2021 contact centre trends everybody should be watching

Innovation, transformation, automation – the trends of 2021 are defined by the events of 2020, which made companies take alternative approaches to customer engagement.
Read time 3min 40sec

The “Gartner Top 10 Strategic Predictions for 2021 and Beyond” laid bare the bones of 2020 – the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted business, shoved organisations into a completely different future, and forced many to reset their strategies and investments into technology.

Uncertainty defined the market and the business, it made companies take alternative approaches to customer engagement and communication, and shone a bright light into the dark business spaces, revealing gaps in digital and infrastructure.

In 2020, the trends predictions revolved around pretty much the same topics as 2019 and 2018 – invest in analytics, reap the rewards within the data, create engaging customer journeys, and invest in self-service.

In 2021, the trends are the same, but they come in bold and with exclamation marks.

Self-service disrupted

Over the past few years, self-service was being gently pushed into the business lexicon. Contact centres were slowly adopting self-service channels and these were gradually being optimised as part of the plan to improve the customer journey.

Self-service was an option that would allow the business to differentiate through diversity – giving customers more choice when it came to problem resolution and communication.

In 2020, self-service became a critical tool. Organisations rapidly realised that self-service was essential. Customers needed to interact with the business but they had lost access through many of the traditional channels (such as in-store).

Shoddy contact centre support, poor engagement, limited visibility, frustrating queues – these are not going to cut it in 2021.

Digital and self-service became the fastest and most reliable routes to the business and so these became a priority for the organisation.

However, not all self-service is created equal and not all options will achieve giddy heights of customer satisfaction. People want to connect, they want to get answers to all their questions in real-time (and not just some of them), and they need access to channels that can facilitate this.

In 2021, self-service should evolve alongside the customer. It needs to be refined; it has to go beyond a catch-all e-mail reply and directing customers to generic FAQs.

Self-service options now need to provide the same level of assistance that other channels would be able to provide, and it needs to be personalised for the customer.

This year, customers expect self-service that can translate a single touchpoint into fast resolution. This would include detailed and relevant information, customisable interactions, specific problem resolution and intelligent redirection to the contact centre if none of these options are relevant.

Analytics interpreted

Over the past few years, the collection and interpretation of data has not been as optimised as it could be. Companies hadn’t quite got the hang of catching the nuggets of insight floating in the seas of data they were collecting.

The key trend for 2021 is going to be the move towards even richer analytics and more effective business use of insights.

As remote working remains a reality, customers will want increasingly dynamic journeys and experiences that are easier, faster and more efficient. Companies should be looking at analytics options that give them the tools they need to create these journeys and experiences, and that help them identify the areas where they fall short.

Customers are walking away from bad experiences, limited self-service and wobbly engagements. They want slick, seamless and interesting engagements… and they know they can get it.

The digital GPS

Shoddy contact centre support, poor engagement, limited visibility, frustrating queues – these are not going to cut it in 2021.

Companies that invest in digital channels to streamline their services need to consider how this reduces customer effort and uplifts experiences.

They need to put the person at the centre of their digital strategy and ensure every touchpoint is a moment of customer delight, an opportunity that can be taken, and a tick in the box of customer service.

It isn’t going to demand an investment deeper than 2020’s pockets. It just asks that the business focuses on contact centre technology, automation, chatbots and omnichannel experiences that are interconnected and relevant to the market and customer.

And this is as simple as a focused strategy and learning from the lessons posed by 2020.

Wynand Smit


With over 10 years of operational and strategic experience in the South African contact centre industry, Wynand Smit's understanding of technology and its application to business has benefited multiple organisations across a variety of industries. As CEO of contact centre solutions provider INOVO, he is passionate about using the contact centre as a platform to drive positive change in a business.

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