The future of contact centers is AI.
Whether it’s your job or you’re just getting in touch to solve a problem, nobody really seems to enjoy dealing with contact centers (call centers). From the robot that can’t understand a word you say to poorly sourced workers that you can’t understand, dealing with a contact center can be extremely stressful. However, thanks to recent breakthroughs in AI and communication tech, the process is getting much better.
When it comes to the future of contact centers, the most hyped subject at the moment is AI. Just how far are we from completely automated call centers – that still feel like you’re talking to a human. To answer that question and gain some insight into what else lies ahead, we asked a group of industry experts…
What’s The Future Of Contact Centers?
Here’s what they had to say…
Ryan Nichols , General Manager at Zendesk Talk
“Voice-powered technologies, like Siri, Google Home, and your basic smart remote are breaking the human voice out of the phone. And when it comes to customer support, they offer what typical phone calls lack: context.
Phone support agents have limited information on who a caller is, what types of products or services they’re calling in regards to, and any previous service history. Voice-powered AI, however, will not only have that information on hand but also be always on to answer support requests.
I believe that traditional call centers are dead, and will need to dramatically change in the next 10-15 years or be left behind. Voice-powered support will only grow more prevalent in this age of conversational UI. It will be an era of technology that makes the human voice more important and powerful than ever.”
Vitaliy Verbenko, Customer Service Manager at Helprace
“Software vendors will start competing against each other on extracting the most value per dollar while saving time as well. In 10-15 years we might see a huge jump in software capability to the point that the majority of support interactions will be automated. Yet the focus will still be on time – optimizing its use in for the support team as well as the end-user.
Since human interactions aren’t going to go away in their complete form, we will see more focus on relationship building at the expense of mundane tasks that deal with data analysis, ticket management and back-and-forth between departments.”
Martin Brown, General Manager at FM Outsource
“We measured retailer messages and found that 37% of messages were obtaining data to identify the customer compared to around 5% to 10% for webchat/email. Social CS is growing faster than any other channel presenting retailers with massive challenges. Also by 2020, Gartner speculate that 40% of customer service interactions will be handled in part, or in full, by AI. Therefore the future of contact centres MUST be around how they handle more digital channels and integrate with AI. In 10-15 years I would say that human contact centres will be reserved for very specialised, high value contacts and 75% of the contact centre headcount will disappear. Not possible? Nobody thought we would ever see the disappearance of physical media for films/audio yet that doesn’t look to be very far away? Driverless cars and the disappearance of petrol cars are also a very real possibility. This is about contact centres changing to help brands perfect their digital automation rather than delivering the contacts themselves.”
Andy Traba, VP, Data Science, at Mattersight
“In the future, it’s easy to envision a scenario where artificial intelligence will be plugged into all knowledge sources in the call center, allowing it to continuously learn based on a customer’s past activity.
Things like, what they were doing on the website, reasons for previous calls, as well as how they prefer to be communicated with. This mean that when you call into an enterprise, an intelligent routing engine will actually be able to predict the intent behind the call, determine the appropriate routing treatment, as well as how to achieve the best outcome. It’s also quite possible that the person you are routed to won’t be a person at all — rather a bot that is truly able to empathize with your situation.”
Brady Ranum, VP of Product & Strategy at Dizzion
“Brick and mortar contact centers will disappear entirely within 10 years. The workforce as a whole is moving toward remote working and with secure contact center solutions available, companies and outsourcers alike will be able to provide a secure, compliant customer service experience entirely with work at home agents. This will amount to huge cost savings in physical overhead and give them the advantage of being able to hire agents that are a better fit for staffing and expertise needs. Need a nurse or insurance agent licensed in a specific state? No problem. Want to give back by exclusively employing veterans? Easy. Need to fill off shift times for 24/7 coverage? Agents log on in their pajamas from home. No one wants to sit in a call center and within the next 10 years no one will have to.”
Helle Häng , Sales and Marketing Team Leader at CereProc, Ltd.
“We’ve definitely seen a strong shift recently from the use of static prompts / generic contact centre solutions to intelligent virtual assistants. CereProc’s R&D team is currently working on an EU project to develop assistants that are capable of holding multi-modal social interactions in challenging and unexpected situations. The system can generate search queries and return the information requested by interacting with humans through virtual characters. These virtual humans will be able to sustain an interaction with a user for some time, and react appropriately to the user’s verbal and non-verbal behavior when presenting the requested information and refining search results.
This means that it’s likely that in the future companies will be creating virtual assistants to match their brand – with an unique appearance and voice.”
Scott Kacmarski, CEO of Reps Direct
“The future of contact centers will greatly depend on how well AI and machine learning evolves. The best contact centers will work on having the best software to give them a competitive advantage. I am not as bullish as many on the space. Machines will have to learn emotion to truly give the best customer service and I don’t see that happening. In the end I see machine learning able to handle repetitive questions similar to FAQ and order updates. Just as with automated phone calls now, companies will try to push customers to automated chat but will realize that customers still like talking and venting to humans. Human interaction will always have to be an option for companies that want to provide the best customer service.”
Scott Sachs , President of SJS Solutions, LLC
“It has been stated before contact centers will disappear. Despite the growth of self-service there are more contact center seats today than there were many years ago and this trend should continue for the foreseeable future. New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to expand the capabilities of self-service, but AI has limitations in resolving complicated issues and as all consumers know, products and services are becoming more complicated every day (think about all of the things a cell phone is now capable of performing). Customers will continue to require support and self-service will be the first line of defense, but for those issues that are more complicated, human interaction with contact center agents will still be a critical factor in driving an outstanding customer experience.”