Customer service and automation have been loosely tied together for many years now. But new data shows that contact centers and automation are no longer just adjacent – they’re synonymous.
According to the 2022 Benchmark Report: Automation in the Contact Center, Contact Center Automation has reached “Early Majority” status. The report – a survey of 300+ US-based contact center leaders by global research firm Demand Metric – found that 16% of leaders are already leveraging automation solutions.
When weighed against the Diffusion of Innovations theory, that measure easily exceeds the 13.5% “early adopters” watermark. So what’s driving the rapid rise of Contact Center Automation? Here’s what contact center leaders say is pushing automation onto their roadmaps.
There is considerable enthusiasm at the prospect of using automation
Two-thirds (66%) of study participants report they are excited about the prospect of using automation, while 17% feel overwhelmed by it, and another 17% are still apprehensive.
For the majority expressing enthusiasm about automation, it’s easy to see why. Automation boasts features that simply didn’t exist even two years ago. Contact Center Automation can resolve common requests and tasks like “where is my order?”, appointment scheduling, and authentication, with equal or greater effectiveness than agents. It gives contact centers the ability to provide consistent automated experiences across channels, including voice, and execute seamless handoffs to agents with full context.
Still, contact centers represent the front door of brands, so it’s understandable that a small segment of leaders still express apprehension about automation. But the effectiveness of the solution is best seen by leaders who have already deployed automation: feelings of excitement about automation are strongest (80%) among those already using it in some form.
Most contact centers believe the impact of automation is disruptive or revolutionary
More than half (54%) of all contact centers in the Benchmark Report believe that automation will have a disruptive or revolutionary impact in the next five years. And the perception of automation grows beyond excitement between those considering an implementation and those already using it. In fact, 71% of respondents believe Contact Center Automation holds a disruptive or revolutionary potential for customer service. And for leaders still evaluating automation, over a third (39%) feel the same way.
For most leaders, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Following a multi-year pandemic that saw customer demand skyrocket – and agent availability plummet – contact centers have never been under more pressure than they are today.
Contact Center Automation possesses the ability to dramatically reduce or eliminate hold times. On the hiring side, it’s already fundamentally changing what it means to be an agent. By automating the vast majority of repetitive tier 1 requests, contact centers are able to focus their agents on more engaging calls that require human empathy and creativity. In turn, they’re able to raise retention rates by offering greater professional development opportunities and higher wages.
Automation is a short-term, high priority
Almost all study participants (91%) say that automation is either a critical or important priority in the next year and just 1% assert it’s not a priority at all. This renewed focus on automation is being accelerated by recent economic uncertainty, which has exacerbated both the customer and employee challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Among leaders who cite automation as a “critical priority” in the next year, over two-thirds cite added efficiencies and improved CSAT as primary drivers. For those who see automation as an “important” priority, addressing workforce management issues and reducing costs are higher focuses, just behind CSAT improvement. Beyond the sheer excitement around automation, the challenges leaders plan to solve with the technology paint an optimistic picture.
Contact centers have long been viewed as “cost centers.” But the ability for Contact Center Automation to impact the bottom line, while also markedly improving customer experience and adding deep analytics and unlimited scale, will propel the technology into majority status quickly, while giving first-movers a distinct advantage over their competitors.