With the COVID-19 pandemic posing steep challenges to the contact center industry worldwide this year, providers are facing additional uncertainties in Europe and the U.K. amid the looming no-deal Brexit and changes to U.K. regulations affecting temporary workers, according to a new report published today by Information Services Group (ISG) (Nasdaq: III), a global technology research and advisory firm.
The 2020 ISG Provider Lens™ Contact Center – Customer Experience Services report for Europe and the U.K. found trade and labor issues remained high on the industry’s agenda even as the pandemic brought rapid changes in consumer behavior.
Reforms to the U.K.’s IR35 regulations, which limit the role of temporary workers within the U.K., came as a blow to many public- and private-sector enterprises that hire freelancers, experts, digital consultants and other types of independent workers. But the new rules could open up opportunities for organizations willing to collaborate with providers, startups and technology vendors for nearshoring or offshoring of labor. Meanwhile, negotiations over the U.K.’s exit from the E.U. continued to loom over the region even as many countries, especially Italy and the U.K., were hit hard by the pandemic.
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"Contact center providers in Europe and the U.K. are facing serious economic questions on top of pandemic effects that have forced them to change operating models overnight," said Jan Erik Aase, director and global provider, ISG Provider Lens Research. "Uncertainties about trade and employment only add to disruption in the contact center industry. But many providers are now adopting cloud platforms and other technologies to increase their flexibility and offer better customer experiences."
As in other regions, COVID-19 lockdowns forced many providers to institute large-scale work-from-home strategies. The shift to remote work can give providers some advantages, including lower costs and a larger potential workforce, the report says. But it has also brought challenges related to training, agent motivation, background noise and security. Companies are turning to facial recognition, auto screen lock, voice biometrics, VPNs and other tools to tighten the security of work-from-home and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) operations.
With advances in technologies for remote work, a healthy mix of remote and brick-and-mortar working models is expected to emerge, according to the report.
Worldwide, the pandemic led to call volumes sharply increasing in some industries, such as travel and insurance, and falling in others, such as retail. With wait times and call abandonment rates rising, customers of all ages are adopting digital channels such as email, social and asynchronous messaging, increasing the need for personalized, omnichannel customer experiences. Though triggered by the pandemic, these changes are likely to be irreversible, the report says.
Many companies are looking to cloud contact center platforms to meet the new demands from both operational requirements and customer preferences. Providers that were using cloud platforms before the pandemic adapted more quickly to the need for remote work requirements and were better able to provide effective omnichannel experiences, ISG says. Cloud platforms with a full technology stack can include tools for better workforce management as well as analytics, AI and machine learning (ML) to enable more personalized services.
The pandemic has led to a sharp spike in the use of automation, which is becoming a necessity, according to the report. When agents were being shifted to the new remote work model, many companies turned to AI or chatbots to handle basic queries. In addition, AI-powered speech, text and sentiment analytics and customer behavior prediction are enabling more meaningful conversations. Most call centers now are looking to scale up their automation capabilities while giving agents more specialized skills to field complex inquiries, ISG says.
The 2020 ISG Provider Lens™ Contact Center – Customer Experience Services report for Europe and the U.K. evaluates the capabilities of 20 providers in a single quadrant: Digital Operations.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
About ISG Plc:
ISG Plc is an international construction services company delivering fit out, construction and a range of specialist services, with 31 offices worldwide. The company works with owners, developers and occupiers in the public and private sector for an extensive range of industries. ISG Plc was established in 1989 and has been quoted on AIM since 1998. Today the company has a turnover of around £1.3 billion.
Published: Wednesday, October 21, 2020
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