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13 Top Trends Affecting Call Center Technology in 2018

As businesses and organizations set goals and make plans for 2018, they may wonder what trends will impact their communications and call center technology. Several developments could impact the two, ranging from the repealed net neutrality regulations to the shifting role of the call center agent. To help businesses prepare for the future, TCN covers 13 top trends affecting contact centers today.

1. Unified Communications
Unified communications (UC) is a growing trend, and one that builds upon multi-channel and omnichannel efforts. In regard to the latter, UC primarily differs in its backend operations. Both, however, aim to simplify customer-company interactions. This means the customer, not the company, decides how to reach out. He or she could use text, video, voice, chat bot, or some other means to make contact. The company then “unifies” the various contact points so that the customer receives a uniform experience at any one of them.

2. Data Analysis for Business Intelligence
HGS, a global leader in business process management (BPM) and customer experience lifecycles, offers findings that correlate with TCN’s perspective of the marketplace. The organization reports a growing interest—and investment—in advanced data analytics. These numbers help “uncover business-critical insights and gain a competitive edge.” As applied to the contact center, they can increase agent productivity and improve call quality.

Read more about call center technology and big data analytics.

3. Internal Collaboration

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) offers a fascinating perspective on call center climates, showcasing that collaborative environments perform best. HBR attributes the result to agents collaboratively problem-solving increasingly common complex calls. Companies desiring similar outcomes will want to prioritize collaboration in 2018, as well as the technologies that support it.

4. Cloud-Based Call Center Technology
The first three trends will continue to usher in more “cloud-based everything.” Call center technology is no exception. With the cloud, the technology can operate in real-time, perform robust data analysis, and support UC. Cloud based call center technology also offers additional advantages such as virtualization, or remote work, opportunities.

5. General Data Protection Regulation
In May, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect. It could change many existing processes, from data management to customer outreach. Call Centre Helper outlines the most likely outcomes of the regulation, giving special attention to customers’ rights and potential fines.

6. Net Neutrality
The FCC repealed net neutrality regulations in December 2017, giving Internet Service Providers (ISPs) more control over how and when they deliver internet to businesses and consumers. Some organizations are concerned the change will hamper their online efforts—a valid concern, particularly for smaller businesses. They worry, according to Sarah Berger at CNBC, about both rising business costs and customer churn due to a throttled internet connection.

7. Artificial Intelligence
Contact centers have been studying artificial intelligence (AI) for a while, assessing how it could improve agent productivity and customer experiences. The second has received a great deal of interest in recent months; Matt West at IT Pro Portal states AI can produce more personalized experiences. Analysts at CIO echo West. They suggest AI allows contact centers to “handle many more simple interactions in far less time, reserving human resources for more complex issues and higher-value interactions.”

8. Customer Experience
The customer experience has always been important, but it could see vast improvements this year thanks to AI. With AI — and the Internet of Things (IoT) — companies will be able to provide proactive, personalized experiences. The trend is worth investing in; MIT Technology Review and Genesys report that AI and other innovative technologies help 90% of surveyed companies develop a reputation for “high levels of customer experience and brand value.”

9. Social Chat Bots
The next three trends correspond with the customer experience—specifically, customer demand for self-service options. Customers no longer want to wait on the phone when they can solve a problem on their own. One of these self-service solutions occurs with chat bots, a function becoming increasingly popular in a variety of industry sectors. These bots usually employ some form of artificial intelligence so that their data can be stored, analyzed, and used to greater effect.

10. Mobile Applications
Another facet of the modern customer experience concerns mobile applications. Shep Hyken, Forbes contributor, says, “The mobile phone is the best way to connect and interact (other than human-to-human) with your customers.” He could be right. At least, activity at TCN supports his opinion. Interest in TCN’s text-based service, AgentSMS, has increased the past few months, perhaps because of how it enhances the customer experience.

11. Social Media
Social media has supported customer service for several years, but 2018 could be the year that social media gets integrated and amplified. Amplification involves AI, image recognition, and chat bots. The three could revolutionize customer interactions, producing timely, courteous responses. Integration refers to data analysis, a must-have in today’s world, because it produces more informed, personable conversations.

12. Customer Retention
As self-service options increase, call center agents may find themselves tasked more with customer retention rather than attraction. That’s not a bad thing. The more agents get involved with the customer lifecycle, the more valuable they will become to their employers and customers.

13. Privacy and Security
While privacy and security are listed last, they are certainly not least important. Artificial intelligence, data analysis, and the GDPR ensure data privacy and security will top businesses’ 2018 to-do lists. Other factors are in play, too, including privacy by design, authentication, the IoT, and consumer rights.

As 2018 unfolds, organizations want to identify the trends impacting call center technology and customer communications. Thirteen of them receive consideration here, ranging from AI and social media to data analytics and customer experiences. Businesses should learn about the trends so that they can harness them for positive impact.

Want to learn more about omnichannel communications? Download our 2-page flyer on the benefits of text messaging for maximum customer engagement.

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