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Top trends for the contact center in 2019 – part 1, the human touch

Many of the 2019 trends indicate a “back to basics” approach with an emphasis on the ultimate goal for contact centers — to foster meaningful connections with consumers. After researching several articles, white papers and ebooks on the topic, this blog’s intention is to bring clarity to what the experts are saying. To this end, we have grouped the top contact center trends for 2019 into these three categories: human, effortless and transformative. In Part 1 of this blog we will discuss the “Human” category trends. Part 2 will cover the “Effortless” and “Transformative” category trends.

Human

Human touch is more important than ever to customers, which is why 2019 brings a new emphasis on this basic need. Although technology has influenced the way brands engage with customers, it is the agent’s personal interactions that create meaningful moments and human kinship that heightens the customer experience. And it is these experiences that forge lasting connections rather than just merely serve the customer.

Happy, engaged agents are crucial to humanizing conversations and building customer loyalty. In fact, according to PwC Research, 24% of businesses say that empowering agents to offer customers unique resolutions has the biggest effect on their experience.

Here are some of the 2019 trends that help to humanize interactions between companies and their customers.

Leverage Gamification for Soft Skills Development
Effective agent training and coaching have been a top priority for contact centers for a long time. Much of it has been focused on performance metrics such as average handle time, speed to answer, after call work and first call resolution. Gamification, the use of game mechanics to motivate and engage agents, has typically been used to improve productivity, compliance and call quality. The trend in 2019 is to leverage gamification to develop the soft skills that agents need to humanize conversations and communicate more effectively with customers. Gamification uses both intrinsic and extrinsic motivational methods to train agents in the following skills: conflict resolution, empathy, positivity, creative thinking, flexibility, teamwork, listening, supportive negotiation and decision making, to name a few. Through competition, feedback and reward, agents gain a sense of personal achievement and learn the soft skills needed to provide a more human and positive experience with customers.

Dive Deeper into Customer Intelligence with Analytics
Contact centers typically have hundreds of interactions between agents and customers every day. They produce thousands of data points that can provide deep insights into each customer to help agents create exceptional experiences. Analytics can capture and disperse these customer insights in real-time while agents are on a call. This ensures that customer communications are memorable and the experience is remarkable at every human touchpoint.

Customer experience is all about how customers feel about a company at any given moment. This is closely tied to the way they are being treated – do they feel like they are being listened to and does the company truly hear what they are saying as well as how they are saying it. Sentiment intelligence provided by analytics systems measures the acoustic characteristics of a customer’s voice – stress levels, rate and loudness of speech. Based on this information, agents can respond with compassion and empathy when appropriate. In fact, real-time analytics can push alerts to agents and suggest the best action.

Integrate Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Most businesses no longer worry that AI will replace contact center agents. In fact, they hold the belief that using AI will actually enhance agents’ capacity and capability. AI is expected to automate rote tasks, freeing up agents to tackle more complex interactions. Coupled with machine learning, AI can guide decisions, provide prompts to promote marketing offers and recommend the most efficient channel. Doing so will optimize the customer journey and customer satisfaction.

A study recently conducted by Aberdeen indicated that companies using AI show 2.5 times greater annual CSAT rates, as well as a 2.4 times greater year-over-year increase in revenue. With these documented performance gaps between non-users and users of AI, it is easy to see why more CX professionals plan to add AI to their toolbox this year.

Expand Digital Capabilities
Another priority cited in a recent study conducted by CCW showed that nearly 47% of the organizations surveyed plan to expand their capabilities to provide a “full service” digital experience in 2019. The intent is to enable deeper engagement and make the customer experience more personal.

In addition, live chat continues to gain attention. Typically, live chat is offered on corporate websites with live agents answering customer questions. Virtual assistants (chat bots) can also answer questions by analyzing the chat transcript, determining the issue and then combing through a knowledge base in seconds for the right response. Machine learning continues to make bots smarter, further improving the customer experience. For the most part, chat bots are still only capable of addressing simple issues. But the precision and speed with which bots can answer questions has increased their usage, which continues to free up agents to address more complicated issues. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, 25% of customer service operations will integrate chatbots or virtual assistants across engagement channels.

Enhance Social Engagement
Social media is all about the human touch. It provides meaningful insight into customer behavior and sentiment. When a customer reaches out to a company on social media, they usually have a concern that needs to be addressed. Typically, they expect a response in 24 hours or less. If they don’t get one, they may be on the lookout for a new provider. Social media is also an effective sales channel. When a customer’s profile on social media is connected to CRM, AI can be used to run predictive models on intent to buy, recommend or churn. Armed with this insight, companies can tailor messaging and offers that are relevant and personal to each customer.

Provide Proactive Customer Service
Companies have talked about proactive customer service for years. The technology to enable it is now available, which is why in 2019, it is actually possible to walk the talk. Proactive customer service means anticipating potential issues and reaching out to customers when issues arise before they reach out to you. There are a number of ways companies can get started.

  • Pay attention to what your customers are telling you online. When issues arise, fix them right away.
  • If there is a known issue, reach out to customers to let them know about it and what you are doing to resolve it.
  • Create content on common questions and make it available as a self-service option.
  • Proactively reach out to customers to admit that there is an issue, providing an opportunity to show that you are human and create a high-touch and positive experience.

In Part 2 of this blog series we will address the “Effortless” and “Transformative” category trends.


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