The pandemic has shaken up numerous aspects of consumer daily life. From working remotely out of our homes and schooling children in digital classrooms to doing business with companies online, the day-to-day activities of consumers look drastically different than a year ago.
When stay at home orders were issued in March as COVID-19 began to spread across the nation like wildfire, the contact center industry was faced with a unique challenge. Contact centers were inundated with a high volume of calls as consumers were stuck at home and only had the option of calling in to reach a business, yet the centers faced significant logistical obstacles since agents were sent home to work remotely.
An Urgent Need to Digitally Transform
Before the pandemic, contact centers across a variety of industries had long-term plans to digitally transform their communications technology. However, such plans were not viewed as critical to the immediate success of the contact center meeting service level agreements and consequently were typically put on the back burner. Pre-pandemic, on-premise legacy phone systems were sufficient to run a contact center’s operations as agents worked together as one large team in a physical office space. Once COVID-19 arrived and contact centers were no longer able to house all of their agents in a close-knit work environment, the need for cloud-based communication solutions became urgent overnight.
Getting contact center agents set up to work out of their homes proved to be a logistical nightmare since many organizations were less mature in their digital transformations. Contact centers that were using legacy phone technology before the pandemic found themselves almost immediately in search of cloud-based unified communications solutions that would enable their agents to shift quickly and easily to assisting customers remotely.
COVID-19 as a Catalyst for Further Communication Innovation in 2021
An example of an industry that lacked the necessary technology it needed to communicate with their customers in a virtual and secure way when COVID-19 hit is healthcare. The healthcare industry urgently needed technology that would enable doctors to communicate with their patients virtually.
In particular, healthcare providers struggled to virtually care for patients for non-COVID related health concerns as many clinics were shut down completely or were only operating for COVID related care. Organizations turned to using traditional web conferencing solutions to communicate via one-on-one virtual video sessions between a patient and a healthcare professional. While this solved an immediate need, it also exposed sensitive patient data, creating a significant security risk. This challenge born out of the pandemic creates opportunity for innovation in the year ahead.
As the virus continues to spread and businesses deal with the ongoing economic impact, 2021 will see a great deal of innovation in customer engagement and contact center technology, including advancements in video technology. Consumers have grown accustomed to using video to communicate not only with family and friends since the start of the pandemic, but to also communicate with businesses and service providers, while staying at home as much as possible.
Advancements in video technology will shift towards consumer-designed conferencing tools that offer exceptional customer experience while making it easy to meet on-the-fly rather than a pre-scheduled meeting. This type of new video technology will replace third party web conferencing seats at organizations across the nation. Additionally, security standards for video interactions will increase, especially in highly regulated industries, like financial services or healthcare.
Digital Customer Engagement Challenges Moving Forward
Contact centers can also expect a spike in the video communications, especially for use cases where more complex matters are at hand. For example, consider the scenario of a consumer meeting with a loan officer at the local bank branch to discuss mortgage refinancing options. The nature of this type of conversation is vastly more complex than, say, a customer calling into the bank for help logging into their online banking platform. Adding video to an interaction can greatly enhance the customer experience as well as increase customer engagement.
As consumers and businesses continue to adapt to the ‘new normal’ amid the global pandemic, the ability to securely connect humans while they remain physically apart will continue to be a challenge. And, as organizations take action on digital transformation plans and adopt cloud-based technologies to advance their communications strategies, security must remain the primary focus to ensure successful customer engagement.
But with challenges come opportunity. As the world recovers and applies the learnings from the past year, contact centers will make important advancements that will set the course for the future of customer engagement.