For many organizations, the contact center is a critical point of communication with customers, especially when there is an inquiry or a problem. And the ability of their human workforce to adequately address these inquiries and solve these problems is driven by technology. Technology has always been a consistently critical aspect of the contact center business, which is why its ubiquity has remained unchanged. However, what has changed is the role that technology now plays in this milieu.
In the not-too-distant past, contact centers had more pragmatic and – dare we say it – transactional reasons for embracing technology: slash costs, lower AHT, improve agent productivity, boost organizational profitability, etc. While these goals continue to remain important, they do not solely drive the pivot towards technology.
So what does?
CX is expected to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the end of 2020 (Walker). This is why the relationship between contact centers and their customers has moved beyond transactions to incorporate even more critical aspects like relationship-building, engagement, and of course, Customer Experience.
One of the key technologies driving these changes is Artificial Intelligence (AI). In fact, in this recent poll, a majority of enterprise executives said that their top reason for investing in AI is not cost reductions or revenue enhancements, but CX.
The contact center AI tech market is expected to be worth $2.8 billion by 2024, up from $800 million in 2019.
In the contact center landscape, AI and AI-based tools can help satisfy evolving customer expectations with fast resolutions, intelligent answers and more proactive service. They can automate query resolutions, boost FCR and reduce the number of escalations. They can also free human agents from repetitive tasks so they can focus on more complex, “high-touch interactions” and CX. Over time, AI can enhance customer retention and loyalty, and ultimately boost the organization’s revenues and profits.
Here are four ways AI is helping contact centers reinvent themselves and deliver world-class CX.
Powered by AI, as well as Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing and other related technologies, today’s virtual agents and chatbots can easily respond to common customer questions with relevant information. Some are also powerful enough to conduct intelligent conversations, and take particular interactions to their logical and customer-satisfying end. If needed, they can also automatically reroute complex conversations or issues to actual human agents.
Furthermore, AI-powered chatbots by take some of the pressure off of human agents, and enable them to focus on interactions where human inputs are more critical. Together, this chatbot-human partnership enables the contact center to serve more customers, and more importantly, serve them with faster, better and more relevant solutions. This is a great way to provide customers with consistent, interactive and relevant user experiences that boost their loyalty and the organization’s bottomline.
Today’s AI-powered chatbots and conversational assistants are doing much more than providing customers with answers to basic or common questions. They are also collecting, analyzing and delivering relevant data to human agents. In fact, AI and ML systems can process large datasets and extract meaningful insights from them faster and much better than even an army of humans. AI can look at a variety of highly-detailed data about a customer and then deliver it to agents to provide the right “context” for every customer and every conversation. Agents can use this intelligence to improve their customer interactions, and deliver better, faster service than would be possible if they were “flying blind”.
For example, using sentiment analysis, virtual assistants and chatbots can analyze customers’ inputs – whether spoken or written – to unpack the meaning or emotion behind them. They can then identify the right solution(s) and pass on recommendations to agents, who then use their human skills such as judgement, decision-making, and empathy to respond to customers in the best way possible. This AI-human synergy enhances the quality, timeliness, and relevance of the solution, thus reducing AHT and increasing CSAT. It also boosts FCR outcomes and ultimately results in a personalized, positive CX.
Post-contact monitoring and support are not all AI can do. Modern AI tools can also monitor interactions in real-time. This capability is particularly useful for training and developing new agents and improving the performance of existing agents. For example, supervisors can use AI to monitor agents’ performance, identify gaps if any, and then decide what corrective actions are required to address those gaps. Thus, instead of relying on call logs or communications via other channels – a reactive activity if ever there was one – supervisors can proactively identify potential issues, and handle them appropriately and quickly.
This helps maintain service delivery quality across the contact center, which directly and forcefully impacts customer satisfaction and customer experiences. It also provides a way to identify and resolve issues before they become big problems that may adversely affect CX and the contact center’s reputation. Real-time AI monitoring provides agents with pertinent information and actionable feedback from individual agents’ perspective, which empowers them to take accountability for their performance, efficiency, and productivity goals. Instantaneous feedback also gives them the freedom to have more “fluid” and natural conversations to deliver personalized service and more excellent value to each customer.
Many omnichannel contact centers already leverage the benefits of “skills-based routing” to pair customers with agents who have the right skills, knowledge or experience to handle their specific queries. This 1-to-1 matching increases the probability that a customer would get a quick solution to their problem. When they are not put on hold or passed on from one agent to another, it directly affects their CSAT, which eventually impacts their CX – not to mention the contact center’s reputation!
And now, AI is further improving this idea with predictive behavioral routing. This specialized case of skills-based routing matches customers with specific “personality models”. The resultant information is then used to route calls to agents who are best-equipped to handle those personality types (and therefore those customers). Consequently, the chances that a customer will get a quick resolution to their problem are relatively high. Excellent CX resulting from great AI-human synergy!
CX plays an increasingly important role in the modern business landscape, especially due to the uncertainties and chaos generated by COVID-19. To deliver memorable CX across every customer touchpoint, contact centers would do well to embrace AI and make it a part of their Business As Usual ecosystem. Of course, humans are not going anywhere. However, AI-human synergies will bring greater efficiency to contact center operations and ensure that customers get the satisfaction and experiences they demand and expect today. And that’s why contact centers need to change their perspective from “if we embrace AI” to “when we embrace AI”.
CXI’s AI-integrated Digital Omnichannel Customer Engagement Platform for Cisco is ideal for contact centers who put CX at the heart of everything they do. With this cutting-edge offering, contact centers can seamlessly adopt conversational AI into their omnichannel ecosystem. This ensures faster, better, and more meaningful interactions with every customer on every occasion.
Connect with customers in real-time across their preferred channels 24×7 to provide personalized assistance and ensure great CX every time.