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The future of
contact centers
lies in enhanced

Author: Paul Gillin

For innovative businesses, the future of contact centers will be less a catch-all for customer complaints and more a window into customer experience trends. Paying attention not just to customers' one-off experiences but also to how they interact with your company over time is critical for business success. In the Pointillist 2020 State of Customer Journey Management & CX Measurement survey, 79% of respondents indicated that a journey-based strategy was very important to their business success.

Contact centers have long been a good news/bad news scenario for customer engagement. The good news is that when customers call, they are initiating a contact and creating an opportunity for the business. The bad news is that incoming calls are often from people who are experiencing difficulty with a product or service. Keeping customers on hold, transferring them multiple times and being unable to answer their questions only makes matters worse, turning an engagement opportunity into a negative experience. But technology can help organizations transform these digital customer experiences.

Self-service gets smarter

Interactive voice response (IVR) is the technology that provides menus of options that customers can navigate to have their questions answered without speaking to a human operator. While IVR has been around for years, its track record in enhancing customer experience has been decidedly mixed. Many companies implemented IVR soon after it appeared as a means of saving money by replacing human operators with menu options. Unfortunately, the convoluted decision trees they created were often confusing and difficult to navigate. That only frustrated customers more.

More recent innovations in IVR employ artificial intelligence, voice recognition and cloud integration to streamline the process. Virtual assistants can now understand even complex customer questions in multiple languages and provide automated responses or route callers quickly to appropriate agents. At the same time, the popularity of digital voice assistants has made people more comfortable with speaking to machines.

Contact center future trends: faster, more accurate routing

Another major innovation affecting contact center future trends is automatic call distribution (ACD), a technology that automatically routes calls to service representatives based upon factors such as availability, expertise, language proficiency and even prior interactions with the customer. Customers who struggle with IVR menus can be proactively routed to a live agent, and VIP callers can be placed at the front of the call queue. When combined with cloud-based call center systems that permit reps to work from anywhere, ACD can significantly reduce both customers' wait times and unnecessary call transfers by alerting representatives who may not currently be on duty that their services are needed.

ACD systems can also be connected to an organization's customer relationship management and order history systems to automatically pull up a complete record of the customer's previous experiences with the organization before the representative even answers the call. Many can also give customers the option of requesting a call back and specifying the most convenient time for the call.

Analytics-powered aid

Perhaps the most revolutionary innovation among contact center future trends is speech analytics—software that listens to conversations in near-real time and takes action based on what's being said. Speech analytics open a world of opportunities that can allow businesses to use their call centers to spot customer experience trends and make improvements. Some sample use cases include:

  • The software can detect emotion in customer voices and present representatives with scripts tailored to either soothe frayed nerves or encourage add-on sales, depending on the customer's temperament. Managers can be alerted to intervene in a heated discussion and guide the call to a resolution.
  • Mentions of a competitor can be flagged and representatives immediately presented with an offer to head off a customer defection.
  • Multiple conversations can be scanned to look for patterns, such as repeated mentions of the same quality or usability issues.

In addition, the combination of all three of these innovative technologies has a collateral benefit of empowering service agents to delegate routine problems to software and focus on the most interesting and impactful issues. In a field in which turnover rates can run to more than 40%, according to Avoxi, the value of retaining skilled agents can't be overestimated.

Human operators will be part of the future of contact centers for a long time to come. Technology can ensure that they're working on the issues that most impact the business and using their talents to send customer experience trends in the right direction.

Learn more about how Verizon solutions can help you build the virtual contact center of the future.