Mon, October 30, 2023
Back in the early days of their existence, contact centres only handled voice calls and perhaps some physical mail. As we know all too well, customers were often left lingering on hold before speaking with someone, and the experience was slow and cumbersome compared to today with little choice, personalisation or flexibility.
With the advent of the internet and digital revolution, how organisations provided customer service started to change. The digital age opened new channels for customers to engage with brands. First email became popular and is still unsurpassed as an asynchronous channel.
Next came web-based chat features, often built directly into company websites. Customers could now get help without the wait times commonly associated with phone calls. Social media further revolutionised customer service as platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram evolved to become more than marketing and branding tools. This necessitated a different approach to customer service; as agents’ responses are visible to a broader audience, queries must be answered promptly and professionally.
The transformation of contact centres from voice hubs to multi-channel communication and customer experience (CX) centres reflects broader shifts in technology and consumer behaviour. As customers increasingly embrace digital channels, contact centres must adapt to deliver efficient and meaningful support and experiences across all platforms.
Today’s modern contact centre is a large, complex, and multi-faceted beast which sits at the heart of any customer-centric organisation and reaches deep into every department and business function. Deploying a contact centre these days – even a relatively modest one – requires an enormous investment in technology, processes, and people.
If you are about to embark on such a project or need to upgrade your legacy tech stack, let’s look at the leading technologies that underpin a modern contact centre.
Early call centres were limited to just the voice channel and usually just one physical location, as all the computers and telephony equipment were on-site. Over the last decade, cloud technologies have transformed contact centres, making them more flexible, scalable, and resilient.
With a CCaaS (Contact Centre as a Service) cloud platform, it’s simple to integrate new features, set up and manage remote work environments, and handle sudden increases in demand. Choosing the voice platform that best fits your organisation’s needs is crucial – some offer ready-made solutions that work out of the box, while others provide more customisation options.
Some of the technologies you will need to invest in are:
The introduction of email brought about a change in how contact centres operated. Suddenly, customers had another channel to send their enquiries or concerns to at any time, breaking free from the confines of working hours and the tyranny of having to wait on the phone. This shift transformed customer interactions by offering flexibility and convenience.
Customers now want to interact with brands through the digital platforms like Instagram, WhatsApp and TikTok they use daily. It is crucial to adopt an omnichannel approach to ensure a reliable experience regardless of whether they reach out via phone, chat, email, or social media.
Here are some of the technologies required to provide an omnichannel customer experience:
AI (artificial intelligence) has, of course, been around for some time, but only in the last year have chatbots and virtual assistants shown they can handle more than just basic interactions. LLM (Large Language Models), the technology behind Chat GPT, and NLP (Natural Language Processing) allow bots to interact using everyday language and understand almost any query.
However, AI technology doesn’t solely focus on automating customer interactions. Agents can be empowered by AI, too. Workflow tools that monitor interactions and customer sentiment in real-time can now make recommendations to agents, provide insight and knowledge when needed, and also reduce the time it takes to do manual tasks like data entry.
Here are some of the AI and automation technologies that a modern contact centre should be utilising:
Modern contact centres are valuable treasure troves of structured and unstructured data collected about customers and their behaviour. Using AI and machine learning, data analytics helps you understand customer behaviour, preferences and pain points. This enables the delivery of personalised interactions, customised product recommendations and proactive problem-solving.
Computer vision capabilities such as OCR (optical character recognition) can also help by ‘‘reading’’ handwritten and printed documents. Given the amount of personal data handled by contact centres, ensuring information security and compliance with regulations like GDPR is a legal necessity and best practice to safeguard the company’s reputation.
Some of the data and security technologies a modern contact centre requires include:
Looking ahead to the future of contact centres, technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) may find their place, at least in some industry sectors. Further advancements in natural language processing (NLP) and AI will enable assistants and chatbots to have more sophisticated interactions that resemble human-like conversations.
Although the digital era has brought about opportunities, it also presents challenges for contact centres. Delivering excellent service and great experiences across all channels is mission-critical and requires a huge investment of time, personnel, and technology.
The future of the contact centre will encompass many more technological advancements that we cannot yet imagine. Emerging technologies such as brain-computer interfaces (BCI) and personal shopper bots may emerge in the next decade or so to cause a new round of investments and a reassessment of the role performed by human agents.
Nevertheless, regardless of these advancements, the personal touch provided by people will always be invaluable as there are times when all customers need a genuine human connection. Our final piece of advice is not to get so lost in the technology as to lose sight of that.
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