COVID-19 was a disruptor. Contact centers often had little choice but to transition to new operating models, typically by sending employees home to work remotely. While many hoped that the coronavirus would be a short-term event, it proved to be anything but. As a result, COVID-19 and the technologies it made necessary are now poised to shape the 2021 contact center. While we may not know the full extent to which COVID-19 had an impact until well into the new year, there are certain trends that are clear today. Here’s a look at the pandemic, technology, and what 2021 has in store for contact centers.
Improving Remote Work Technology Implementations
During the early days of the pandemic, most contact centers had limited tools in place to support remote work to the degree that suddenly became necessary. Often, IT departments were left scrambling, having to come up with piecemeal solutions, tacking together different technologies in rapid succession to create a functional, though imperfect, system for core operations. It was a response to an emergency, a situation where “good enough” reigned supreme. Today, companies are beyond that initial emergency. They have the space to smooth and streamline systems, creating remote work solutions that can function long-term. Robustness is the new priority, as well as cutting-edge tool acquisition and overcoming the shortcomings of the haphazard approach that was needed in the beginning. In 2021, companies are going to examine the remote work choices and make adjustments. Since COVID-19 is still a factor, and contact centers have learned a powerful lesson about the need for solutions that support business continuity, the improved implementations are going to be long-term-oriented. Having a reliable work-from-home system will become a new normal, allowing contact centers to remain agile during uncertain times.
The Cloud will be the Approach Du Jour
While the use of cloud solutions has been on the rise in the contact center world for many years, COVID-19 made the importance of such technologies abundantly clear. Digital agility is a must during a crisis, ensuring that business continuity objectives are easier to achieve. Additionally, cloud-based systems and cloud communications
platforms provide much-needed flexibility. Often, the approach is highly scalable, typically more so than on-premises solutions. Since contact centers need to be able to adjust at a moment's notice, the adaptability the cloud provides is increasingly viewed as essential. During 2021, more contact centers will take the leap, transitioning more core operations to the cloud. This simplifies remote work, ensuring that every employee can access critical systems, tools, and resources regardless of where they are, allowing them to work from essentially anywhere.
The Move Toward Digital-First
COVID-19 spotlighted the need for a digital-first mindset. Contact centers that had embraced tools like AI chatbots, text messaging support, and similar avenues for working with customers had a leg up during the early days of the pandemic. More support channels were available, and they relied on different mechanisms. As a result, customers could reach out with greater ease. In 2021, this new form of digital transformation will be viewed as necessary instead of optional. A digital-first mindset is going to quickly become the norm, ensuring every contact center communication tool available is properly harnessed.