The future is coming, if it’s not here already. Artificial intelligence is everywhere, EY says Generation Z is proving unforgiving of service or technical failures, and contact centers are left scrambling to keep up.

Technology is changing in the local contact center industry, and we predict that these will be the tech trends to face our industry in 2018 and beyond:

1. Bots supplanting human interaction

Already bots are taking over contact centers, and will likely continue to do so. One example of this is banking group Swedbank’s Nuance Nina, an AI-driven virtual assistant that delivers human-like conversational customer service. The bank says Nuance Nina has helped it improve the customer experience, including a 78 percent first-contact resolution within the initial three months and a hit rate of eight out of ten questions answered.

In the future, if a customer were to contact a call center with a known problem, an intelligent bot would automatically search through its database for resolutions. In this scenario, the call would only escalate to a human agent if the bot could not resolve the issue alone.

Although it might seem that bots are taking human jobs, it presents an opportunity for contact center agents to upskill – to become specialists in their field. Common questions will no longer clog the chat lines, meaning agent-customer interactions are faster and more pleasant for everyone involved.

Artificial intelligence is expected to continue improving the call routing process.

2. Improved call routing

On a similar note, artificial intelligence is expected to continue improving the call routing process. IVR menuing has had its day – in the future, we can expect the classic dial tone interaction to be further replaced by voice recognition, as can be found in some contact centers already.

But voice recognition is not the only routing area being improved by AI. Increasingly, contact centers will be able to use text analytics to scan email and chat enquiries for certain keywords or phrases, and automatically direct that customer to the appropriate answer. This AI could also assist chatbots designed to replace low-level interactions as discussed above.

However, it’s unlikely that AI will entirely replace humans. Studies have shown that many callers still prefer speaking with a human over a robot.

3. More remote staff

More and more people are choosing to work from home, or calling for the option. According to Gallup, last year, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely. Additionally, PwC recommends that employers set their millennials free – offering flexible working arrangements to suit the younger generation’s varied, connected lifestyles.

Thus, workforce management software that can handle remote workers will be essential in the coming years. This software will need to connect all the data a contact center needs in real time, as well as offer mobile app options for agents on the move.

4. Biometrics overtaking security questions

Security questions have been a useful tool so far, but it’s still too easy for some fraudsters to learn the answers and steal customers’ identities. In the coming years, most contact centers will replace security questions with biometric analysis.

One such technology is voice printing, where a customer’s voice pattern is stored in a database to be used like a security question’s answer. Every time that customer interacts with a contact center, special software checks their voice against the stored version to automatically match the two and verify the customer’s ID.

Generation Z has a low tolerance for technical failures and agents not knowing the answer to their questions.

5. Advanced WFO software streamlining business

Considering the low tolerance Generation Z will have for technical failures and, according to EY, agents not having the answers to their questions, contact centers will need to optimize their processes with better software.

With the right tools, contact center agents will be able to access real-time data relevant to their customers, and office managers could have advanced demand forecasting and workforce scheduling available to ensure the right number of staff are available, any time of year. Advanced WFO tools, such those offered by Call Design, also come built-in with mobile app support and cloud support, helping connect workers no matter where they are.

6. Internet of Things talking to contact centers

As we can see with products like Google Home and Nest, the Internet of Things (IoT) is connecting customer’s devices, and these devices may soon connect to you as well. IoT-enabled devices are capable of monitoring and storing information about themselves and their user, and can be programmed to detect when there’s an issue. Should that issue require support from a contact center, devices could reach out by themselves to troubleshoot.

This directly links with the idea of chatbots taking low-level enquiries. If, say, a faulty thermostat reached out to a center for assistance, an AI could find an appropriate resolution, automatically send that to the thermostat and fix the issue – humans need not be involved.

If you’d like to learn more about optimizing your workforce with advanced software, get in touch with the expert WFO consultants at Call Design today.