Contact centers are undergoing a radical reshuffling of the workforce, partly because the pandemic shifted agents to remote work. But the trends were in place to reorganize the world of work long before the pandemic. Digital contact channels, which are gaining in popularity, require workers that are better informed and capable of handling more complex and interdependent interactions and processes. That’s changing the nature of training, management and even process design between departments.
Change is also coming to the communications tools that underpin contact center work. Agents increasingly have to collaborate with peers in the back office, and that is forcing organizations to upgrade the capabilities of internal communications tools. Customer-facing workers, like contact center agents and their colleagues in related areas, must have ready access to peers and managers in ways that are seamless and transparent. If it’s a chore to find someone and talk to them, then it’s likely not going to happen, and people end up forming their own personal silos.
So, this decade began with a radical wake-up call: The industry needs a new model for collaborative, customer-facing work because the nature of agents’ jobs is changing. And to the surprise of many, the tools that were needed to enable this change were sitting there in plain sight in the form of synergies between unified communications and cloud-based contact center platforms.
Ventana Research believes that by 2025, one-third of organizations will look to integrated unified communications (UCaaS) and contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) technology to collaborate in the enterprise and with customers more effectively. This bears on the workforce because the rationale for an integrated platform starts with ease of deployment and maintenance. When a single communication platform is used across the a single directory, and can mix and match functions based on any given user’s role, which can change. can mix and match functions based on any given user’s role, which can change.
Integrated communications also supply a common platform supporting important quality control functions like recording, coaching and evaluation. Ideally, these should be applied across departments and teams, providing a clearer picture of whether the entire organization is working collectively to provide good customer experiences.
Some of the most important technology advances are coming at the platform level of the tech stack, where artificial intelligence, machine learning and workflow automation can be spread across multiple applications and use cases like intelligent self-service and agent assistance. This means that in a combined UCaaS/CCaaS system, those advances can be deployed to more users with different functions.
There are also benefits from synchronizing user interfaces, like reducing the amount of training users need and the disruption of having to switch among applications. We see that, for example, in the way UCaaS/CCaaS combinations are starting to leverage integrations into systems like Microsoft Teams, so that both contact center agents and business users have access to presence status, video calling, team chatting and other basic functions. The idea that the two sets of workers should have separate communications platforms is absurd when you consider the cost, time and IT resources required to bridge the gap.
Going forward, one of the important aspects of the workplace evolution we are experiencing is the way communication has to be integrated into all of the tools people use during the course of their work life. Digital processes (which now include just about every business process) have to incorporate the ability to collaborate spontaneously, sharing screens and resources, and seeing who is available. Workers need awareness of who has the specific expertise they need, who is available and through what means. That’s a lot more complicated than it was to put phones on people’s desks.
Customer experience leaders should be looking to their communication providers to work closely with tools like their customer relationship management systems, contact centers, other customer-facing tools and back- office applications. Best practices in contact centers are already moving to require stronger communications tools to bind people together. Many organizations are facing increasing turnover rates and difficulty finding agents, and realize that better tools can be a hiring differentiator. Organizations should make sure that the choice of where to work (remote, hybrid or in-office) doesn’t create a set of haves and have nots, a class of workers that can’t connect and confer or collaborate and build teams.
So, this is what the future looks like: There will be more reliance on cloud applications. Contact center agents will expect integrated communications for their omnichannel interactions, but unified into a universal inbox. People with many different backgrounds in business will have to work closely with IT teams to set requirements and build some of the new processes that ensure workers have the communications tools they need.
Organizations that transform infrastructures to be digital and cloud-based will also transform the workforce that engages with the digital infrastructure. IT teams have to collaborate closely with the managers above those employees who are experiencing this new world of work. You can’t just decree that the workforce is agile; you have to build the conditions where an agile workforce can thrive.