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.