As we usher in 2024, it’s the perfect time to reflect on how contact centers are using leading technology to deliver better customer experiences while reducing cost. In just the past couple of years, we’ve witnessed remarkable technological advancements, with artificial intelligence becoming increasingly integrated into contact center operations through chatbots, voicebots, agent assistance, and deep analytics. These breakthrough technologies are allowing contact center leaders to deliver more efficient and effective customer experiences at scale.
A Contact Center Transformation Taking Place Before Our Eyes
One of the greatest impacts AI is having on contact centers today is transforming how agents are trained. A massive shift is taking place before our eyes, moving away from a half-century of traditional passive training, to hands-on active simulation training.
Simulation training allows newly hired agents to experience high-impact and high-frequency call and chat scenarios they will face with live customers before agents take their first live call. It also allows tenured live agents to uplevel and close their call skill gaps on an ongoing basis. Customer service agents build their confidence and remove anxiety in a safe environment without the risk of live customer interactions, by learning how humans learn best – practicing, making mistakes, and building skill proficiency through hands-on realistic practice.
Traditional passive training methods such as watching videos and reviewing content have moved from center stage to a supporting role, allowing agents to spend the majority of their time mastering soft skills and best and required practices through active learning. Contact center and training leaders are using simulation training to reduce their training costs and improve their agent performance across key metrics such as speed to proficiency, higher CSAT scores, and lower agent attrition. Simulation training, rooted in the principles of active learning, allows agents to build skill proficiency in a secure environment, revolutionizing the traditional training landscape.
As we explore the contact center forecasts for 2024, this pivotal shift in training methodologies takes center stage, heralding a new standard that promises to redefine the industry’s benchmarks for efficiency and customer satisfaction.
1. Service Provided by Human Agents Will Continue to Have the Greatest Impact on Customer Loyalty
The power of customer service delivered by humans continues to be the most influential factor in delivering memorable customer experiences, good or bad. Recent CX survey data shows that 67% of consumers prefer interacting with a live agent to resolve their needs, and over 70% of consumers surveyed want businesses to prioritize their agent customer care experience.*
2. The Contact Center Agent Job Will be More Demanding
With applications and digital service delivery handling the more simple customer inquiries such as account changes, due dates, etc, the challenge for contact center and training leaders is that agents are left with the more complex and toughest customer problems to solve. This dynamic will continue to get more challenging over time with advancements in service automation, making agent training and skill development more critical than ever.
3. The Number of Contact Center Agents will Continue to Grow
Despite the trend of automation handling more customer inquiries, the number of contact center agents will continue to grow over the next decade as it has for the last decade, exacerbating the need to help agents conquer ever-increasing call complexity.
What will drive contact center agent growth if automation is handling more inquiries?
- The total number of customer inquiries handled by humans today is roughly 57% (50% human voice agents, 7% human chat agents), with the remaining 43% handled by bots (40% voicebots (IVR), 3% chatbots).
- The total number of customer inquiries handled by humans in five years will roughly be 40% (35% human voice agents, 5% human chat agents), with the remaining 60% handled by voice and chatbots leveraging generative AI.
- Although the percentage of calls handled by human agents will decrease by 17% over the next five years, the total number of agents will continue to increase from the following two forces:
- The top of funnel total number of customer inquiries is projected to increase over the next five years it has every year over the last decade.
- The average handle time per inquiry will increase with agents handling the most difficult customer inquiries, causing the need for more human agents to service the same number of inquiries.
So while advancements in automated customer service will continue to develop, the dominating factor for delivering memorable customer experiences and brand loyalty will continue to be customer service delivered by the human agent. And with the agent’s job getting tougher every day, contact center and training leaders will need to deploy leading training technology to develop confident and prepared agents solving the toughest customer problems while delivering superior brand experiences.
4. 2024 Will Deliver the Most Significant Agent Training Transformation in Contact Center History
In 2020 – 2022, early adopters saw the opportunity to train agents through a brand new software category, born out of AI, called simulation training. And the early adopters are reaping the rewards today. 2023 saw simulation training move from early adopters to widespread adoption across many of the U.S. and world-leading brands. In 2024, simulation training will become the norm for the vast majority of companies with customer service agents. And the late adopters will close out the simulation training transformation in 2025.
5. 2024 Will Finally Connect New Hire Training & Live Agent Coaching
In 2024, new hire training and live agent coaching will finally become connected, with new hire agents trained on a brand’s call skills through simulation training, and as new hire agents transition to taking live calls, they will be scored against the same call skills they were trained on during simulation training, and they will receive automated agent development plans with targeted simulation coaching to close their call skill gaps.
While it’s clear that AI is revolutionizing how contact centers manage customer inquiries, AI will not replace the human agent who will remain critical to solving the most complex customer problems. In 2024, technology will be deployed that further automates customer service inquiries and nurtures human engagement, to deliver truly exceptional customer experiences at scale.
*Source: Execs in the Know 2023 CX Survey
As an experienced contact center leader, Brian understands how today’s automation is leaving agents with the most demanding problems to solve. Brian is the Cofounder & CEO of Zenarate, the world leader in developing confident top-performing agents through AI simulation training, live call analysis, and personalized simulation coaching.