By Donna Fluss
We’ve entered the new decade with great momentum in technological innovation. Startups and large enterprises are investing billions in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation-based initiatives that will change the way we live our lives and conduct business over the next ten to twenty years.
Technologies we’ve talked about for generations, such as self-driving cars, will alter the way people get around, making the argument for or against new transportation business models from companies such as Uber and Lyft merely a stepping-stone to a vastly transformed future.
DMG’s crystal ball shows an amazing outlook for the world of service and contact centers. In 2020 we’re going to see new and continued investments that will finally allow companies to decrease the number of live agent resources needed in contact centers, which is the number-one goal for these people-intensive organizations.
Self-service solutions—the preferred way for consumers in the more advanced economies to obtain assistance—will experience a resurgence as AI-related technologies emerge that provide omni-channel concierge-level service. (Displaced contact center employees can move into new functions, such as administering robotics and AI initiatives.)
The workforce, populated increasingly by millennials, will continue to take the reins from boomers and Gen-Xers. This will intensify the need to satisfy the lifestyle requirements of the most technically advanced generation of workers. The digital transformation will continue to take place slowly in many companies.
Investments to replace forty- to fifty-plus-year-old solutions that remain at the core of some of the largest corporations in the world, including major banks, will finally occur, as the resources and cost required to support systems built in the dark ages of technology will be too high. This doesn’t mean that it will be easy; it just means that it will happen, as the alternative is no longer viable.
The changing workforce will drive much of the innovation in companies. More business (and personal) activities will occur through mobility. The need for enterprise-wide workforce management (WFM) solutions to help companies find, hire, train, and schedule the resources needed to operate their business cost-effectively (not just in their contact centers) will supersede negative preconceptions. A new generation of flexible, AI-based WFM solutions will emerge to support this. Designed for real-time, omni-channel, and multifunction forecasting and scheduling, they will share only a name with the solutions of the past.
After decades of claiming to need highly knowledgeable workers, enterprises will implement new systems, training programs, and policies, driven by the vast amount of data required to support a hybrid human and automated workforce. It’s still debatable whether every employee will have their own automated bot to assist them, as it’s likely unnecessary, but there is no doubt that many types of automation (and workflow technology) will emerge to handle tasks that do not require or even benefit from the cognitive capabilities of live employees.
This will be a major boon for contact centers and back-office operating departments, where employees are still engaged in many repetitive, noncognitive tasks that require them to cut and paste data into multiple nonintegrated systems, manually create and enter summaries of customer conversations, place orders received via faxes (yes, this still happens), manually perform fulfillment activities, and more.
New automation and AI-enabled technology will deliver innovations that make it easier for companies to support the work/life balance requirements of millennials and, looking to the future, Generation Z. As these capabilities enhance the customer and agent experience and improve productivity, adoption will be swift.
Smart technology will position companies to improve the customer experience, provided the initiatives coincide with changes to outdated policies and procedures. One of the biggest impediments to delivering an outstanding customer experience, regardless of technology, is the conflicting goals of sales, service, and marketing. For digital transformation initiatives to succeed, enterprises must invest in reinventing their relationship with customers and employees, as much as updating their technology.
Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting LLC. For more than two decades she has helped emerging and established companies develop and deliver outstanding customer experiences. A recognized visionary, author, and speaker, Donna drives strategic transformation and innovation throughout the services industry. She provides strategic and practical counsel for enterprises, solution providers, and the investment community.