6 contact center automation trends for 2024: Predictions from CX leaders

Madeline Jacobson

January 3, 2024

Automation in the contact center isn’t new, but in 2024, we expect to see automated technologies taking on more routine processes and workflows than ever before. If 2023 was the year that contact center leaders began thinking about how new AI-driven technologies could improve operational efficiency and the customer experience, then 2024 is poised to be the year many of those leaders put those new technologies into practice.

When we talk about contact center automation, we’re referring to technology that performs repeatable processes, freeing up employees to focus on higher-value work. Examples include but aren’t limited to:

Generative AI (GenAI) was the automation topic that was inescapable in 2023. Contact centers began exploring ways to use Large Language Models (LLMs) and GenAI to become more efficient and improve their service delivery. Some of the use cases that contact centers and technology providers are exploring include automatically generated call summaries, chatbot optimization, and real-time suggested responses for agents.

In 2024, we expect to see generative AI become further integrated into contact center processes. But that doesn’t mean it will eliminate the role of contact center agent or manager. Instead, it will give people more time to focus on meaningful activities that can’t be automated, such as strengthening relationships with customers, coaching agents, and making strategic customer experience (CX) decisions.

We were interested to hear how customer service leaders think automation will impact the contact center in 2024, so we reached out to several customer experience experts and practitioners to get their perspectives. Below, six industry leaders share the contact center automation trends they think will have the biggest impact on businesses and customers this year. 

<span class="anchor" id="reduced-channel-switching" data-anchor-title="Reduced channel switching"></span> 

GenAI will reduce channel switching.

Each time a customer switches service channels, it negatively impacts loyalty–so the pressure is on for businesses to resolve their customers’ issues in their first-choice channels. In 2024, we’re going to see more businesses using generative AI to improve self-service tools like knowledge bases, IVRs, and virtual assistants. Large language models and GenAI are enabling businesses to serve up information about complex issues in their customers’ preferred channels, leading to a higher first-contact resolution rate and a lower-effort experience.

-Matt Dixon, Wall Street Journal bestselling co-author of The Effortless Experience, The Challenger Sale, and The Jolt Effect 

<span class="anchor" id="customer-sentiment-insights" data-anchor-title="Customer sentiment insights"></span>

Companies will gain a deeper understanding of customer sentiment.

I expect to see an emerging trend of AI-driven sentiment analysis. This technology will be able to analyze customers’ emotions and allow for real-time understanding of their feelings during interactions. I believe this technology will give companies the ability to harness better insight into their customers and use this to enhance personalized service, anticipate customer needs more efficiently, and enable more proactive problem-solving to reduce customer effort. In turn, customers will benefit from quicker resolutions and feel more understood by their suppliers/companies, which will lead to enhanced loyalty and brand trust.

-Ellie Bird, Head of Sales and Service Excellence, Brakes, a Sysco Company

<span class="anchor" id="longer-aht" data-anchor-title="Longer handle times"></span>

AHT will increase–and so will customer satisfaction.

AHT (Average Handle Time) will increase, and if managed the right way, so will customer satisfaction scores. Many companies use AHT as one of their success metrics, with the goal of reducing AHT and increasing the number of calls per hour or shift. Thanks to automation and generative AI/ChatGPT-type technologies, customers will have lower-level questions and issues taken care of, allowing agents to focus on higher-level conversations, which will take more time, thereby increasing AHT–and that’s a good thing! These conversations will be more fulfilling for both agents and customers. Satisfaction scores will go up. Customer loyalty could increase. And agent retention could also increase.

-Shep Hyken, customer service/CX expert and New York Times bestselling author of The Amazement Revolution

<span class="anchor" id="personalized-cx" data-anchor-title="Personalized CX"></span>

Agents will have the means to make CX more personal.

In 2024, the adoption inflection point for generative AI in CX tech stacks is clear. Intelligent virtual assistants leveraging large language models will have a major impact on call center operations and customer experience.

By mid-2024, as the commercialization of LLMs rapidly advances, businesses will leverage them to augment and enhance their customer service agents. With access to full conversational histories and purchase data, businesses can train models to ensure every recommendation is personalized to the customer.

The next wave of CX is not just efficient through automation, but also remarkably personal thanks to generative AI's adaptability. We will see a new era of CX powered by AI where agents will be empowered with tight integration of the tools they need, with Gen AI providing them everything they need to make every conversation matter.

–Jim Iyoob, Chief Customer Officer, Etech Global Services, and author of Remarkable CX Newsletter

<span class="anchor" id="matching-customers-interactions" data-anchor-title="Interactions matched to customer needs"></span>

Companies will get better at pairing the right interaction with the right customer.

The companies that will be the most successful with automation in 2024 will be those that are discovering ways to automatically match each customer's interaction to the exact need that person has (the reason they're contacting you). 

What we've been learning over the past few years is that automated interactions work perfectly for some kinds of customer needs, but not for all. However, in a digital-first world, it is possible to know a customer's need almost immediately and identify the best-fit interaction type.  

The frustration customers have when interacting with a bot that can't answer their question isn't the bot’s' fault–it's the company’s for letting the customer engage with a bot that was never going to be able to help them in the first place. 

The science of matching the right interaction to the right customer at the right time (sometimes virtual assistance, sometimes live on-screen) will mature throughout 2024 and become standard practice going forward.

-Rick DeLisi, Lead Research Analyst, Glia, and co-author of Digital Customer Service: Transforming Customer Experience for an On-Screen World

<span class="anchor" id="human-to-human-service" data-anchor-title="Human customer service remains essential"></span>

As automation technology advances, human-to-human service interactions will still be essential. 

In a world in which technology is evolving rapidly, it would be easy to minimize the importance of enabling world-class human-to-human service interactions by letting humans be humans. There are a growing number of tools that are designed to assist customer service reps in the moment, focusing on things ranging from suggested knowledge base content to how to best react to customer sentiment. Many of these tools are certainly going to help make service organizations more efficient and effective. The tools targeting customer sentiment are in particular extremely interesting, but ultimately…are they telling reps something they can’t hear for themselves? And don’t we trust our reps enough to sense customer emotion? We hired humans to deliver that human experience after all. 

Furthermore, customer service organizations have just been through a fairly revolutionary period across the last 10-15 years of entrusting their reps with more authority and empowerment- from scrapping rote QA checklists to working from home during the pandemic– why take back that leeway that has been provided? Why ask your reps to respond to a customer based on what an application is telling them instead of what their experience is telling them?  After all, that sort of empowerment—the control quotient—is the exact thing that is driving your employee engagement and retaining your top talent, which is in turn providing better live service experiences for your customers when they need it the most.

-Lauren Pragoff, Chief Customer Officer, Medicat

We look forward to seeing how leading contact centers balance automation with human interactions to deliver exceptional customer service. Thank you to the CX leaders who shared their thoughts on the top contact center automation trends for 2024!

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