Get Part II of Mike Aoki's contact center predictions for 2021 now.
In Part 1 of this two part series, I looked at four of the biggest trends in customer service for 2021. Here are four more trends that could affect your contact center operation.
5) Work-from-Home (WFH) is here to stay, and processes need to change to support it:
Studies show as few as 4% of employees who currently Work-from-Home want to come back to the office five days a week, after the pandemic. In addition, contact centers have discovered the advantages of home based Agents. That includes increased Agent shift flexibility and access to a larger talent pool of suburban/rural employees.
However, making WFH or hybrid (onsite/WFH) permanent requires improved support processes. For example, your IT team needs to be able to same-day courier a replacement computer to a WFH Agent. So, that Agent can remain online.
6) WFH employee retention may become an issue:
What builds loyalty? Feeling appreciated, being part of a team, and believing your make a difference are commonly cited reasons.
Now put yourself in the shoes of a newly hired WFH Agent. They have been hired and trained virtually. So, they never saw your office or met any coworkers face to face. Now, they interact with customers for eight hours a day, while only getting a few minutes of interaction with their colleagues via instant messaging or videoconferencing.
On top of that, coaching may consist of what they are doing wrong, with little appreciation for what they did well. The result is an Agent who feels unappreciated, alone, and unsure if they make a difference.
That is a recipe for employee turnover.
To improve employee retention, what virtual team building programs do you have in place?
How much time do you allow Agents to have one-on-one conversations with each other?
What percentage of coaching time is spent on what the Agent did properly and how they made a positive difference?
Every Manager, Team Leader and Coach is responsible for Agent retention. Train them on how to do it properly.
7) Contact center office space may get smaller:
Traditional onsite contact centers take up a massive amount of floor space. In fact, office rent is one of the biggest contact center expenses. However, if most of your Agents and support staff work from home, square footage requirements will shrink. It may not happen immediately, as previously signed leases still apply. Ultimately however, the contact center of the future may consist of small, shared spaces for meetings and projects that cannot be done online. That means greatly reduced real estate costs.
8) Improved Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots will handle a higher percentage of contacts:
I was initially skeptical about AI’s ability to solve customer inquiries. However, the next generation of AI powered virtual Agents can handle a much wider range of customer situations. Virtual agents are not only handling chat. They are also handling natural language voice interactions, intelligence based call routing and agent suggested responses.
The combination of machine learning, Natural Language Processing and integration to key customer databases elevate Virtual Agent engagement as a significant Self-Service option.