The contact center must be open-ended but also secure, both customer-centric and employee-centric, legacy-based yet modernized. Consumer demands are continually evolving and so are the channels used to communicate those needs.

The contact center industry is currently in a transition phase, where legacy systems will be refashioned by modern ones, and the once ‘low-level’ agent positions will be replaced by robust technology. It’s essential that your contact center is built for the future. There are a number of new ways to resolve the problems that will erode the success of call center operations around the world.

Here are the 10 biggest trends that can help call center professionals stay ahead of the curve.

1. Omni-Channel Communications (in a Multi-Channel World)

The leap towards omni-channel will be a big one, and it should happen in the very near future. It’s clear that most contact centers have adopted multi-channel, however only an average of 12% describe themselves as omni-channel. For a contact center to be truly omni-channel enabled, all applications must be able to seamlessly identify, route, and switch interactions between agents and channels, while keeping all relevant data intact.

2. Go Digital or Go Home

There is no doubt that digital channels are on the rise. Greater access to information and the convenience of doing business on the go means that call centers must configure their applications to be agile and responsive. As contact center leaders begin to catch on to the importance of user-friendly online customer experiences, digital channel planning is set to increase by the following percent over the next 12 months. A digital transformation strategy is going to be key as the cost of mobile bandwidth goes down, and omni-channel / machine-to-machine communications advance.

3. ‘Hello?’ Is it the Voice Channel You’re Looking for?

For many years, telecom marketers have predicted that the voice channel would eventually fall by the wayside of its digital predecessors. Today, we are beginning to see that. Although customers are using more channels besides voice, many of those interactions often still end up on the voice channel. The truth is that although channel diversity is needed for speedy communications, the telephone still remains an important avenue for solving complex issues.

Two key elements are needed to can contact centers provide the highest degree of care on the voice channel: proper, consistent, and ongoing training will help to ensure that voice interactions are met with quality and precision and technology, hold times have always created a concern for customers using the voice channel and must be eliminated at all costs.

4. Measure Your Performance and You’ll Go Far

This year, contact centers will see an increase in the number of implementations for performance management solutions. This is needed for both in-house and remote agents, as the option to work from home is now a reality for many growing call centers. However, this can create some concern for operations managers who must regularly evaluate their workforce both near and far.

5. Social Media

It is absolutely necessary to have an effective social media presence, otherwise a brand might look like it’s intentionally disconnecting from its customers. Consumers want a place they can go to give quick feedback, vent, and interact with their favorite brands. Responsive social support teams see this trend as an opportunity to create a unified customer experience. Make social media a goal in your contact center this year.

6. Do-it-Yourself as a Solution

Self-service continues to be an ongoing trend in the contact center world. When we think of self-service two scenarios come to mind: Web self-service and Voice self-service. In 2017, there is greater emphasis on providing self-service information on company websites. Giving customers easy-to-navigate FAQs help reduce call volumes, which narrows down calls to those dealing with more complex issues.

Another avenue of self-service for the call center is through the IVR. Also known as ‘voice’ selfservice, which allows customers to route their call to the correct department, identify themselves, personalize their experience, and more. But research shows that the IVR is currently struggling to benefit the contact center in terms of cost, averaging about the same for person-to-person calls. What’s truly needed for self-service to succeed in any channel are better cloud-enabled omni-channel solutions.

7. It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane…No it’s the Cloud

Maintaining a contact center in the cloud is quickly becoming the most popular trend to pay attention to. It’s less about whether you should move to the cloud, but rather a question of when.

If you’ve been holding off on moving to a cloud solution due to security issues, then it’s important to know that nearly 72% of contact center leaders found that cloud / hosted solutions have actually mitigated security and compliance risks. In the next year, on-premise IT solutions are actually set to drop from 60.1% to 23.1% as cloud gains popularity.

8. Reality and Science Fiction Will Begin to Blend

Chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotic automation − they sound like far-reaching concepts theorized in a dystopian science fiction blockbuster, but they are now burgeoning contact center solutions.

As companies embrace the power of artificial intelligence, it raises the possibility that AI is the future of customer service. Chatbots are an up-and-coming technology that will continue to grow in 2017.

Bot-enabled contact centers allow customers to effectively ‘self-serve’ at any time of the day via messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or via SMS text messaging. By adding in voice control features like those already available from Amazon and Google, the potential for a shift in the way that customers access service options become clear. In 2017, customer service professionals can expect these technologies to find their place inside the call center, replacing once manual duties with automated, intelligent, human-like capabilities.

9. Get to Know Your Customers

The power of data analytics can help organizations offer an enhanced choice that is tailored to customers, in effect transforming the experience and delivery.

Moving forward, contact centers must also work with marketing departments to share the data they collect in order to effectively personalize each customer experience. Customization does not begin and end in the customer service stage, nor does it begin and end in the marketing stage. In order to show customers that you care, these experiences must be fluid and appear authentic.

10. With Great Data Comes Great Responsibility

Contact centers are especially vulnerable to security breaches, as they amass large amounts of sensitive consumer information. Data security must move to the top of the call center agenda. Therefore, measures must be taken in order to ensure that data breaches simply do not happen.

By taking into account these top 10 trends, it’s possible for any call center to be future-ready. Understandably, not every business has the budget to deploy the newest technologies to boost efficiencies, but look at what your customer service strategy is missing – maybe it’s digital, maybe it’s self-service, or maybe it’s even social media. The most powerful weapon you have in any business operation is knowledge. Whether it’s for today or tomorrow, being educated on upcoming trends will help prepare you as a leader and position your organization for success.