Consumer expectations in relation to ultra-fast interactions, ease of engagement and service quality have grown exponentially, fuelled by the lockdown experience of the past year.
More adept and confident at using a multitude of digital and online channels, today’s consumers want quicker resolutions and frictionless journeys across every channel they use to communicate with companies. Little wonder that 80% of customer engagement professionals in a recent webinar said transforming how they engage with customers directly equates to competitive advantage.
In 2020, contact centres had to pivot at speed to cope with the operational realities created by COVID-19. Alongside adopting agile cloud-powered platforms, many contact centres also turned to AI to maximise their capabilities and address customer issues faster. In the same recent webinar, 30% of customer engagement professionals said they intend to roll-out additional AI technology deployments to transform how they model and predict call volumes, enable new automated self-service channels and evolve the role of personnel based in their contact centre teams. With AI spending set to reach $110 billion by 2024, indications are that AI is revamping the contact centre and, in the process, helping to redefine the customer experience itself.
Delivering on the promise
Since it first gained traction in the early 2000s, there’s little doubt that AI has been a much-hyped technology that business and IT leaders have found difficult to apply to real-world problems in a value-add way.
However, advancements like machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) have put powerful new AI capabilities into the hands of contact centres. This is making it possible to improve customer service and the customer experience through automated interactions, while capturing data insights that make it easier to respond faster and more accurately to evolving customer demands.
Today’s chatbots can detect words, recognise a caller’s mood and respond accordingly, address easily resolved enquiries, and serve up the information human agents need to handle more complex customer challenges with ease.
Let’s take a look at some practical applications of AI in the contact centre today, together with the business value these generate:
1 Redefining the customer experience: automating the triage experience
Today’s mobile-device wielding consumers find IVR systems frustrating and time consuming to navigate; make one mistake when selecting from a pre-defined menu and it can take hours to get to the answers you want.
Modern chatbots offer an automated first port of call for customers. Within seconds of speaking their question, they can be channelled to the right agent or offered the option of receiving a text or email link that provides the answers they need – whether that’s an update on a delivery, a link to reset a password or schedule a service visit or call.
Using NLP-powered chatbots, contact centres can serve up self-service options that will provide a ‘first-time-fix’ for between 20% to 40% of callers, who’ll benefit from a fast and optimised response to their routine queries.
By integrating reactive AI call deflection and intelligent queuing into their operations, contact centres are able to manage high call volumes effectively without scaling up manpower resources or compromising on customer service.
2 Spotting trends and tailoring services to improve the customer experience
Replacing IVRs with AI-powered chatbots that greet every caller with an open ended ‘how can I help you today’ question also opens the door to capturing rich insights that shed light on why customers are calling, the challenges they’re facing right now, the actions they need to take, and how they ask for help.
Using these insights, contact centres can quickly re-engineer workflows to enhance how they respond to customers. Whether that’s re-allocating resources, streamlining routing and escalation paths, or customising the customer experience (CX).
3 Delivering personalised interactions
In today’s CX battleground, organisations are having to go beyond the basic product/transaction focus demand of the past. Today’s AI technologies can help transform customer satisfaction by pulling data from multiple sources, including details like local weather and previous purchasing behaviour, to offer products and services in real-time that match their specific needs and personal preferences. And, according to Accenture, up to 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with a brand that tailors their service to provide relevant offers and recommendations.
AI can also boost how contact centres look after high priority premium-status or vulnerable customers by ensuring they always go to the top of the customer service queue and are instantly fast-tracked to specialist live agents.
4 Responding to customer demands 24/7
When customers can’t quickly get a resolution to their query, they start shopping around. So much so that 75 percent of customers build brand loyalty if they receive a fast response to their queries. However, in today’s hyper competitive environment, expectations for near-constant customer service is growing.
AI can help contact centres address this challenge in an efficient and cost-effective way. Assigning virtual agents can automate the handling of a select sub-set of typical customer use cases to deliver automated out-of-hours services, with options to schedule responses for more complex issues that will require the intervention of an expert human agent.
5 Boosting employee motivation
Call centres have a reputation for high turnover rates which add up to significant costs for the business. AI technologies and chatbots can help reduce the strain on customer service teams in a variety of ways.
Today’s AI technologies can do much more than just eliminate the huge volume of repetitive basic information request calls or automate many of the mind-numbing data entry tasks and manual processes that typically demotivate contact centre employees.
Serving up all the important contextual information that relates to a customer and their issues, AI helps agents be more effective from the get-go with no need to repeatedly ask a customer to explain what they’re trying to accomplish. Plus, today’s AI applications are capable of providing insights in the current state of mind of the caller, together with recommended actions and options that will support the agent to resolve complex customer problems.
Looking to the future
Today’s contact centres are taking advantage of AI to optimise agent performance, deliver enhanced and more personalised services to customers, and uncover insights that will enable them to stay one step ahead of evolving market and consumer demands.
As the contact centre of the past evolves into the engagement hub of the future, AI will underpin how organisations personalise every customer interaction. It will also become increasingly key to enabling organisations to not just anticipate a customer’s needs – but also identify if they are becoming dissatisfied and the best actions to take proactively to win back their loyalty.