5 Contact Center Tech Trends and the Thread That Connects Them

When you think about the future of contact center technology, how far ahead do you look? Six months? One year? Forrester explored what contact center technology will look like in 2021, and the future looks exciting. But, in many ways, the future is already here—with visionary companies using, or piloting, these innovative contact methods.

What struck me about the report was that all five technologies share a common foundational thread that enables companies to link innovative contact methods and deliver more engaging and effective services. The common thread is the cloud—and it’s already connecting contact channels and creating seamless experiences for customers at many companies.

Those companies are in the pole position to adopt any—or all five—of these future technology trends.

1.Two-way video: Two-way video lets you improve the relationship quality of each interaction between you and your customers. By using the camera on a phone, laptop or webcam, customers provide a visual context of their situation or, perhaps, an issue with a product. The agent shows the customer how to address the issue through either direct interaction with the incoming video or by providing video instruction.

In this smartphone era, two-way video is hardly the stuff of science fiction. Behaviors are shifting to accept more video experiences over voice and text-only communications. Imagine walking near your favorite clothing store, and you receive an SMS that informs you of a new employee and the department she is working in – “Come on in and meet Sandy”.  You can simply click on the link to start a video chat so the new person can show you the new stock. For more complex situations, the differentiated punch in value relies on the maturity of augmented reality and image recognition to help an agent understand a given situation.  Availability of processing bandwidth is also a dependency here—and companies are turning to the cloud to address this.

2. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR): AR and VR have the potential to transform customer contact more profoundly than video. They provide an immersive experience that helps customers get the most from your offerings. That could be something as complex as having an agent join a customer during setup or as simple as having a pointer appear over a button the customer needs to press. The cloud addresses bandwidth issues and brings to bear the virtually unlimited compute power required to enable the intelligence and automation of AR and VR.

3. Virtual assistants (VAs): Next-generation VAs get customers the help they need automatically. Consumer use of the accurate intelligent experiences that virtual assistants provide continues to grow exponentially. And advances in machine learning and natural language processing will make frustration-free VAs a reality for all those involved in the customer service relationship.

To prepare for the future, imagine your agents also gain the benefits of blended AI experiences through virtual assistants to increase interaction quality and quantity. VA intelligence and usefulness increases as systems better understand context. In addition to geolocation as an obvious contextual input (e.g. scheduling transportation or reporting on local weather), the computational power and distributed learning of previous experiences requires cloud-based technology to connect moments between the agent and the customer.

4. Messaging: Messaging plays a huge role in how people communicate today, but it’s a comparatively small portion of the way contact centers interact with customers. And that’s going to change. From the customer’s perspective, a messaging relationship needs to feel persistent, instead of feeling like a series of isolated interactions with different agents about multiple topics. The persistence of cloud can connect channels and interactions readily, so it provides the foundation to deliver a messaging experience that feels connected—not disjointed.

5. Internet of Things (IoT): The connected devices that makeup IoT are perhaps the most transformative technology that Forrester explores in their report. Many companies, such as auto and medical device makers, already offer proactive support based on the data that connected devices deliver. The cloud provides the backbone for IoT; it’s where the data that device sensors generate combines with the services that make IoT so transformative.

The cloud not only makes these five technologies possible—it has the power to connect them. There is huge potential with services that blend virtual assistants and seamless messaging with AR and IoT devices.

Consider this scenario: A vehicle (another form of an IoT device) detects that it’s due for a service. The car’s virtual assistant sends the driver a message—when the car is not in use—to schedule the service with a local dealer. The customer schedules an appointment and requests a loaner car. To prevent no-shows, the dealer requires that a real agent from their service department confirm loaner reservations with customers. So, the VA “sends” the interaction to an agent at the dealer. The agent then quickly interacts with the customer through two-way video to confirm the requirements for accepting the free loaner car.

Get Ready for 2021 Now

Take a deeper dive into the five tech trends covered here by downloading “Plan Now for Customer Service in 2021” from Forrester. You’ll learn more about each technology and gain an understanding of how they could impact your contact center.