1. Business
December 22, 2020

Covid-19: Contact centers enter the spotlight

By GlobalData Technology

The Covid-19 pandemic has generated a seismic shift in contact centers on multiple fronts.

First, almost overnight contact centers have transformed from physical locations filled with agents and their supervisors to having a virtual presence where all staff work remotely.

Second, contact centers are the result of an evolution from voice-centric call centers as they handle multiple channels. Third, with options for in-person service limited or unavailable, contact centers have become central to managing the customer experience. How has the metamorphosis of contact centers transpired? That question will be examined in the following paragraphs.

Contact centers have become a growth area

Older, premises-based solutions have proved inadequate to support the new, remote model of contact center operations. Thus adoption of modern, cloud-hosted contact center platforms has accelerated. Cloud technology offers several benefits.

Cloud enables traditional contact center functions to scale easily in response to fluctuations in traffic. Moving contact centers to the cloud also eliminates the cost of office space, enables employees to be managed remotely, consolidates siloes of customer-facing operations, facilitates business continuity and eliminates the constraints of work shifts, time zones and geography.

Because of all of these benefits, more organizations are utilizing contact center capabilities. As a result, contact centers have become one of the biggest growth areas for vendors and service providers.

Cloud technology has aided evolution

Cloud technology has also enabled contact centers to evolve from the traditional in-bound/out-bound voice model to a multi-channel environment. This fact, coupled with customers becoming more accustomed to remote (versus in-person) engagement due to the pandemic, has made contact centers central to managing the customer experience.

This is perhaps most evident in verticals such as retail where brick-and-mortar stores had already been closing since before the pandemic. In other verticals such as healthcare and finance remote engagement with customers is in the early stages and is expected to pick up in the longer term.

Customers now demand to be fully recognized whatever their channel of choice. Channels span voice, web chat, SMS, email, video, and social media accompanied by self-service options that can easily escalate to an agent as needed. Thus the challenge now for businesses is to develop omni-channel customer contact strategies.

The importance of omni-channel

Omni-channel enables contact center agents to view a customer’s entire interaction history with the company across all channels and independent of what channel the customer uses to contact the agent at a given moment.

In addition to omni-channel capability artificial intelligence (AI) has become a must-have contact center feature. AI offers several benefits. AI’s predictive capability enables organizations to anticipate when a customer needs service and take proactive action.

AI enables reduction of routine call volumes via self-service technology such as bots. AI provides the capability to route a customer to an agent most qualified to help with their particular issue and supplies that agent the information needed to resolve it.

What “the new normal” will look like once Covid-19 has abated is still largely unclear. But contact centers are here to stay.