Top 5 Customer Service Predictions for 2021
This year has been tough for many, and customer service agents have often borne the brunt of it. But it’s also an opportunity to ensure that we learn from these experiences to ensure the relationship between brands and customers is strengthened moving forward.
Here we predict how organizations can learn from 2020 and set up every business to achieve successful customer interactions.
1. Keeping contact agents productive
One of the most pressing challenges accelerated by the pandemic has been maintaining productivity while working from home. This is especially difficult due to the loss of micro-communication – the professional ‘small talk’ we usually partake in at work.
These conversations we now miss out on are often what employee satisfaction, efficiency, and training are founded on. As we go into 2021 and remote working policies continue to be used, we’re going to see a higher demand for solutions enabling micro-communication when coworkers cannot physically be together.
In contact centers we’ve already experienced a significant rise in demand for ‘listen-in’ functionality – allowing managers to listen to conversations with customers as they happen. This ensures managers understand how their employees are performing and identify areas they may need further training on. Virtual wallboards can also be implemented to help contact agents see how many customers are in the queue and where their colleagues are, for example on the phone or taking a break, to help fill the void of not being able to see them face-to-face.
2. Integrating communication channels
Communication with customers is another area that needs to be addressed for agents, especially those who often have to switch between different apps and devices depending on the customer they’re talking to.
The integration of communication channels is one obvious solution to this challenge. Businesses can now combine all communication platforms – external and internal – on a platform like Microsoft Teams. Ultimately, employees must be able to communicate freely with any caller in order to provide a great customer experience.
Whether you’re speaking with colleagues or customers, the future of working from home in 2021 where employees are spread across remote locations and the office, must revolve around collaboration.
3. Upskilling contact center staff
When agents are happy, they’re happy to have a conversation with a customer – it’s as simple as that. This is what turns contact centers into profit centers.
2021 has to be the year where even more emphasis is placed on upskilling agents to let them focus on building relationships with customers.
As remote working continues into 2021, businesses need to help their contact center staff realize a ‘less than ideal’ home working set up with noisy children, pets or other distractions interrupting calls can be used to their advantage. Customers often like speaking to someone relatable, and not a robotic, scripted agent.
It’s been an incredibly difficult year with challenges none of us could have predicted in 2019. But with good preparation and a dash of luck on our side, we have the potential to see business rebound as a whole by this time next year.
4. Increasing cyber security
Contact centers have a big responsibility on their shoulders when it comes to protecting customer data, a lot of which passes over the phone and into a database. Companies rely on their staff more now than ever to ensure that customer data is securely transmitted – however, this isn’t the most secure option. While it is important to be able to rely on the integrity of staff, especially those with necessary cyber security training, it’s also easy to get personal and sensitive information from contact center databases if they are not properly managed and secure. It is crucial that businesses take the appropriate steps to ensure their customers are protected with the appropriate technology solutions to work alongside their agents.
Customer data is much more secure when agents are wearing their headsets so no one else can hear the conversation – without this barrier, who is to say who might be listening in the background.
As we head into 2021 and remote working continues to proliferate, it is vital that businesses make security considerations a priority to ensure they deliver on customer experience.
5. Embracing artificial intelligence
Gartner says AI will become a foundational element upon which contact centre software is created. Nearly all key application features are expected to utilize some form of AI in the future and the pandemic is accelerating this already rapidly moving transformation. It’s more important than ever that businesses offer exceptional intelligent customer experience, which is something AI can provide in excess, and we expect to see its use increase significantly in the year ahead.
Until now, contact centers have largely used meta data to improve their customer experience. Recently, AI is letting us go beyond that and enabling organizations to make decisions based on the conversation itself, and more importantly, its sentiment. If a customer conversation is recorded as being negative in any way, Natterbox technology can flag the recording as one for management to listen to and provide feedback and training to their employee in order to improve customer service during their next interaction.
Additionally, if a customer calls about an issue and the agent they’re speaking to doesn’t know the solution, AI can pop the answer up on the agent’s screen, or if necessary, suggest transferring the customer to an expert on the topic. The former can be a great supplement to agent training, helping facilitate on-the-job learning.
With the technology developing at pace and offering the promise of generating business value and resulting revenues, brands that want to get ahead should seize the opportunity sooner rather than later.
As 2020 comes to a close, we are afforded the opportunity to take what we have learned and put it to use in the year ahead. Insights into improving customer experience and workforce efficiency is one good thing that this year has given to us in these unprecedented times. Cheers to prosperity and growth in 2021.