

The rise of video communication

In parallel, we will see video become ubiquitous in customer service. The impact video had during periods of COVID-19 lockdown cannot be overstated – from a personal, enterprise and wellbeing perspective – and now it cannot be unseen. The ease with which agents can switch between voice and video calls is now such that adoption will skyrocket in 2021 – driven by both the availability of video technology and demand from consumers now well-versed in video usage, especially from their mobile devices.