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An Evolving Industry: Three Contact Center Technology Trends to Watch

This article was updated on July 13, 2021

There was a time when contact centers seemed largely immune to the demands of technological progress. Though contact center technology trends like voice over IP and customer relationship management did sporadically come along and shake up the industry, these business units generally needed little more than phones, computers, and trained personnel to carry out high-level tasks of in- or outbound communication. As a result, this allowed certain organizations to run their contact centers with little to no need for the extensive (and often expensive) technological upgrades that befell their other departments.

But those days are quickly ending. In terms of capability, productivity, and profitability, today’s new contact center technology trends are quite simply too valuable to ignore, a fact that holds whether your contact center focuses on sales, support, research, or any of the other countless tasks comprising the larger industry. In particular, in- and outbound contact organizations should give the following trends close consideration:

Contact Center Technology Trends: Real-Time Translation

While once the exclusive domain of sci-fi movies and TV shows, real-time translation is now a very real thing in call and contact centers across the country. Dedicated services and API-based infrastructural additions can now take voice data, translate it to another language, and feed it in either audio or text format to the participant on the other line. Services that transcribe incoming messages and outbound communications into a different language are an exciting advancement, as are real-time voice translation services.

Text- or voice-based, it is not difficult to see the value these tools provide contact centers in their never-ending quest to expand reach and accessibility. In a service context, real-time translation could usher call centers and their overarching companies into communities formerly rendered inaccessible by language barriers. It’s the same story for sales and research, both of which naturally benefit from an expanded pool of leads. Meanwhile, organizations experiencing unexpected or seasonal spikes in language needs could use translation tools to help manage the load without the burdensome process of hiring temporary multilingual help.

Considering these factors, real-time translation is easily one of the highest-potential contact center technology trends coming down the pipeline. Expect this technology to show an expanded presence as it grows in capability, which is a near-certainty with the number of tech-industry powerhouses putting resources into its advancement.

Voice Bots

The value voice bots can provide in the contact center is immediately apparent. For interactions with limited variance, bots can manage tasks every bit as well as a human, then hand the call off to a live person should things get too complicated for them. This skill set opens a huge number of tasks to bots, with duties that span the breadth of call center usage, including bill pay reminders, service call follow-ups, and the initial routing questions formerly handled by IVR systems. Computers are getting better at talking to humans, enough so that they can schedule a hair appointment or order a pizza.

AI-infused self-service options show significant promise as well. For some customers, talking to a human will always be superior to IVR systems and online portals; a system that replicates human interaction could represent higher satisfaction on the caller’s end and major financial or person-power savings for the businesses.

Callers who would never use an IVR to pay a bill and bristle at paying a convenience charge to speak to an agent, for example, would likely be more satisfied by a bot that provides a near-perfect take on the human bill-pay experience. In these and other contexts, AI-powered voice bots will continue their rise through the ranks of contact center technology trends.

Sentiment Analysis

Sometimes customers say things that don’t truly reflect how they feel. Other times, knowledge of their true emotional state may empower reps or AI systems to make better decisions about the direction the call needs to take. Either way—and in countless other situations—systems designed to accurately gauge how a customer feels are among the hottest contact center technology trends out there today. From building better-personalized interactions to collecting important demographic data, the technology is effectively a holy grail for numerous arms of the contact center industry.

Consider a political research company attempting to gauge public perception of a hotly contested social program. While even anonymized subjects may toe the party line, analysis of hard-to-hide sentiment markers may give a better feel for what their research subjects truly think. The same high-level applications could be found in marketing research, service follow-ups or any other arena where the customer’s true opinion matters.

Accordingly, similar tools could be invaluable for reps looking for just the right moment to escalate to the next tier of support. Instead of wasting management time by sending them too early or frustrating customers by keeping them at the current level for too long, the sentiment-reading system could be an invaluable timing aid.

More, this is only the beginning of what sentiment analysis will soon do for contact centers. A fledgling field by any measure, the technology will only improve as systems get better at reading data, and as experts determine value and potential use cases for the data they uncover. With all the value marketers and others place on “real” subject opinion, it’s only a matter of time until sentiment analysis — along with all the other solutions on this list — becomes a critical part of every call center’s toolbox.

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