What to Expect for Contact Centers in 2018


What to Expect for Contact Centers in 2018
Illustration by Adrian Peterson

Of the most impactful priorities for contact centers in 2017, customer experience was at the top of the list. In a competitive landscape where consumers are inundated with options, delivering a seamless customer experience can be a key differentiator in building engaged, loyal customers. As we kick off 2018, businesses will continue to improve the contact center to meet changing consumer expectations, transforming it from simply a troubleshooting channel into a significant driver of business growth via better customer experience. This will require more than bolt-ons or minor upgrades to legacy infrastructure. Especially in large contact centers, there will be a renewed urgency to retool with a modern cloud platform.

In addition to the overall acceleration of cloud adoption, the following are a few trends that I foresee will dominate in the coming year:

Lack of (True) Omnichannel Experience Starts to Hurt

Despite talk of omnichannel experience, the reality is, most business provide little more than lip service. In fact, rarely do businesses’ promise of a seamless omnichannel experience reflect the actual state of their customer service infrastructure. Businesses say they succeed with omnichannel, but what they really mean is “multichannel.” Contact centers may excel within individual channels, but true omnichannel success requires that channels support each other in a larger ecosystem. Customers expect to be able move between channels with as little friction as possible. When businesses fail to deliver on that expectation, it causes frustration that will ultimately drive customers into the hands of competitors. In fact, eight in 10 customers report that, if they have a bad customer experience, they’ll consider switching brands, according to the NICE inContact Customer Experience Transformation Benchmark Study 2017.

Not all businesses will continue to lag in providing true omnichannel experience. Our research shows that 27% plan to add new services to allow channels of communication to work together seamlessly in 2018. These leaders understand that the path to omnichannel is easier than ever through the adoption of modern, integrated cloud customer experience platforms that enable businesses to improve the customer relationship at every touch point. For example, with a cloud customer experience platform, an agent can elevate a single-channel customer interaction to an omnichannel session by adding channels to a live interaction, such as adding voice to an existing chat conversation—creating a genuine omnichannel experience.

Analytics Walk the Walk

While the need for analytics is nothing new, 2018 will see will see an exponential rise in the practical ability to turn data and insight into action. For contact centers, use of analytics to automate and augment agent evaluations will continue to gain mainstream adoption, especially in midmarket. However, real success will come in giving employees better insight into the customer journey, so they can make personalized recommendations in near real-time. According to our benchmark study, both customers and businesses agree that fast resolution of issues is critical to customer service. Employing analytics to streamline the process will pay major dividends.

That’s not the only way analytics will improve the customer experience for contact centers, though. The same survey found that interactive voice response (IVR) for voice calls is a pain point for both customers and businesses. Improvements are on the near horizon. Analytics-based routing backed by advances in natural language understanding will be leveraged to improve customer experience for interactive voice response (IVR) for voice calls and, also, get the right digital interaction (e.g., SMS text or email) quickly to the right agent with the right information.

Businesses (Finally) Take Agent Experience Seriously

Customers aren’t the only ones who will benefit in 2018, as businesses will look to simplify the agent experience to better serve customers. Part of delivering high-quality customer service is ensuring that agents on the front lines have the tools they need. Historically, this process has involved jumping between one platform to the next, hampering agents’ ability to provide relevant information as quickly as possible. According to Aberdeen, the typical contact center customer service agent spends 15% of his or her time finding relevant information to do their jobs and uses an average of 5-7 interfaces—time that could otherwise be spent supporting or even upselling to a valuable customer.

In 2018, businesses will actively seek to overcome inefficient use of agent resources; 36% plan to upgrade their contact center technology in 2018, according to the NICE inContact Benchmark Study. Contact centers that adopt a unified, modern customer experience platform can streamline processes by moving to a unified agent desktop for better omnichannel routing, customer journey context and improved agent experiences. This will help keep agents productive and engaged by eliminating hurdles to key information, enabling faster response times and greater customer satisfaction.

New Year, New Contact Center

There’s a bright future ahead as contact centers continue to build on the successes of past customer experience improvement programs. Expect to see businesses expand the role of the contact center as a competitive differentiator, with increased investments in technology modernization to deliver exceptional customer experience. Success in 2018 will be achieved by developing new ways to engage customers and meet their ever-growing expectations. Innovative, cloud native contact center solutions will enable better relationships between businesses and consumers, driving authentic engagements, increasing ROI and customer loyalty for years to come.

Chris Bauserman

Chris Bauserman is Vice President of Segment and Product Marketing at NICE inContact. Chris has successfully driven technology strategy and go-to-market (GTM) growth initiatives for software startups and large enterprises over the past 20 years, focusing on solutions that help organizations improve customer experience.
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