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Benchmark Report: Contact Center Automation is Moving to the Mainstream  

Contact center leaders are facing the hardest customer service climate in history. 

According to new data found in the 2022 Benchmark Report – a survey of 300 US-based contact center leaders conducted by global research firm Demand Metric – organizations are experiencing clear challenges to their customer service goals.

While some challenges represent lasting effects brought on by the pandemic, new obstacles have introduced additional complexities:

  • Customer expectations remain at all-time highs, and satisfaction remains priority number one for contact centers
  • Customer service agent attrition rates are at 42%, and nearly a third of agents are actively looking for a new job
  • The U.S. officially entered a recession in 2022, and managing contact centers costs remain a top priority

The report, titled Automation in the Contact Center, found that 91% of leaders believe automation is a critical priority to overcoming rising costs, hiring challenges, and call volume spikes. 

In fact, most contact center leaders (95%) have either already adopted, are implementing now, or are planning to implement automation within the next year.

“Automation has the power to transform the industry, as evidenced by the accelerated adoption of the technology,” said Gadi Shamia, CEO and co-founder at Replicant. 

“More and more companies are using automation to address chronic agent shortages and lower costs, while allowing their live agents to focus on more challenging and interesting customer issues. This survey confirms what we’ve seen in the market, that automation, especially natural sounding voice automation that resolves customer challenges, will soon be standard in every contact center.”

Read below for key findings from the report or download the full 2022 Benchmark Report: Automation in the Contact Center. The press release can be found here.

People and costs are top contact center challenges

The pandemic and ensuing Great Resignation saw contact center agents reevaluate their jobs – with many choosing to pursue other lines of work. As a result, customer service leaders have been forced to face rising customer demands and more unpredictable call spikes with understaffed operations and more expensive hiring cycles. 

According to the 2022 Benchmark Report:

  • 54% of leaders cited high and increasing costs as an immediate challenge
  • 49% said hiring enough agents is an immediate challenge
  • Leaders of contact centers with 1,000+ agents cited call volume spikes as their top challenge

As hiring and training costs have risen, agent recruitment has become less of a viable solution to long wait times and dissatisfied customers. Still, improving customer satisfaction remains the top contact center priority (77%) by a wide margin, with addressing staffing/workforce issues second (60%).

Automation is the top solution

Nearly all contact center leaders (95%) have either already adopted, are implementing now, or are planning to implement automation within the next year. Results from the report shed light on the prioritization of automation deployment, as well as trends regarding contact center leaders’ automation goals and investment plans:

  • 91% of contact center leaders report that automation is a critical or important priority in the next year
  • 72% of contact center leaders believe automation will reduce costs by at least 25%
  • 75% of contact center leaders who have invested in automation will increase their investment this year, while 20% will sustain their existing budget

Deployment obstacles, strategies, and trends

Contact center leaders indicate a disparity between customers’ most used channels and the effectiveness of each. Omnichannel service remains a goal for most, and leaders see the voice channel as a key value proposition of automation. 

In addition, the majority of respondents are not only excited about the prospect of automation in the contact center, but believe it will have a disruptive or revolutionary impact on customer service:

  • 80% of leaders managing a contact center of 1,000+ agents indicated that an omnichannel experience is important or very important – however, 63% feel they’re delivering that to a large or very large extent. 
  • Contact centers anticipate automation will address as much as 40% or more of tier-1 issues across channels such as voice, text, email, chat and more
  • 87% of contact center leaders indicate that the voice channel has the highest perceived value of automation compared to any other channel they use

While the 2022 Benchmark Report confirms many of the challenges Replicant has heard directly from contact center leaders, the data makes it clear that that Contact Center Automation has passed its tipping point not just in adoption, but in perceived value:

  • 66% of contact center leaders characterize themselves as excited about the prospect of using automation
  • 54% of respondents believe automation will have a disruptive or revolutionary impact on customer service

As Contact Center Automation continues to return cost savings to operational leaders, its impact will be felt beyond just bottom lines. With Contact Center Automation at the forefront of customer service transformation, customers will continue to get answers faster, agents will be free to focus more on tasks that require human creativity, and brands can return to delivering exceptional customer service no matter what challenges arise. 

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