The year ahead has been proclaimed the Year of the Dog, according to the Chinese zodiac. So will your contact center take a leap forward in 2018 or be among those whimpering in the background? Here are five ways to tell...
In many ways, 2018 is likely to give us more of the same: Increasing card-not-present transactions, soaring consumer expectations around service, and many organizations of all sizes having their data breached.
The difference is, these trends are likely to intensify, more events will be thrust into the public spotlight, and more companies are likely to be vilified for the tiniest lapse in service. Whether you fail or thrive in 2018 depends on how effectively you respond to growing threats and seize new opportunities.
Here are five predictions for the year ahead:
#1: Compliance pressures increase
As the world customer engagement and transactions becomes more complex, industry bodies and governments will wade in increasingly — making tighter rules on data protection and setting the fines but leaving organizations to scrabble around for answers. GDPR and MiFID II will loom large in 2018. But, PCI DSS is an essential as well as an effective process for helping businesses meet certain elements of GDPR and remains essential for any serious organization taking card payments or handling sensitive data.
#2: Customers have shorter fuses
Customers will become less tolerant of poor contact center engagement in 2018. They know how today's tech should work — so will have less sympathy when service levels slide, brushing aside agents' apologies. Instead, more customers will post screen grabs and rants on social media as a knee-jerk reaction, perhaps waiting seconds rather than minutes before posting.
The best response for contact centers is to arm their agents with unified desktops that bring disparate systems together - and to deploy powerful social media monitoring tools. That way, issues can be avoided completely or resolved before they spiral out of control. After all, not responding too an issue decreases customer advocacy by as much as 50%.
#3: Customers embrace self-service
Customers adore self-service when they experience the benefits: Time savings, greater control and extra 24x7 convenience. Of course, automated systems save you money too. It's a genuine win/win. More companies will act on this in 2018 across multiple industries.
If your IVR system has behaved badly in the past, then 2018 could be the year to turn it into your customers' best friend. Even the gruffest IVR can be radically redesigned to give customers the personal, self-service experience they desire. Embracing Visual IVR, you could deliver rich content on your IVR and then pushed to their mobiles, alongside special offers that boost sales. Customers will be impressed.
#4: Omnichannel proves unstoppable
More organizations will recognize that they cannot dictate which channels customers use: People will do their own thing, when they want, shift channels and expect companies to join the dots between systems. Every interaction needs to be seamless — from web browsing to agent call-backs, from emails to Web Chat.
This presents a host of intricate technical challenges for contact centers. But leading customer engagement tools are now available to plug the gaps and stitch it all together in a near-magical, cost-effective way — that will increase sales too.
#5: Chatbots make a big comeback
The shadow cast by yesterday's clueless chatbots will fade quickly in 2018 — as a new breed of cyber agents step in to support contact centers increasingly. Chatbots will power 85% of customer service interactions by 2020 and the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse, according to Gartner .
Tomorrow's bots will be connected with powerful knowledge bases that are ideal for handling simple, easy and repetitive tasks, lifting the load off real agents — but knowing exactly when to hand over to them. The human touch will still be important for customer choice and complex calls, so some agents will need to be upskilled for the task.
 Gartner top 10 predictions 2017