Three Major Predictions for the 2020 Contact Center

In today’s highly dynamic digital economy, there is no set safeguard against uncertainty. We live in an era where a single tweet or photo can completely reshape a brand’s perception—for better or worse. And at the same time, businesses are striving to meet and exceed a moving goal post of customer preferences, influenced by a wide array of competitors.

But it isn’t just shifting customer expectations that’s concerning contact center leaders—it’s also economic uncertainty just as businesses are entering 2020 planning. It begs the question, how can contact centers ensure sustainable growth through CX when there are so many unpredictable variables in store during the coming year?

As customer experience continues to stand out as the leading brand differentiator, the contact center remains a vital resource in brand success. During times of uncertainty contact centers can reduce costs without sacrificing customer satisfaction, and during times of growth it can push the organization even further ahead. Ahead of the New Year, here are my top three 2020 predictions to keep in mind for planning:

1. Not Offering Digital Service Will Lead to Customer Churn

Meeting and exceeding customer expectations has always had a profound impact on brand success. With research showing that customers are almost as likely to recommend a company on social media after an exceptional experience (83%) as they are to switch to a competitor after a single poor experience (81%), brands are walking on a tightrope in how they build experiences. But the influx of millennials and Generation Z as decision-makers with significant purchasing power is adding a new layer of complexity to getting it right: a clear preference for digital channels. For example, NICE inContact has found that the majority of Generation Z (72%) and millennials (69%) want companies to allow them to interact with customer service using private social messaging apps.

Given their desire for more digital options and their enthusiasm for either supporting or detracting from a brand via social media, millennials and Generation Z will drive more pointed conversations on experience in 2020. These digital natives are masters of navigating multiple channels across multiple platforms, and by 2020, will not have patience for brands who fail to communicate with them accordingly. Leading organizations are already preparing, as the latest NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark Study found that 40% of companies are very likely to invest in four or more channels to improve the customer service experience in the coming year, and 25% are likely to invest in new services that allow channels of communication to work together seamlessly.

2. AI Is Ready to Deliver Business Value, If You Have a Plan

Artificial intelligence (AI) is among the most transformative, yet “mysterious” technologies impacting the contact center. A new study from Forrester Consulting, commissioned by NICE inContact, found that 64% of contact center leaders plan to increase their AI investment over the coming year. For example, it is replacing traditional interactive voice response menus (IVR) through natural language processing—crafting deeply personalized conversations.

However, bringing the promise of AI to life in 2020 hinges on a clear and succinct roadmap on how to do so effectively within the business. What aspects of the contact center can we improve through automation? How can we give time back to agents so they can better support customers? The contact centers that look at AI as a way to answer specific questions will outpace those who lack a clear vision for what it can mean for the organization.

3. 30 Years of Best Practices Will Be Rewritten… Again

Between the inception, adoption and integration of digital service channels and the rise of AI-powered bots, contact center KPIs, best practices and operational assumptions are being disrupted. Traditional workforce forecasting models that are based on average handle time (AHT) and assume 80% of contact volume is voice calls—and all digital work is “deferrable”—won’t work in a digital-first omnichannel world. Contact centers are driving innovation and leading the charge in creating a community of actively engaged customer advocates—it’s a shift that contact center leaders are still adjusting to. That said, they shouldn’t get comfortable with business as usual.

As expectations continue to evolve, and technology advances at an increasingly fast pace, the one constant contact center leaders need to prepare for in 2020 is further change. Virtual agents, video chats, new digital channels and smarter bots all contribute to a highly fluid approach to customer experience that’s now a standard. Those organizations that can build in the foundation for flexibility, and embrace real-time change will be those who will stand out in the coming year and beyond.

It’s Going to Be a Big Year for the Contact Center

While 2020 may bring a new set of unexpected challenges and opportunities to the contact center, there’s a single core set of expectations that can be used as a bellwether for success. By delivering consistent, seamless and positive experiences in the channel customers prefer, and ensuring a single through-line as agents navigate the customer relationship, contact centers can set a strong foundation for whatever may come next.