Enterprises Boost Contact Center Outsourcing, Technology to Address Pandemic-Era Trends

  • ISG Provider Lens report finds contact centers adopting hybrid work models for agents, embracing more social media, chat, AI and analytics to meet new customer demands

Contact center operators worldwide are adopting new technologies more quickly in response to several business and consumer trends accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report published by Information Services Group, a leading global technology research and advisory firm.

“The changes that have swept the business world over the past 18 months have made companies recognize the need for new technologies and business models”

The 2021 ISG Provider Lens Contact Center – Customer Experience Services Global report finds the pandemic disrupted both working conditions and consumer behavior, leading enterprises to work more closely with service providers on digital transformations. Annual contract value for business process outsourcing (BPO) providers grew by 48 percent from the first half of 2020 to the first half of 2021, according to the ISG Index.

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The pandemic quickly made social media, asynchronous messaging, conversational AI and analytics essential to enterprise engagement with customers, while work-from-home mandates changed contact center operations for good, the report says.

“The changes that have swept the business world over the past 18 months have made companies recognize the need for new technologies and business models,” said Jim Kane, leader, ISG Contact Center Solutions. “Many are transforming their customer care in partnership with outsourcing providers.”

After COVID-19 social distancing rules led many consumers to spend their days mostly online, social media became a more important channel for purchases, customer service, feedback and other interactions, the report says. More companies are now using social media both to find new customers and to serve their existing customer base. The benefits of a social media presence come with a risk of brand damage, so content moderation, community management, web crawling and other tasks have become essential services.

Asynchronous messaging tools such as chat have grown in popularity during the pandemic as more consumers sought help online without long waits, ISG says. These methods allow agents to resolve more queries while making the process more convenient, mitigating customer frustration. Companies have also dramatically increased their adoption of conversational AI, which has matured in recent years with the ability to answer more complex queries and even comes preloaded with specialized knowledge about the nuances of specific industries. Analytics tools that can provide agents with the right set of information at the right time are also emerging as a game-changer.

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The pandemic has also amplified the trend toward cloud-based contact centers, the report says. Service providers are expanding their partnerships with cloud platform companies and investing in proprietary cloud solutions, helping their enterprise customers maintain business continuity and accelerate their digital transformations.

Businesses are now emerging from the home-based work requirements of the early pandemic with hybrid work models, according to ISG. For contact centers, which have long had vibrant in-office environments, this means implementing new approaches to provide positive employee experiences. These include engagement hubs, where employees can meet up with colleagues for meetings, training and fun activities, and platforms for doing the same kinds of activities virtually.

The 2021 ISG Provider Lens Contact Center Customer Experience Services Global report evaluates the capabilities of 29 providers across four quadrants: Digital Operations, AI & Analytics, Work From Home Services and Social Media CX Services.

The report names Concentrix, HGS, Sitel Group, Sutherland and Teleperformance as Leaders in all four quadrants. It names Alorica, Conduent and TTEC as Leaders in three quadrants each and Atento, Cognizant and CSS Corp. as Leaders in two quadrants each. The report names [24]7.ai, Genpact, Transcom, Webhelp, Wipro and WNS as Leaders in one quadrant each.

In addition, Infosys and Startek are named as Rising Stars—companies with a “promising portfolio” and “high future potential” by ISG’s definition—in two quadrant each. Tech Mahindra and WNS are named as Rising Stars in one quadrant each.

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