Contact centers as they were known in the past no longer exist. The classic telephone service in service centers has changed significantly in the course of technological innovations: AI is increasingly gaining ground and is revolutionizing service operations in many ways.
We explain what the modern contact center will look like in 2022 and where companies need to take action.
I. LATEST TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS IN CUSTOMER SERVICE
Strong growth forecast for contact centers
The market for contact center services and customer relationship management is in growth: in Germany, total revenue will grow from 11 billion euros in 2018 to 13.2 billion euros in 2022, according to a forecast by PwC Germany.
But the contact centers will change: While the focus has been on the service and call center agents as stand-alone service providers – so-called customer service 1.0. – a new era of customer service will begin with the arrival of new technologies – first and foremost artificial intelligence. And Customer Service 2.0. promises numerous benefits, as it can optimize both the customer and the employee experience.
Customer experience as a differentiating factor
Let’s start by looking at the customer side. It has never been so easy and transparent for consumers to compare products and services online. If the offers are similar in terms of performance and price, the customer experience (CX) quickly becomes a key factor for differentiation.
And the service experience plays a significant role in customer satisfaction. Negative experiences with customer service remain in memory and at worst can lead to customer churn: According to a survey published by Zendesk, one in two would like to switch to the competition after one poor service experience – if these experiences occur more frequently, the rate is as high as 80%. This is an issue that companies must avoid in any case.
Employee satisfaction = Employee retention
It is not only the customer experience that determines the success of a contact center. Indeed, what is often disregarded: The satisfaction of the service employees. However, optimal service center operation requires both – high customer AND employee satisfaction.
In a study, PwC pointed out that the fluctuation rates in contact centers are very high with 20-30% per year. The reason for this is the low level of employer attractiveness. Too high a call volume, the handling of repetitive concerns, the forwarding of misdirected callers or having to deal with annoyed customers – the reasons for leaving can be complex. The use of technical innovations in call center workflows can significantly increase employee satisfaction, which also leads to a stronger employee loyalty.
Conversational User Interfaces (CUIs) more and more important
Voice is also moving into the spotlight. CUIs are enhancing the impact on companies’ business, as actions can increasingly be done via voice. Compared to graphic user interfaces (GUIs) that are controlled by clicks or touch, the voice interface is the most natural. Digital expert Prof. Peter Kabel speaks of an “interface with disruptive power” that will shape and transform the market.
Natural Language Understanding (NLU) is currently undergoing exponential development, Kabel noted. Machines are learning to “understand” speech input. Since this takes place on the basis of statistical evaluations and probabilities, training data plays an essential role in the recognition of customer concerns (intents).
II. Technologies and Fields of Application
Service Automation & AI in practice
As the previous explanations show, advanced technology in contact centers is essential if successful customer service is to be realized in the future as well. But how do these technologies look in practice?
Assistance systems for agents can significantly simplify the handling of customer inquiries. The aim is to ensure that relevant customer data is already available to the agent when the call is picked up, as long as the caller is already stored in the database. Data from the internal CRM system can be accessed and displayed to the agent, e.g., in form of a screen pop, with the help of the phone number or an upstream call prequalification.
Another measure is the use of AI-based voice bots as virtual agents. These work via voice interface and can be used on the phone. And the virtual helpers perform well: According to Gartner, the use of virtual agents can reduce inquiries via telephone, chat or e-mail by up to 70% while improving customer satisfaction at the same time.
Especially for handling repetitive concerns, which account for a large part of call volume, voicebots can provide a huge relief for human employees. And callers benefit, too, as bots eliminate the need for waiting queues and make it possible to resolve concerns more quickly.
Chat & Messaging
Companies should focus on an omnichannel strategy in the service center of tomorrow and give customers the opportunity to contact them via chat or messaging services. This measure increases reach immensely, especially among the younger generation, as services such as WhatsApp are an integral part of everyday communication. Messenger communication is also ideal for the use of chatbots, which take over the automated answering of queries. >> More information about the WhatsApp Business API
Automating processes can greatly improve efficiency as well as customer and employee experience. The implementation of appropriate technologies is the right step for companies to save costs and resources in contact center operations in the long term.
Assistance systems and virtual agents optimize workflows and save time when handling concerns. Machines can support humans by taking over standard tasks and reducing the volume of inquiries for service staff. As a result, they have more time to handle more complex cases, which leads to increased customer and employee satisfaction. The interaction between human and machine is becoming more and more important.
Strong competitive advantages result above all from the availability of different contact channels: If different channels are provided to prospects as part of an omnichannel strategy, the preferences of the respective target groups can be optimally served, which leads to the elimination of access barriers and increased CX.