The phone rings. An agent answers and resolves a customer’s problem. It might seem simple, but lots of factors influence this process. Here are six contact center trends that managers should respond to when assisting reps, streaming campaigns and improving the customer experience in 2022.
1. COVID-19 Increases the Number of Difficult Calls
‘Difficult’ calls — when angry or distressed callers take their frustrations out on agents — increased by 50% during the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many reps who answered these calls didn’t have the equipment or technology to route calls to the right people, resulting in a 68% increase in escalations. There were other issues as well. Manual routing and escalation saw a 34% increase in hold times as agents, many of whom were working from home, dealt with customer complaints.
In 2022, as the pandemic continues, more call center managers are investing in technology and training that allow agents to manage difficult calls. These solutions aim to optimizing manual routing and the escalation processes.
The latest call center management systems improves routing calls to the right employees. This is especially important if those employees are working remotely. Training staff to deal with angry and frustrated callers can also improve the customer experience. In addition, this training makes the call center environment a more productive one.
2. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been one of the biggest contact center trends in recent years. As such, this innovation will likely dominate contact centers in 2022.
When this technology first came out, it had limitations. However, AI now provides call center managers with the following benefits, including the ability to:
- Streamline internal operations
- Route calls more successfully
- Allow agents to receive calls at the right time
- Reduce call waiting and handling times, especially during peak hours
AI is useful in omnichannel contact center environments. Not only does it facilitate call handling, but this technology can automate many of the tasks associated with live chat. For example, it can provide chat agents with various intelligent responses during conversation flows to speed up communication.
Investing in AI
In 2019, 76% of contact centers said they planned to invest in AI solutions over the next two years. Additionally, 57% said they were testing the use of AI when helping customer service agents. Expect these numbers to be even higher in 2022 as more call center managers realize the benefits of AI tools and technologies.
Another AI call center trend is the synching of customer relationship management (CRM) data with call center management systems. This gives agents additional insights into the customer lifecycle. Collecting data from CRMs can help agents learn about a caller’s contact details, behavior, hobbies and purchasing habits, resulting in improved customer service and upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
IVRs and AI
AI has even optimized Interactive Voice Response (IVR), a popular tool in modern contact centers. The latest AI technology helps route customers to the right agents, providing greater accuracy than ever before.
Data analytics is one of those contact center trends that’s been around for several years. However, the number of managers using analytical tools for call center operations will likely increase further in 2022. That’s because the latest call center metrics — such as call handling times, call volumes, service levels, call abandonment rates, etc. — can measure agent productivity and dramatically speed up response times.
Data analytic tools provide agents and managers with essential information about the customers who call their contact center. Key performance indicators (KPIs) display trends and patterns about callers, call handling processes and bottlenecks that influence queue times and customer service.
In some call center industries, such as telesales, analytics generate in-depth marketing and sales insights. Doing so makes it easier for agents to communicate with callers and achieve sales targets. Net Promoter Score, for example, can help agents measure the customer experience and improve selling opportunities.
Chatbots are a type of AI technology, but they deserve a section to themselves. In recent years, more contact centers have used chatbots to simulate human conversations with customers via a live chat interface, resulting in saved resources and labor.
Chatbots use natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) to understand human language and replicate conversations with a high degree of precision. For example, a chatbot might tell a customer about order processing times with little or no human intervention.
Chatbots can address customer queries in multiple languages and handle tasks like billing, upselling, order management and appointment creation.
The most successful contact centers are continuing to invest in omnichannel communication strategies. “Omnichannel” means giving customers multiple options for communicating with a rep. As well as a traditional call center, agents can engage with customers via:
- Live chat
- Social media
Creating an omnichannel strategy can improve the customer experience, especially among younger consumers. Millennials, in particular, prefer to communicate with agents via email or direct message rather than over the phone. Some of the above technologies enable customers to engage with reps without waiting for ages in a queue.
6. Cloud Communication
With more agents working from home, cloud communication has become a critical tool in remote call center environments. It allows agents to work from any location and access the customer data required to execute day-to-day tasks such as call handling.
Fully remote, hybrid and traditional work environments can benefit from cloud communications. That’s because this technology lets employees utilize the same resources no matter where they are in the world.
Using cloud services can also improve data security and save money on traditional on-premise IT architecture. Furthermore, employing cloud-based services makes it easier for call centers to scale their technology up and down during holiday or peak seasons.
Improving Your Call Center in 2022
The ongoing pandemic, AI, analytics, chatbots, omnichannel strategies and cloud communications are among the six biggest contact center trends in 2022. Responding to these trends can improve call center operations, enhance employee productivity and generate better customer experiences.