The Importance of Automation in Customer Contact Centers
Customer service as an industry has boomed over the past decade and a half and is valued at $350 billion. Knowing the impact of good customer service on the company’s revenue and positioning in the market, organizations are going to great lengths to establish the most efficient and effective customer contact centers. While traditionally, contact centers were a human-driven function, the advent of automated technology has made them much more adept at ensuring process efficiency and customer satisfaction (CSAT).
The Coexistence of Human Skill and Automation
While automation has the ability to make centers function more efficiently and deliver better customer experiences at lower costs, it cannot completely replace the need for the human workforce. While most contact center agents may look at automation as their competition, it is not the case. Organizations must look at harnessing automation technology to eliminate manual and mundane tasks and provide a more efficient and personalized experience to their customers. Essentially, organizations must look at fostering a coexistence model with automation enhancing existing human-driven processes – a blended AI approach.
AI & Automation technologies augment agent capabilities but won’t eliminate the need for
human agents entirely.
One way contact centers can get started with implementing automation technologies is taking a bite-sized approach. Capture those business processes and workflows which are
- Right for automation and can be easily automated
- Most time-consuming for agents
Perhaps an AI chatbot can collect the basic information of customers such as name, ID etc. before transferring the conversation to live agents and enabling them to focus only on solving the actual problem.
Understanding Customer Expectations
While it is quite easy to get swept away with the technology wave, it is important to remember that as far as the customer is concerned, it is the overall experience that counts. From a customer perspective, all that really matters is that their queries and concerns are effectively and quickly addressed, whether by an automated entity or a live agent.
An effective contact center must be designed with an intelligent blend of humans, technology, and processes and keeping superior customer experience as the ultimate goal
In order to meet the growing needs and expectations of customers, a modern contact center must focus on the following key elements
- Personalization of customer experience
- Quick responses to customer queries
- Enhancement of self-service tools to handle complex and more meaningful issues – not just the simple ones
- Omnichannel communication: Availability on multiple communication channels like email, voice, text, chat, etc.
- Technologically advanced processes and AI-driven workflows
- Scalable infrastructure
The Five Automation Trends to Watch Out For
When it comes to automation technology, ‘ever-evolving’ is probably the best way to describe it. And with regards to contact center automation, the top 5 trends that organizations must look out for, include:
According to Gartner, 25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate bot technology across their engagement channels by 2020 up from less than two percent in 2017. For most companies with a focus on automating a part of their customer service process, it is only natural that chatbots have become a natural addition to their customer contact centers. Chatbots today are enabled by conversational AI, NLP, and machine learning, making them sophisticated enough to understand the ‘intent’ behind user queries and successfully simulate human-like conversation. Chatbots can, therefore, be used to handle simple and to an extent, complex tasks such as providing information, answering FAQ, sending instant acknowledgments, collecting user information, etc.
Chatbots act as the first line of support and provide self-service options to customers. Another benefit of using chatbots is that they can be used to handle customer care 24/7. Unlike humans, time as a parameter is not applicable to chatbots. Whether you have implemented a chatbot for 9 hours in a day or 24, it costs the same. Hence using chatbots to handle after-hour queries, is practical and cost-effective. CNBC has also reported that chatbots are expected to cut down business costs by as much as $8 billion by the year 2022.
Some key business benefits of deploying chatbots in contact centers include reduced customer service costs, improved CSAT, increased agent productivity, streamlined workflows, a decrease in the number of customer emails and calls, etc.
Chatbot Agent Handoff
Although chatbots are great at handling customer interactions by simulating human-like conversations, there may be scenarios where the conversation needs to be handed off to a human agent. The chatbot must be able to identify when it needs to hand off to a human and ensure that the transition is a seamless one for the user. Chatbots can fulfill basic, preliminary tasks such as aggregating user information, and recording customer concerns. Then the chatbot can transfer the conversation to a human agent who will only work on solving the issue based on the information collected by the chatbot.
Another scenario in which handoff becomes imperative is in the case of escalations. The chatbot should effectively inform the user that the interaction is being transferred so as to address their concerns better. It also should always provide users an option to talk to a live agent.
Chatbots, when integrated with CRM systems, can also help agents quickly retrieve customer data without the hassle of navigating through windows and dashboards within the CRM system. They can have natural language conversations with the chatbot and get the pin-pointed information about the customer. This enables agents to provide quick responses to customer queries and solve problems swiftly. Chatbots also help drive the adoption of CRM systems.
2. Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
RPA helps deliver superior customer experience while also simplifying workflows handled by the human workforce. With RPA you can:
- Reduce manual processes which are error-prone
- Automate routine, high-volume and repetitive tasks
Rudimentary contact center tasks such as updating contact information, listening to routine voicemail messages, sending acknowledgment emails, etc. can easily be automated saving human agents a great amount of time. RPA reduces operational costs while upping efficiency and productivity.
Front-office bots like chatbots can integrate with various enterprise systems like CRM, helpdesk etc. only if a modern API is available. An RPA bot can interface with multiple enterprise systems within the company that may have UIs but not APIs. RPA bots make data across several legacy systems easily accessible for the agents, cutting down on unproductive time and helping contact centers maximize overall productivity and CSAT.
3. Visual IVR
Interactive Voice Control (IVR), a telephonic menu system that helps route customer calls to the appropriate agent, has been around for quite some time. While the traditional methods used relate to speech-recognition or touch-tone technology, the latest upgrade taps into visual menus. In visual IVR, customers can quickly tap through touch-screen menus that will eventually take them to the desired answer or connect them with the right agent. Customers no more have to stay online listening to auto-recorded menu options being played out. Visual IVR saves time while providing customers with an efficient self-service experience.
4. Desktop Automation
Contact center agents tend to be under immense pressure to handle their time more efficiently. Hence, any automation effort that can simplify their daily tasks is welcome. One such automation trend to watch out for is desktop automation. Desktop Automation uses cognitive intelligence to efficiently navigate through the desktop environment. This helps agents cut down on time spent performing repetitive actions such as copy-paste of data and data input. This helps agents quickly respond to customer queries in real-time. Automated desktop processes are triggered by an event, such as a button click, hoover, etc. that is automated to result in corresponding action.
5. Big Data Analytics
Companies today want their customer interactions to be more personalized and astute. One way to achieve this is by getting to know the customer and their requirements well in advance, so as to deliver a personalized experience during each customer interaction. This is where Big Data Analytics has been a boon, helping companies glean insights into customer behavior, their expectations, and preferences. Additionally, predictive analytics help companies analyze market trends and customer psychology, helping them anticipate customer preferences.
So, where is the data for this analysis gained from? Often, company data stores are filled with customer data from multiple channels such as surveys, online forms, email subscriptions etc. In fact, Salesforce predicts that as many as 57 percent of modern-day customers are willing to share their personal data with companies so as to receive personalized offers and discounts. This helps companies populate their databases with humongous amounts of customer data which can be later used for powerful analysis.
If you’re interested in deploying Automation technologies for your contact centers or would like to learn more about this topic, please feel free to schedule a consultation with one of our AI and automation experts.