Future gazing: 8x8’s top tech trends for 2017
Kevin Scott-Cowell, UK Managing Director of 8x8, gives his predictions for 2017’s top communications technology trends
- Companies will make flexible working a priority to tap into top talent
Already just under half (49%) of workers say flexible working arrangements and work life balance are the most important benefits companies can offer them. Millennials say the ability to work remotely is one of the top three perks they consider when evaluating a job opportunity. 2017 will see the first of Generation Z – those born in the late nineties – begin to enter the workforce and research suggests the idea of a traditional 9-5 office day is alien to them. All of this means we expect to see a boom in adoption of technology. This will help seamless remote working technology which empowers people to do their best work wherever they need to be. We should also see more contact centres using home based agents, with the cloud keeping them connected.
- Investment in digital infrastructure will pay dividends for remote workers
In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor unveiled the new National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF), a long term project designed to make the public more efficient in the workplace, improve the economy and peoples work life balance in the process. This includes a £1 billion investment in the UK’s digital infrastructure to be used for new fibre broadband and 5G connectivity. This will provide welcome relief for many remote workers and accelerate the adoption of cloud systems that give them access to sophisticated communications tools on the go. For example, the ability to switch calls between your mobile, desk phone and softphone or jumping from IM to a video meeting instantaneously becomes even easier with faster, more reliable connectivity.
- Call analytics will boost decision making
The ability to track and analyse calls has been around for a while and has been used predominantly in contact centre environments. 2017 will see wider adoption of call analytics platforms across businesses as a way to make better decisions based on Big Data. Call analytics platforms are now easier to deploy across any department. The data can be used to improve employee performance, sales campaigns, customer experience management and offers greater insight into staffing requirements. For example, a sales team can model the sequence, timing and length of calls that are most likely to result in a successful sale.
- UK exporters go global, supported by cloud communications
Whilst the weaker pound is a challenge for many of us, it is creating opportunities for exporters – UK factories had their best month in more than two years in September. We expect companies selling overseas to capitalise on this by expanding their global presence, deploying cloud based communication systems to aid them.
While staff spread throughout the globe bring communications challenges, cloud systems help ensure they can act as one joined up team. Businesses will still want to conduct face to face meetings but the inconvenience and cost of travel make this unfeasible. Expect video conferencing to grow as a substitute in this sector.
Cloud based contact centres will become more common than ‘traditional’ ones for the first time
40% of UK-based organisations used cloud based contact centres in 2016 according to the Cloud Industry Forum: we expect this growth to continue into 2017. The shift has been driven by a number of factors including: the need to manage budgets more effectively by switching from a capex to an Opex model; the ability to cost effectively add or remove seats based on fluctuations in demand and companies wanting to transform the experience they offer their customers. This last driver is now seen as the priority for contact centre managers. The delivery of exceptional customer service from the contact centre is now seen as a key differentiator for brands.
- Automation will grow – but not at the expense of people
The use of chatbots and AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been growing steadily within contact centres in 2016 and will continue in 2017. We don’t view this as a threat to human agents – far from it. We expect to see companies invest in AI as a way to reduce the routine, ‘easy to fix’ issues which otherwise suck time from experienced agents who are far better placed to deal with more complex queries. Humans remain the best problem solvers, and I’m yet to find a robot that is able to effectively empathise with a distressed customer. 2017 will see companies invest in technology that augments the decision making and problem solving power of agents.
- Multi-media contact centres will go mainstream
Voice remains a critical channel, but consumers now want to interact with companies across email, SMS, social and webchat as well. And they’ll vote with their feet if companies don’t think service levels are up to scratch. Research we conducted in 2016 revealed that more than a quarter (26%) of young people aged 25-34 have started searching for competitors online during a poor contact centre interaction. That’s why companies increasingly tell us that they want their agents to serve customers across all channels from the same, easy to learn interface. This shift towards multi-media contact centres will become a necessity rather than a ‘nice to have’ for companies in 2017.