AI Contact Center Transformation: How and Why Now?


The contact center industry today is almost unrecognizable from its early days nearly 40 years ago. There has been a long line of technologies that have evolved the channels, tools and capabilities of the contact center including AI, automation and, more recently, generative AI (GenAI). Change has been continual and gradual, resulting most often in an overly complex technology and process environment.

Contact center executives have so many choices and decisions to make, it can be difficult to know what to concentrate on next.

Despite the AI clamour in late 2022, technology that is infused with GenAI has still yet to move the needle enough to truly transform the contact center. Early adopters are still in piloting phases, and results from a survey of more than 30 service providers and enterprises show that payback on early investments has been little to none so far. This means the Contact Center is still seen as the epicenter for many on where GenAI will add the most value in the future.

What Is Holding the Contact Center Back?

Are we forever going to be in a state of iterative transformation? It does feel this way. But why?

Recent headlines have highlighted the dangers of going too fast with GenAI, at least in the public domain. The U.K.-based logistics firm PDP launched its GenAI-infused chatbot on its website, which was then used by a customer to write a profanity-laced poem insulting the firm. This, along with concerns around data security and intellectual property infringement, has dampened public use of GenAI. But it will not be held back for long.

Knowing they need to transform and being able to transform are still barriers for many organizations. The complex landscape of the contact center and the technologies that support it are not getting any simpler to navigate. The rise in Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) solutions has the potential to consolidate many of the standalone platforms used today and take away at least some of the burden of legacy technologies while opening up new possibilities.

Research suggests that more than half of contact center seats will move from on-prem to CCaaS by 2030. This mass migration toward cloud-based tech, which comes with the ability to integrate with best-in-class AI capabilities, is well underway, but it’s not cheap or quick. But it is a necessity for future transformations. It’s also not simple, as it’s a crowded marketplace. Traditional players like NICE and Genesys are competing with the hyperscalers like Google and Amazon.

Who should you place your bets on, and how do you justify that decision?

Transformation budgets have long been a challenge for even the most well-funded contact center business units. When they are weighing where to spend their limited funds, many organizations end up in analysis – or even pilot – paralysis as they are too afraid to spend the limited funds they have been given for the year.

How to Maximize Your Contact Center Business Unit Budget

What many don’t realize is at least some transformation options can be close to cost-neutral if you review your technology, partner and current cost landscape more broadly.

Budget and skill/knowledge challenges can limit an internal teams’ ability to transform on their own, and in these instances, service providers can be even more important. Historically, contact center service providers specialized in the “your mess for less” approach. Today, many providers offer transformation capabilities to their offerings, and some will only engage with companies that wish to transform as part of their partnership. In addition to traditional contact center providers like Cognizant, Accenture, Wipro and Foundever, the market now includes less familiar BPO options like IBM and 24/ that are taking a tech-first approach to running transformations for their clients.

For some, the idea of handing over a transformation to a third party may seem strange, especially when dealing so closely to a company’s most important asset, its customers. But working with the right service provider with the right agreement, plan and technologies is at least one path to securing the budget needed to transform. This is the type of expertise ISG provides to clients in the Global 5000.

Contact Center Sourcing and Transformation

Enterprises need to seriously consider their sourcing and transformation options if they wish to stay ahead of the competition and keep costs in check. Not all service providers are created equally, and transformation can come in many forms. ISG helps companies understand their current state, design an end state and contract with the right service provider to achieve their best outcomes.

For those that still wish to do as much as possible internally, ISG can help you also. Our independent advisory services on AI, automation, network and software provide innovative ways to self-fund your internal contact center transformation, often with limited to no incremental cost to you. Sound too good to be true? Feel free to ask me how.


About the author

Wayne Butterfield

Wayne Butterfield

Wayne is an automation pioneer, initially starting out as an early adopter of RPA in 2010, creating one of the first Enterprise scale RPA operations. His early setbacks at Telefonica UK, led to many of the best practices now instilled across RPA centres of excellence around the globe. Customer centric at heart, Wayne also specialises in Customer Service Transformation, and has been helping brands in becoming more Digitally focused for their customers. Wayne is an expert in Online Chat, Social Media and Online Communities, meaning he is perfectly placed to help take advantage of Chat Bots & Virtual Assistants. More recently Wayne has concentrate on Cognitive & AI automation, where he leads the European AI Automation practice, helping brands take advantage of this new wave of automation capability.