A look ahead to 2022

9th Dec 2021

This time of year always prompts a period of self-reflection in the business world – looking at what has worked well and what hasn’t over the last 12 months. This ritual of review allows us to ready ourselves for the year ahead, shaping our expectations and allowing us to consider what will be important over the coming year.

The year that was
2021 was another year disrupted by the pandemic – although with arguably fewer unexpected pitfalls than 2020. Nonetheless, the pandemic continued to have a bearing on both the workplace and the customer. From the way that we work (more flexibly from home, in the office or even a hybrid of both), to the way that customers now interact with organisations (omnichannel, with a strong focus on digital), the business landscape has been altered considerably over the last year – and in many ways, permanently so.

Looking at this through the lens of the contact centre, the changes have been significant here too. The contact centre, once a mainstay of the purpose-built office environment, has now embraced a hybrid work culture – seemingly on a permanent basis. With many contact centre infrastructures now based in the cloud – freed from the shackles of on-premise legacy environments – 2021 has seen many benefit from more advanced technologies and the greater flexibility this brings.

Throughout this period customer expectations continued to rise as well. While 2020 provided organisations with a degree of leeway from understanding customers, 2021 saw a return to heightened expectations which organisations had to meet.

With customer demand on the up, a challenging business landscape and evolving workplaces, staff turnover was high. Dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’, the trend has seen workers burnt-out and post pandemic, switching careers and employers in a mass move unlike anything seen before.

What will 2022 bring?
As we move forward into the new year, we will expect to see some of these trends filter through from 2021. At IPI, we believe that the year ahead will have a strong focus on the employee and a continued strengthening of customer relationships. Following the rush to the cloud and the adoption of advanced or AI-based technologies, there will also need to be some introduction of policies to govern the systems in play.

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

1. Focus on employee wellbeing and engagement
Given the huge change in the job market and the high number of employees leaving their current roles, and moving jobs – and even sectors – recruiting talent has become increasingly complex. As such, in 2022 there will be a huge focus on elevating the employee experience to be on par with that of the customer, as organisations strive to retain talent internally.

At the heart of this should be a cohesive strategy that promotes employees’ mental wellbeing and introduces wellness initiatives throughout the company, with forums for employees to vocalise any issues that need addressing. This should be coupled with initiatives that focus on helping employees to progress within the organisation through mentoring, training and development.

Organisations should also consider how they engage with employees in the long-term. Tactics such as gamification – the art of applying the principals of game play (point scoring, rules and competition against other participants) to other activities to increase engagement – will increase in popularity over the course of the year ahead as organisations strive to bring together a hybrid workforce.

If done well, the investment in your employees’ wellbeing and their engagement with your organisation will reap dividends – benefitting your customers and your organisation in the long-run.

2. Tighten up existing practices and implement new processes around new technologies
The continued move towards cloud-based applications for ERP systems is likely to continue over the course of the year ahead. The pandemic prompted many organisations to make a quick and fairly immediate transition towards the cloud, however, a lot of the systems and functionality is still under review and will continue to evolve and be enhanced over the coming years.

In addition, we expect to see a tightening of regulations around AI with the EU proposing a new regulation which, if approved, will directly apply across all EU member states based on a future-proof definition of AI.  

The draft regulation defines 'AI' broadly – not just modern machine learning systems that learn to make their own decisions, but also systems that operate according to hard coded rules. It's a sliding scale of rules based on risk, and includes identification from biometrics and the use of chatbots.

Given that the rules and regulations around the use of AI may be changing, ensure that you have a designated person or partner who 'fully understands' the operation of a complex AI system.

3. Align with partners who subscribe to a customer first mindset
Today, having a customer-first focus can be a key differentiator in an increasingly competitive landscape. However, doing this well relies on the support of different partners and vendors to refine the end-to-end process that your customers, and indeed people, use and experience every day.

To that end, it will be essential over the year ahead that companies align themselves with vendors and partners that are advocates for customer success – “a method for ensuring customers reach their desired outcomes when using an organisation’s product or service.”

A true customer success relationship with a partner should begin with asking what goals you want to reach, should evolve to ensure that any solution remains fit for purpose, and finally, should continue, over time, to deliver meaningful, long-term outcomes.

As you step into 2022, make sure that any partner you work with is aligned with, and subscribes to the same customer success mindset.

Preparing for the year ahead
As we look ahead to 2022, organisations would be wise to undergo their own period of self- reflection – asking the key stakeholders within their businesses what has worked and what could be better. While each organisations’ findings will hold details unique to their business, what is certain will be the need to position both the customer and the employee at the heart of all initiatives. These are the people that keep your organisation thriving and that will drive your business forward in 2022 and beyond.

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