1. Everything from infrastructure to software will be in the cloud
While most contact centers have transitioned their customer relationship management (CRM) systems to the cloud over the past decade, the transition of other aspects of the contact center has only recently truly begun to pick up steam. The contact center of the near future will be run entirely from the cloud: from infrastructure capabilities such as inbound automated call distribution (ACD), interactive voice response (IVR), and outbound dialing to software capabilities such as workforce management (WFM), quality monitoring (QM), voice and screen recording, customer feedback, and so on.
The cloud is so well-suited to contact centers’ need for elasticity of agent counts, scalability within the same system, integration of the ecosystem of contact center applications, and mission-critical levels of high availability.
2. Voice channel will remain strong…but will become an additional online channel
Many have predicted that, with younger generations relying so heavily on on-line interaction, the use of voice to reach a contact center is short-lived. Our anecdotal evidence from a large install base of contact center customers is quite counter to that; there are many interactions for which most consumers still prefer voice; e.g., when the need is immediate, when the interaction is dialogue-heavy, or when other channels haven’t met the consumer’s needs. Our install base of customers continues to see growth in voice call volumes year-over-year.
What I do believe, however, is that, over the coming few years, voice will become an increasingly online channel; that is, it will be transmitted over Internet protocols along with other online channels and will no longer require dedicated voice circuits. With increasingly more powerful mobile handsets combined with ever-increasing bandwidth, consumers will be able to have a much more integrated, multi-channel online experience from their device.
3. Chat interactions will continue to flourish but will occur on 3rd-party services
Chat continues to become an increasingly relevant channel for business-to-consumer (B2C) contact centers. This trend will continue but with a very significant twist: it will no longer occur on proprietary chat clients specific to the brand; instead, they will occur on 3rd-party services such as Twitter and simple messaging service (SMS) texts. Open social platforms such as Twitter provide a very uniform, social network-aware mechanism for any consumer to reach any brand on a single platform. These types of interactions will become increasingly more prevalent over the coming few years with a strong bias toward both Twitter and SMS in the near future.
4. The contact center will be augmented by the rest of the company
With more and more of us becoming accustomed to representing our companies on a daily basis in personal and professional social networks, interactions between consumers and brands will continue to decentralize with the contact center following the same path. Companies will adjust to and accept the notion that every one of their employees is representative of their brand and, more importantly, that this is a good thing. Who better to convey the vision of a new product than someone from Product Marketing? Who better to assist with a technically-challenging issues than someone from Product Development? That is not to say that the contact center will no longer exist; rather, it will play an even more integral role overseeing all customer interactions, intercepting some that need their shepherding, but letting other interactions flow naturally between their customers and other representatives within their company.