Whether it’s because of business intrigues, plagiarism accusations, or seemingly breakthrough innovations, AI has been a hot topic of conversation across all kinds of sectors—and business communications is no exception.
AI has already started to change how customers interact with many organizations, and businesses are looking for new ways to implement it in their customer service as a result.
Still, AI is just one of the trends among contact centers in 2023. In fact, most of the relevant trends don’t even involve AI—just remember that computer automations and data-heavy software are not the same thing as AI.
1. Robocalls Are Not Slowing Down
Despite how eight out of ten Americans don’t answer calls from numbers they don’t know, U.S. consumers still receive around 4 billion robocalls per month, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). That equals roughly one call every two business days for each U.S. adult, even if most of these adults don’t even answer those calls.
The sheer existence (and persistence) of robocalls can affect your contact center whether or not you partake in them. This is not only because robocalls can decrease contact rates of customers who are hesitant to answer unknown numbers, but also because the mere association with robocall activity can cause legitimate calls from contact centers to be blocked or flagged.
If you’re having trouble with your high-volume company lines being flagged or blocked and want to uphold a more positive caller ID, there are a few strategies to consider:
- Authentication protocols: Enhancing the legitimacy of outgoing calls becomes more accessible with solid authentication protocols. Techniques like STIR/SHAKEN use digital certificates to add an extra layer of security by verifying caller IDs and guarding against the trickery of spoofed numbers.
- Monitoring and analytics: Keeping a close eye on call data and using analytics can be a helpful way to spot any unusual patterns and irregularities in call behavior.
- Caller reputation services: These services evaluate a caller’s trustworthiness, helping to build and maintain a good reputation. Integrating them into your communication setup adds an extra layer of protection to avoid being wrongfully labeled as spam.
2. Omnichannel Contact Centers Are Here to Stay
Omnichannel customer engagement is about connecting with customers on their preferred channels, allowing them to transition from one place to another while maintaining a consistent level of service regardless of where they initiate contact.
For contact centers, this means breaking down the barriers between different customer support channels and adopting technologies that enable seamless handoffs between agents. This can also include using social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok as alternative support channels.
If you’re looking to get your company into the omnichannel terrain quickly, you may want to take a look at some CPaaS platforms.
Going omnichannel is an excellent opportunity to broaden the customer demographics, but there are some costs associated with it. Businesses must invest in platforms supporting multiple channels while also addressing compliance and security concerns. For instance, if you’re outsourcing your call center, you’ll want to make sure that the company you work with is credible enough to handle queries on your official social media channels, and you’ll also have to make sure what you’re doing is GDPR compliant if you intend to expand your operations to Europe.
Besides the compliance, security, and ownership complexities, companies willing to ride the omnichannel wave should also count on the right tech stack to ensure real-time updates to their user account histories. For example, if a customer starts an inquiry on Instagram but then calls the support hotline, the agent handling the call shouldn’t have to ask any unnecessary “What did you tell my colleague?” questions.
3. Empathy in Contact Centers Will Pay Off
Customer empathy is about hearing the customer’s perspective and responding with authentic care and concern. 83% of surveyed customers agreed that they feel more loyal to brands that respond to and resolve their complaints—which suggests that empathy is a precious quality on any channel.
When a customer calls your contact center with a problem or complaint, they most likely aren’t thrilled to be making the call. If your agents are testy or hostile with them, your company’s reputation can take a serious hit.
As a result, empathy is a bit of a double-edged sword. With it, customers can feel highly valued by your company. Without it, they can turn on you after just one bad call. Fortunately, there are a few straightforward solutions businesses can implement to get onto the empathy train and respond to this trend:
- Authorize agents: Allow agents to make decisions that are in the customer’s best interests, especially when they are high-impact and low-cost decisions.
- Count on data: Use data and analytics to identify and address customer pain points, so your reps have a checklist at hand. If your agents are better prepared to handle specific issues, they’ll spend less time understanding the issues and more time helping the customer.
- Keep burnout in check: Stressed agents can struggle with the quest to be empathetic due to their own dispositions. Regulate your workload strategy so the people defending your brand don’t have to deal with burnout.
4. Data From Contact Centers Can Help Business Decisions
Data-driven decision-making for contact centers means making educated choices that guide how the contact center operates—and how the business reacts and responds to what the data says.
It’s all about gathering, studying, and understanding the correct data to make decisions that make things work better, make customers happier, and improve the contact center’s overall performance. For contact centers, data collection involves:
- Improved customer experiences: Better information can yield a better approach.
- Identification of operational weak spots: Data-driven insights can uncover inefficiencies in processes and help you shore up your contact center while cutting costs.
- Accurate forecasting: Historical data and predictive analytics help forecast call volumes. This helps you be ready for peak times when you need to have more help on hand.
To respond to this trend, your business can invest in analytics tools and focus on customer-centric metrics. You’ll want to keep an eye on things like how long it takes to solve issues on each channel, as well as which channel is the customer base’s preferred one.
Analytic tools require outstanding processing power, so you’ll notice that Business Intelligence (BI) vendors are usually cloud computing vendors. If you outsource your data center to the cloud, you can ask your provider about any relevant offerings and try to project how implementing this strategy will yield valuable data for your business.
5. Contact Centers Can Drive Employee Retention Up
An employee who’s not comfortable or satisfied with their job is probably an employee who will start combing for new jobs—especially during working hours—and potentially leave their current post with short notice.
Some jobs have a historically high turnover rate, and contact center jobs are part of that crew. One of the contemporary contact center trends is lower the employee churn rate by increasing job satisfaction and preventing burnout.
To boost employee retention and avoid burnout, contact centers can implement the following strategies:
- End micromanagement: Contact centers must acknowledge that the majority of their workers don’t like being micromanaged. By trusting workers more and watching them less, they can feel more comfortable to do their jobs well.
- Set realistic goals: Make goals that people can actually reach. If investors demand impossible EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) goals, don’t have the contact center employees bear the burden.
- Allow flexible work times: Let workers have some say in their schedule, like when they take breaks or go to meetings. Companies with sound operations should be ready and able to adopt this practice.
- Invest in quality technology: Your employees will prefer working for a company with sturdy hardware, friendly softphone software, and amicable VoIP systems. Choose your VoIP provider wisely so the people helping your brand are comfortable doing so.
6. Self-Service Automation Can Level Up with AI
One of the AI trends for contact centers is self-service automation—which has technically existed for years, but generative AI is taking it to a new level.
In contact centers, self-service automation uses technology to allow customers to find information and resolve their issues independently. This included blog posts, online knowledge bases, pre-recorded messages for call centers, and online FAQs.
Now, however, features like AI-driven chatbots and AI-searching tools can scan your knowledge base and give customized answers a lot faster.
Here are some tips to incorporate this trend into your business:
- Watch out for advancements in customizable AI tools: Open-source projects like Quivr allow organizations to launch a “second brain” fed with knowledge that customers appreciate.
- Connect with AI-driven chatbot vendors: Large Language Models have helped chatbots move away from pre-programmed output and provide a more human-like experience for customers.
- Tell the market you’re adopting AI: If you’re a contact center vendor or a company adopting AI-centered self-service automation, let the market know you’re using the latest tech. If there’s anything to fine-tune, the consumers will understand it, and investors will find it interesting that you’re ahead in the race.
7. Contact Centers can Segment Audiences
The customer effort score (CES) measurement is an excellent tool for contact centers to understand how convenient or challenging it is for customers to engage with the company and address their concerns. When contact centers check CES, they can figure out where to improve key contact metrics—while also making it easier for customers to get their messages across.
As a consumer, you’ve probably come across CES. When you’re asked a question about an experience and get seven answers, including Strongly Agree and Strongly Disagree, the company behind the question runs a CES program.
But contact centers can respond to this trend with an additional twist. One of the downsides of CES is that it doesn’t segment a customer base. The score is the same for all your customers. Since contact centers can segment their customer base with demographics—as with a CRM, for example—the CES can pump out some illustrative answers that point out where customers are making too much effort.
8. AI to Evaluate Customer Feelings is Now More Accessible
Contact centers have been using AI to analyze customer sentiments for almost a decade already. Now, with the general advancement of AI and Large Language Models, two underlying tendencies have emerged in the evaluation of feelings.
The first is availability. Just a few years ago, implementing AIs to evaluate feelings could have required heavy investments on infrastructure and risky contracts with unproven products. Today, companies deliver AI in microservices, meaning contact centers can leverage them through easy-to-integrate APIs.
The second tendency that has emerged is how evaluating feelings has become omnichannel as opposed to being restricted to tone of voice. These days, almost any form of communication can be measured by an AI for sentiments.
Contact centers can respond to this trend by integrating microservices and A/B testing their outcomes.
9. Integrating a CRM Can Authorize Decisions
Imagine you’re a customer service agent at your favorite store. You’re helping a customer on the phone, and they have a question about their recent purchase. To answer their question, you need to dig through a bunch of different systems to find the information they need. This is time-consuming and frustrating for both you and the customer.
With a CRM integration, all customer information is in one place—and you can access it right from your contact center screen without having to switch between different systems. This makes it much easier for you to help customers quickly and efficiently.
Of course, this may not sound like a trend (because some CRMs have been around for so long that they own a few of the Bay Area’s tallest buildings). However, the difference now is that contact centers can integrate their software stack—from VoIP to omnichannel solutions—with their CRMs as an additional layer of data and decision-making.
Think of it this way: designing a proper operations process with a CRM could allow contact center reps to offer a discount on the spot, without a supervisor’s approval. This goes hand-in-hand with the strategy of authorizing your agents to make low-cost but high-impact decisions. CRMs can help calculate this discount on the fly and reward the patient customer with a rebate.
If you’re a company that outsources its contact center, you can request your provider to share any API information so you can allow your engineers to implement an integration.