It was over 10 years ago when Marc Andreessen announced, "Software is eating the world." His prescient words have proven accurate as software services continue to transform sectors from retail to transportation.
But the contact center landscape, bound by old-school practices and heavy labor expenses, has historically lagged behind. Now, however, spurred by the pandemic's demand for remote work and amplified by rapid advancements in AI, I believe we are witnessing an industry at the center of digital transformation. Yet, those within the industry or utilizing this service should note that even as technology surges, it's the irreplaceable human aspect that is required to support and augment digital solutions.
Contact centers were once characterized by vast floors of agents anchored to their desks in brick-and-mortar setups, limiting flexibility and scalability. Alternative solutions, such as business process outsourcing (BPOs) or staffing agencies, offered additional flexibility but at the cost of direct control.
The adoption of contact center as a service (CCaaS) changed the functionality and application of this sector. This cloud-based solution, along with human augmentation, allows businesses to deploy contact center functions with minimal infrastructure, ensuring agents can operate seamlessly from any location.
As someone who leads a CCaaS company, I've witnessed that where customers have been willing to adopt, AI-driven self-serve options and predictive analytics can make significant impacts. Extending into interactive voice response (IVR) solutions, these technologies not only offer customers instant resolutions but also help forecast customer needs.
But while these advances provide a strong digital foundation to deliver the most value to the customer, the human element is still needed.
Pure digital adoption isn't foolproof. Technical hiccups, implementation delays or unforeseen challenges can arise. Looking back to past digital transformations, the adoption of AI will likely contain similar advancements and setbacks. This underscores the need for a blended approach, using humans to fix where technology falters.
As industries converge over customer interactions, data provides insights into the transformational forces at play. As summarized from 2023 Gartner Inc. research on disruption in customer management business process outsourcing, with a market size of $453 billion, the customer interactions market is on track for 11.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) with a significant tilt toward technology and digitization. Conversational AI is surging with a staggering 72.2% CAG as companies invest in customer and agent-facing solutions. Similarly, CCaaS, software, and services project at 17.9% CAG, emphasizing an undeniable shift towards digital solutions that enhance customer interaction management.
While still growing, the BPO sector shows the lowest CAG at 5.8%, as technology solutions compete at lower costs without giving up control of customer interactions.
With increasing technological investments, I think it's time to redefine the total solution to include a layer of gig workers. As firms ramp up their adoption of data and CRM technologies, merging these tech advancements with innovative employment models becomes the next logical step. The end goal? To ensure businesses remain agile, customer-centric and adaptable with a balance between human touch and technology.
On-demand and cloud-based digital services like CCaaS and AI analytics are surrounding the industry, priming it for disruption. On top of this, the gig economy, supercharged by these software advancements, is swooping in and redefining talent acquisition. I believe that this combination of a skilled workforce and advances in technology can allow companies to provide world-class outcomes without the layers of management designed for command and control brick-and-mortar operations.
While some providers have offered independent contractors as a labor solution for 20-plus years, the software is where the term gig truly comes alive. Looking at older service models, they reflect more temp agency than Uber. GigCX platforms, built with the abilities of AI, offer more revolutionary solutions for companies, no longer constraining them by geography and allowing access to global talent pools that require neither a BPO intermediary nor a foreign entity.
The gig economy in the contact center space should look to be powered by a combination of data and self-managed behavior loops, including schedule management. By combining analytical AI and data-rich CCaaS interactions, you can make sure agents are incentivized per transaction; this transactional pricing brings to life the full scalability of gig that can be added to augment any operation.
I find that GigCX is both enabled and an enabler of the necessary digital transformation journey devouring the contact center industry. The reduction in human labor spend can help finance this digital transformation, while the flexibility and expertise that gig workers offer can provide a safety net from digital failures and seasonality.
To best take advantage of the confluence of gig workers and digital transformation, I think companies must first prioritize cloud-based tools and then look to target areas of self-service or digital automation. Make sure the areas of digital transformation support a flexible labor force to help maximize self-serve and automation benefits without abandoning your customers who prefer humans or fail out of digital flows.
Additional benefits can be unlocked if you arm your gig workforce with the ability to access the information gathered by self-service flows and chatbots, allowing human interaction to enhance and build off your digital journey instead of starting over.
Picture a world where technology—particularly AI and real-time analytics—not only complements but amplifies the capabilities of a diverse, worldwide workforce. I believe this type of navigation through digital transformation is key for any contact center to thrive in the future.
As organizations look to unleash their full digital potential by owning their customers end to end, the gig workforce can bridge the gaps with global talent already skilled at utilizing digital interfaces.
Software continues to devour various sectors, with the contact center industry emerging as its latest feast. I believe that when done right, a flexible and knowledgeable gig workforce can help be a core part of a software-powered and globalized contact center.