Call center technology trends to keep an ear for in 2021
Like with any technology, call center technology also keeps changing with every passing year. Here is a quick snapshot of the most important trends that should you look forward to in the coming year.
Call centers seem like such familiar things.
The term quickly brings to mind a classic 1980s scene. Banks of headset-bound agents. The hum of chatter. The ringing of phones. And the clatter of keyboards.
But things are changing faster than you might think.
Like in any sector, advancements in call center technology are rapidly affecting the market. In turn, these changes are having a big impact on how businesses operate in 2021 and beyond.
We’re seeing a surge in the adoption of CCaaS (Call Center as a Service), AI, and Machine Learning automation. Not to mention IVR, VoIP, CRMs, CTI, ACD… the list goes on.
It’s clear that the reality in 2021 is very different from the image of forty, twenty – or even five – years ago.
In this blog post, we’re going to break down the 11 biggest call center trends, and what these trends might mean for your business and its call center.
Just how far has call center technology come already?
Although answering services originated back in the late 1950s, it wasn’t until the 1970s that call centers started to explode in popularity. They quickly became a core feature of commercial sales strategies, as well as customer service functions.
Practically, they were set up like small towns. Call centers relied on a hard-wired PBX (Private Branch Exchange) network. Whilst notably cheaper and more flexible than setting up a separate phone number for each operative, physical PBXs meant thousands of yards of copper cabling, junction boxes, network carrier connections, central server systems, and PSTN connections.
These days, things are a little different.
1. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)
As businesses increased their reach and expanded to an increasingly globalized market, long-distance charges grew rapidly.
So it’s no surprise that Voice over Internet Protocol (or VoIP) was embraced whole-heartedly by companies of all sizes.
Essentially an internet-based version of a traditional hard-wired approach, VoIP allows call centers to reach people all over the world. The bandwidth of a modern internet connection also lets the system handle far more calls simultaneously. And that’s without losing any of the functionality of the PBX, allowing agents to pick up calls to the same number and network.
Unsurprisingly, VoIP technology has become standard for most call center applications. And it’s the foundation that more recent technologies are built on.
2. Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is essentially a smart computer-operated phone system. Ever heard “Press 1 for Customer Services”? That’s the IVR in operation.
But in 2021 the system doesn’t stop there. It can now use advanced voice recognition to allow callers to interact in far more complex and useful ways.
How might an IVR help your business?
- Easy call routing to an agent best equipped to help the caller, allowing you to offer a sharper customer service experience.
- The capacity to handle high call rates with queuing and callback options.
- Personalized greetings and pre-recorded prompts that boost your brand messaging.
- More efficient problem-solving, as the agent who receives the call is more likely to be able to assist.
- Lower expenditure by removing the need for a human call handler to direct callers.
- You can even prioritize certain calls based on their value, making sure you deliver a first-class service.
3. Artificial Intelligence I and Machine Learning
It’s 2021, so you won’t be surprised to hear that technology is working to enhance call center performance in previously unimaginable ways.
At the forefront of that drive is AI and Machine Learning. These advances go on further than increasing productivity or efficiency. They help you understand why your customers are calling in the first place.
By compiling large data piles from across your communication channels, AI can make clear observations about areas of opportunity and risk. Enhancing your customers’ experience and call center’s efficiency.
Machine Learning technology allows automated systems to study human agents’ interactions and ultimately answer common questions themselves. Lifting some of the strain from your workers’ shoulders.
The technology doesn’t just pick out keywords from a conversation, it can analyze the caller’s tone, vocabulary, speech rhythm, and inflection. The software can make conclusions about their emotional state and the resulting degree of satisfaction. That information is then fed back through to create predictive models that give insight on how best to handle certain types of calls.
AI can even keep an eye on social media complaints, predicting call volume surges based on posting patterns across those networks. And in some cases, AI assessment systems have been used to slash the hiring time needed to staff a brand new operation.
4. Omnichannel support
These days, technology allows customers to contact businesses in an increasingly diversified number of ways, and call centers are working hard to keep up.
Omnichannel support allows organizations to restructure as multichannel contact centers. These can respond to social media and emails, as well as phone calls. Modern software setups integrate these services into one system, allowing them to function seamlessly.
5 to 10 — Small but significant call center technology trends
5. Computer Telephony Integration
Put simply, CTI is the technology that coordinates a telephone with a computer system. These are commonly integrated using a ‘softphone’, in which the phone system is entirely virtual and can be installed as a piece of software.
6. Automatic Call Distribution
ACD takes IVR one step further, by automating the routing process. By learning to categorize callers based on certain filters, Automatic Call Distribution can step your efficiency up another level.
7. SIP trunking
Another technology that sits ‘under the hood’, SIP trunking is the protocol used in most VoIP deployments. It’s installed virtually over your existing internet connection, replacing the need for analog phone lines.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is an essential feature of modern call centers. Allowing businesses to keep clear and useful records of their customer interactions, a CRM gives agents all the information they need to best serve the caller.
9. Mobile functionality
The integrations mentioned above now allow for software to be installed on portable and mobile devices. Opening a new age for remote agents to provide the same stellar service.
10. Reporting & Analytics
CRM and computer-integrated call centers allow for the collection of a vast amount of tangible data. AI helps to analyze these findings drawing together a remarkable quantity of discoveries that help operators track output, measure success rates, and find opportunities for improvement.
Other call center technology trends to look out for
Amongst these new technologies, CCaaS is expected to be the fastest to become mainstream. It’s clearly hitting the mark, with GVR predicting the contact center market to grow an astonishing 21.1% year-on-year from 2021 to 2028. AI and Machine Learning functions are a significant contributor to this high rate of adoption.
Intelligent call routing is also becoming a key technology, with 93% of call center managers ranking it highest in a study (Source). An integrated omnichannel setup came a close second with 91% of responses.
Ultimately, the overall theme remains to provide customers with the best and most seamless service experience whilst streamlining spending in a rapidly changing climate.
In a nutshell
What’s clear from all these advances is that call centers are simply refusing to stand still. With the ways customers interact with businesses diversifying every year, businesses need to continue to adapt and develop their systems to reach and maintain excellence.
Illustrations by Mahalakshmi Anantharaman
Animation by Yuvaraj Linganathan
Freshcaller is a modern-day cloud phone system for customer support, sales, and remote working teams. With its cloud-based architecture, Freshcaller brings together the best of legacy features like IVR and advanced call routing capabilities like Smart Escalations, Customizable Performance Reporting to help you set up state-of-the-art phone operations. Freshcaller offers phone numbers in 90+ countries, requires zero phone hardware, and is extremely easy to use.
Visit the Freshcaller website for more information.
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