Businesses advance at the rate of technology, including the way they communicate with customers. Today, there are more ways to connect with customers than ever before. The rise in digital consumerism has changed the demand and expectations for when and how customers want to be contacted by businesses. In recent years, the contact center industry has made communicating and sharing information more efficient and cost effective for businesses around the globe with the advancement of new technologies. We’ve highlighted four technology trends that will continue to lead the contact center industry in 2019 and beyond.

1. Omnichannel Technology

Gone are the days when customers reached out to businesses, rather companies now are expected to find innovative ways to engage and interact with their customers. In fact, a recent Forrester report found that 41 percent of U.S. online adults, “would prefer to use digital customer service rather than speak with a live person on a phone.” Additionally, 63 percent agree with the statement, “I would like to be able to move between customer service channels and not have to repeat my situation every time.” In an effort to create a more positive and seamless experience and to garner customer loyalty, contact centers are rapidly investing in omnichannel solutions to reach their customers on their preferred channels. As consumers continue to add new forms of communication for businesses to engage with (i.e. email, mobile, social media, apps, short message service, etc.), contact centers should consider taking a multichannel approach to service their customers and deliver messages straight to their desired inboxes. Omnichannel technologies can equip companies with the ability to confirm appointments, send alerts and reminders, launch promotions and send payment processing options across a variety of channels with a click of a button.

2. Call Recording and Speech Analytics

Whether you’re servicing small and medium-sized companies or enterprises, ensuring quality customer service is key to any business. Monitoring, recording and analyzing all customer calls enables customer support managers to provide timely and appropriate service recovery. New technologies, such as call recording and speech analytics, have empowered contact centers to provide improved agent training, resulting in better overall customer support and an increase in positive customer outcomes. Giving contact center managers access to call recordings equips them with the ability to review and assess their agents’ interactions with customers, identify key areas of improvement for their staff and offer constructive critiques when necessary to ensure higher customer satisfaction rates. Deploying advanced technologies, such as speech analytics, enables contact centers to mine and analyze audio data, detecting aspects such as emotion, tone and stress of a customer’s voice to better identify unhappy customers, as well as track and highlight certain needs, wants and expectations. (To learn more about call center data, see Call Center Data + Big Data Analytics = Valuable Insights.)

3. Business Intelligence / Artificial Intelligence

A recent study estimated that 85 percent of customer service interactions will be handled without a human agent by 2020. Deploying technology, such as business intelligence (BI), can help contact centers track and monitor consumer behavior and identify sales patterns/trends, while artificial intelligence (AI) enables companies to analyze, predict and make suggestions about a company’s business forecast. Both BI and AI can be leveraged to automate critical metric tracking, monitor and measure call campaign costs and return on campaign investments, predict call volumes and staffing needs, as well as identify problematic trends and issues before they arise. In fact, both BI and AI can identify, flag and suggest appropriate “upselling opportunities” for products and/or services for each customer interaction. The utilization of BI and AI in the call center space is just beginning. Looking down the road, BI and AI are expected to be more intelligent, automated and comprehensive within the next five years.

4. Chatbots

Chatbots have been deployed in contact centers in recent years as a cost-effective solution to reduce human error and time spent on projects. Gartner predicts that by 2021, more than 50 percent of enterprises will spend more annually on bots and chatbot creation than traditional mobile app development. Live chatbots can aid human agents by providing quick responses to simple queries online. While these low-level tasks are being handled by chatbots, human agents are free to handle more complex requests and inquiries. As machine learning advances, chatbots are expected to recognize when a customer is struggling with a question and alert human agents to intercept the conversation. Chatbots can be integrated as a supplement to contact center inbound operations. (For more on chatbots, see We Asked IT Pros How Enterprises Will Use Chatbots in the Future. Here’s What They Said.)

In order to remain competitive throughout the next five years, businesses will be required to evolve their existing contact center technology by digitizing and automating their methods of customer communication. As more companies continue to enter the market, they are expected to deploy omnichannel tools, speech analytics, BI, AI and chatbots to further streamline internal processes, reduce costs and provide unparalleled customer experiences in the future.