The Future of Contact Centers: My Predictions for 2022

Dec 28, 2021 9:00:00 AM

Last week, I recapped our experience at Customer Contact Week in Las Vegas where I had the chance to talk with contact center and CX leaders whose respective companies span industries, size, and geographies, from major airlines in the U.S. to local governments in Canada. Despite their various differences, the problems they face were all intertwined - simply put, they don’t have the best technologies in place to support their agents and customers. Seems like kind of a substantial issue, don’t you think?

It’s always validating to connect with professionals who are really looking to improve and grow the service options and experience offered both internally and externally, as that’s what my colleagues and I are on a mission to do. Based on our conversations - and their openly-stated wants and needs for the contact center - here are my predictions for what will (and must) happen in 2022:

1. Downtime will be eradicated with true multi-cloud architecture.

AWS went down recently…Not once, but twice in fact. The second outage was during the event. And boy did we hear all about it! From a global hotel chain to an industrial flooring supply company, downtime costs businesses a ton. Even worse, it damages a brand’s relationships with customers.

I was able to connect with attendees and discuss how a true multi-cloud architecture can keep contact center teams up and running - even in the face of outages. Split between Google and AWS, our platform instantaneously reroutes. There is no single point of failure for your mission-critical contact center and business communications. It’s something we feel every business should have, which is why we tout a 100% SLA and 10x financially-backed guarantee. Reducing the risk of outages and downtime will continue to grow in importance in 2022, as it should.

2. Agents will no longer contend with multiple systems to solve customer problems. 

Working as a frontline agent is hard enough. Too often, it’s overcomplicated by requiring multiple systems to achieve the same end goal - solving the customer’s problem - because none of the systems can perform all of the functions needed.

I had many conversations about why a true omnichannel contact center solution is different from offering every channel to customers via multiple solutions. Can agents and supervisors see the entire customer journey in a linear fashion, regardless of which channel an interaction starts and ends on or who handles it? If not, why? Are your agents stressed out by the number of screens they toggle between while trying to have a personalized interaction with a customer? If yes, shouldn’t your contact center software do something to improve the agent experience (and, as a result, the CX) instead of the opposite?

Having every channel accessible within one window makes all the difference to agents and the experience they have at work. It removes the need and the hassle of using multiple systems, eliminates staffing narrowly-trained agents working in silos on dedicated channels, drastically cuts hold and handle time, and improves first-call resolution, among other things. It may also be the key to winning the growing war on work.

No switching screens, no transferring, no cross-platform training required. No more being held hostage by legacy systems! This is the experience agents expect and deserve at work - and it’s one your customers desire when they interact with your business, too. Not without importance, it also means you’re only paying one vendor instead of all the vendors.

3. Digital-first channels will become as accessible, reliable, and preferred as voice.

Most consumers still gravitate towards voice as their preferred channel, assuming it’s the best way to make themselves heard and get their issue solved completely and quickly. Unfortunately, that outdated belief continues to overwhelm contact centers and agents. 

Leaders told me that they want (and need) to offer self-service and make live assistance readily accessible on digital-first channels, like web chat, email, SMS, and social media. The good news? It’s totally possible to provide stellar self-service tools and digital-first support to customers. And the experience can be just as impactful as a voice call, too.

If contact centers are using the right automation tools combined with true omnichannel functionality to continue conversations and see the full customer journey regardless of channel, then customers can easily enjoy the benefits of self-service and agents are freed up to focus on tough issues. Customers will get instant self-service and have access to live agents regardless of which channel they choose, increasing the adoption of other service channels in the long run. Win-win.

Companies should look for contact center software that offers a blended and seamless approach to utilizing machine learning (ML) bots and live agents on every channel, to serve every customer, at every hour of the day. By fronting interactions with ML-powered self-service options, they can reduce the number of inquiries that are escalated to their human workforce and deliver the instant resolutions and gratification that customers are looking for. 

The new CX reality looks like a webchat to initiate an exchange or refund, sending a photo of the issue over SMS, a quick phone call from a live agent to confirm payment details, and a follow-up email once it’s all said and done. All with the same agent, to the same customer, without ever starting over. We predict - and, as customers, we hope - this will become more pervasive in 2022. 

4. Brands will leverage new technology to catch up with the younger workforce and consumers.

Let’s face it: digital natives are now our employees and our customers. They have no living memory before wi-fi, apps, gaming, and the cloud. How can we hire them or sell to them via outdated technology systems that belong in a museum?

To get the most from them at work and as buyers, we need to put new CX technology in place. Meeting their needs in this way was a topic of concern and priority for many decision-makers at the event. Digital natives don’t want to be put on hold or forced to switch systems to send a message over chat. They know how to work in a smarter way and collaborate quickly. Shouldn’t we? 

Optimizing the customer and employee experience for digital natives will undoubtedly take center stage in 2022, where brands prepare and implement tech solutions for this influential group. We have imagined - and then created - a world where you can dropship a fully-configured laptop (like a Chromebook) to a new agent, they plug in their noise-canceling headset (like a Jabra), sign-in to a fully cloud-native, one-window, Google Chrome Enterprise Recommended contact center solution (ahem, like Edify), and start taking interactions in mere minutes. 

It’s possible. Today. 

You can launch a fully distributed, global, reliable, secure, one-click contact center with user-friendly software and hardware. Because it’s about the entire experience. More and more contact centers will adopt this new way of working in 2022.

5. Agents and customers can live, work, and interact anywhere across the globe with real-time transcription and translation.

One attendee told me that while the bulk of their customers resides in the U.S. the majority of their agent pool is located in Mexico, simply because it was easier to hire there. Yet, every time they have a difficult English-Spanish language barrier arise in a conversation, they’re utilizing a select few agents to assist with translation. There is no other option for assistance. Imagine the bottleneck this creates! 

This is a perfect example of the rising demand for real-time transcription and translation capabilities - and a perfect use case for machine learning (ML) in the contact center. As geographical boundaries continue to dissolve, allowing people to live and work and shop in the place of their choosing, customer service operations must match this new reality. 

It’s time to change the customer service conversation (quite literally) and start conversing as easily as if we were all neighbors. So we decided to remove language barriers, lag times, and miscommunication headaches from agent-customer conversations by implementing this new and important functionality into our CCaaS solution: real-time transcription and translation into 100+ languages across channels. 

We predict more and more companies will look to eliminate staffing dedicated multilingual agents in specific regions and move toward simply hiring the best person for the job, wherever they may be. Doesn’t every brand look toward a future of global operations? Technology must support that vision. 

6. Per-user-per-day pricing will make it easier for businesses to scale instantly alongside demand.

Like we said at the end of last year, predicting anything is a dangerous game in today’s world. The volatility of different markets, lockdowns, border closures, consumer habits, and running a business in general amidst a global pandemic has leaders searching for more flexible contact center software with more attractive pricing … perhaps above all else. 

Freedom from inflexible contracts and named user pricing models was of interest to attendees with 13 agents and 1,300 agents alike. Companies are looking to remove barriers after having learned that they must be nimble and hyper-responsive to change to stay afloat. Paying for monthly licenses they don’t use all the time doesn't make sense and isn't necessary anymore. OpEx over CapEx makes the most sense now.

No-code workflows combined with usage-based pricing make it easy to tweak and improve service experiences instantly and add or remove agent seats with the click of a button, helping them maintain CX excellence all throughout the year. I had this conversation with our CTO recently, and I predict this topic will gain more mainstream coverage in 2022: usage-based pricing models are bringing transparency, predictability, and fairness back to contact center software and the businesses we serve.

7. Leaders will manage fully distributed teams with ease.

Remote work is here to stay. I’m sure you’ve heard and read and seen this everywhere, but I predict it to become the new standard with utmost certainty. It’s vital to set distributed teams up for long-term success in 2022, enabling people to work from wherever they feel most productive and comfortable, where technology is no obstacle to creating amazing experiences for your customers and teams. Solutions already exist that promise the highest levels of security and reliability, so what are you waiting for?

Natively including unified communications within a contact center software suite will become commonplace, too (we were trendsetters by architecting Edify like this from the get-go). Less is almost always more, especially when it comes to the number of platforms you have to use in a day just to communicate with your customer and teams. 

Leaders will be intentionally designing workflows and communications practices around desired outcomes, successfully running teams of highly motivated and engaged professionals who can impact the CX at every step of the journey. This will all happen by way of intuitive, flexible, secure, cloud-native technology tools.

The Best is Yet to Come

Most importantly, I predict customer service experiences will continue to evolve for the better in 2022. Because that’s what we’re all here for - to drive the industry forward. As leaders, technologists, and consumers ourselves, we will be one step closer to delivering the kind of CX we all wish we had more of.

See you next year. :-)

Kendal Rodgers

Written by Kendal Rodgers

Kendal is the Marketing Manager at Edify and has been writing and curating content most of her professional career. She’s passionate about working with start-ups and sharing life experiences through storytelling. Kendal earned her B.S. in Marketing and International Studies from the IU Kelley School of Business.