2018 is rapidly drawing to a close and our attentions are now turning to the year ahead and what it might bring. The following blog takes a look at the contact centre and what we can expect to see in 2019.
Contact centres will continue to migrate towards robotic technology and artificial intelligence, but the reality won’t match the hype.
Anybody who is running any customer-facing part of an organisation these days is probably already being asked by senior management about their plans and overall strategies around artificial intelligence, robots and chatbots, and how they are going to roll them out. Those questions are not likely to stop during 2019. If anything, they are likely to become even more urgent.
There needs to be an element of balance brought into the picture here, however. Too many organisations are being caught up in the excitement and hysteria that surrounds the whole AI and robot story. Businesses will continue making strides down the road to automation and AI, of course, and there are a broad range of benefits to be had from doing so as they look to streamline the customer journey and make straight through and self-service approaches faster and more efficient. However, the reality on the ground is somewhat disconnected from the hype.
Analyst, ContactBabel’s recent The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel (UK)” report indicates that even in 2021, telephone and email together are expected to account for 81.5% of all contact centre inbound interactions. Despite the onward march of the robots, older, more traditional types of interaction technology still dominate in the contact centre today and we expect that to continue for some years to come.
Collaboration environments will gain more ground
We expect to see the adoption of technologies like unified communications and collaboration environments like Microsoft Teams and Slack gain more and more traction during 2019. That is partly a consequence of the fact that a growing number of interactions are moving through self-service and automation processes. The remaining queries and interactions are typically complex or awkward. Multiple parties are often needed to help to fix these problems. Putting a collaboration environment like a ‘sandpit’ or a ‘box’ in place, where several people can join forces to work on the same issue, is a prerequisite to resolving that issue efficiently and effectively.
Cloud contact centre adoption rates will continue to grow
We are seeing a growing willingness for businesses to move to cloud-based contact centres and we expect that trend to continue during 2019. In today’s market, many of the issues and concerns that gave senior managers sleepless nights when mulling over whether to move to the cloud have now largely dissipated. Just five years ago, we would have seen much higher levels of anxiety around issues like security, resilience and reliability.
Today, all these concerns are steadily melting away and there is a much higher level of confidence in the cloud. There is greater understanding too of the benefits of cloud contact centres – from greater business flexibility and agility right through to the ability to bring in new resource, working remotely, when bad weather strikes, or when there are peaks in demand. That said, there is a general misconception that the cloud will always end up being cheaper for business than an on-premise approach. In fact, that is not always the case. The decision to move to cloud always necessitates a detailed cost benefit analysis and typically will also depend on the kind of organisation concerned and what strengths they have on their own internal IT bench.
Real Time Speech Analytics will Evolve into an Agent Coaching Tool
The capabilities of real time speech analytics (RTSA) technology are expanding all the time. As 2019 progresses, we expect to see the technology used more as a coaching bot by the contact centre management team. In the past, speech analytics was primarily used as a bolt-on analytical engine. That’s changing today, and we will see that change accelerate during 2019. The speech analytics engine can already listen into the agent’s conversation with the customer and measure and sense everything from the speed the agent is talking at, right through to the levels of stress in the conversation and the tone of speech that is being used.
Businesses will start to think about giving robots job descriptions
Currently, there is a gap here in the thinking of many organisations around robots. They would not dream of hiring a human to work for them without giving them a job description to work to. But if you asked the business for the job descriptions of the robots they are employing, they would typically not know. If they don’t know exactly what they want the robot to do, how they are going to coach and develop it? How are they going to get the best out of it? Just like a human, a robot needs to have access to the latest relevant knowledge and information to do their best job. We expect to see growing recognition of the importance of this among businesses during 2019.