In 2020, companies around the world had to rethink their operational processes and expand their library of cloud-based tools to support a sudden spike in remote and hybrid workers. Despite the start of a new year, there is still much that will remain the same. For many organizations, they will still be managing a remote workforce and identifying opportunities to maximize their new or updated IT and cloud investments.
As leadership and IT decision makers navigate logistics to ensure efficient and effective remote communications and operations, we anticipate seeing changes in enterprise collaborations and new demands for telecom solutions. There will also be an opportunity for Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to better cater to their customers’ communications needs by investing in modern telco tools and emerging technologies.
Below are four key areas that are likely to impact enterprise communications in 2021 and the years following.
No. 1: Automation and AI in Customer Service
Automation and AI have been buzzwords around the industry in recent years due to their ability to streamline operations and enhance efficiency and productivity. As a result, AI use cases have been growing steadily. We anticipate AI and automation tools will become even stronger driving forces behind enterprise collaboration in 2021, especially as these technologies continue to advance the way users communicate.
One of the most prevalent use cases for AI and automation in telecom settings is in customer service and contact centers. For example, an AI-enabled chatbot can be plugged into a company’s messaging feature on their website. When a customer is browsing the website, the chatbot might pop up in the corner to notify the customer that it is available to answer any questions. If the customer opens the messaging feature, the chatbot will deliver a variety of simple prompts that the customer can choose from to help find a specific service or set of information. The chatbot can also leverage past conversations the customer might have had with the company, which can help the chatbot anticipate and execute next steps.
AI-enabled chatbots help alleviate contact centers of monotonous tasks, freeing up individuals to communicate with customers about complex issues or support questions. These tools will most certainly evolve and become more common in the next year as consumers continue to require support at a distance.
No. 2: Upturn of Gig Workers
The gig economy has been a rising tide in the workforce in recent years. Already, 36% of American adults engage in some sort of gig work. And labor trends at enterprise companies suggest that the gig economy has a lot of room to expand. For example, two-thirds of major companies are using freelance contracts to lower their labor costs. Telecom and cloud-based enterprise collaboration tools such as APIs help facilitate gig roles by increasing communication and transparency of tasks and workers.
In 2021, adoption and customization of APIs for internal and external communications are going to increase and become more widespread as a tool to support gig workers. Telecom APIs, for example, help support agile communications between customers and businesses. In the restaurant industry, food delivery apps utilize APIs to add in-app messaging capabilities. As a result, a delivery driver (a gig worker) can update customers in real time on the status of their order or changes made from the restaurant.
As the gig economy expands and enters more industries, we are likely to see an increase in cloud-based communications tools that will seamlessly connect gig workers to the businesses for which they work, and to the customers they serve.
No. 3: Increased Security Investments
Despite the many benefits of cloud communications, a common concern shared by non-cloud adopters’ centers on security. This is especially true for the influx of enterprises leveraging cloud tools as part of their remote work or hybrid work environments for the first time. Keeping networks and data secure is top of mind for enterprise leaders, especially when the consequences of a security breach pose serious threat to revenue and reputation.
In the coming year, we will see more companies prioritize and invest in security measures to protect their data and systems. Bad actors are always looking to exploit weak or vulnerable systems and unprepared networks. Investment in stronger security practices, including training for employees or multilevel networks, will be necessary for businesses to protect themselves. CSPs can also play an important role in strengthening security practices for their customers and will want to be sure to address this pain point through their services and offerings.
No. 4: 5G Takes Hold
The shift to 5G has been a growing trend for approximately five years. The ﬁfth-generation global wireless technology can deliver higher qualities of service, lower latency and higher bandwidth, which will help improve user experiences both in the consumer and enterprise landscapes. 5G’s rise presents an opportunity for CSPs to explore new revenue growth opportunities and uncover additional ways to solve customers’ pain points through faster, more reliable services with updated or other emerging tools. For example, 5G technology could make use of AI deployments and can play an important role in strengthening omnichannel experiences by facilitating communications at the edge.
5G will fuel innovation at the edge because it will speed up compute and processing power. 5G and edge computing will bring to life a variety of new use cases behind the scenes, especially in the IoT and connected devices space. Businesses can leverage 5G to bring their messaging systems to the edge, with faster connectivity and near-instant communication experiences for customers. This trend will truly just be getting started in 2021.
The past year was unlike anything anyone could have predicted. Business leaders had to be nimble in decision making, which led to more companies embracing cloud-based tools. Though it is difficult to know what 2021 will bring, we forecast enterprises will turn to modern telecom and enterprise collaboration tools to maintain efficient and effective communications with their distributed workforce. We can expect CSPs to leverage emerging technologies and telecom solutions that will expand the services they offer to their customers and maintain competitive advantage in a highly saturated cloud market.