Contact centres are seeking technology to support their agents in handling huge increases in customer enquiries. The pandemic accelerated this change, as contact centre agents and managers struggled with new remote working arrangements and were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of customer calls and messages. Automation and AI are seeing increased adoption as effective ways to handle customer contact effectively at scale.
According to Salesforce Research, 83% of IT leaders say Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning (ML) is transforming customer engagement, and 69% say it is transforming their business. IDC predicts spending on AI systems will reach $97.9B in 2023. Many companies have taken the opportunity to put advanced technology to use in order to better serve customers. One specific use case in this category is chatbots.
Some organisations are taking advantage of contact centre as a service (CCaaS) to enable their workers to work from home, but how do chatbots contribute to improving the way in which customers and brands connect?
Why should you care about self-service and AI?
Contact centres use AI to create intelligent virtual assistants (IVA) to assist in customer service, the most visible application of which is chatbots. Bots make agents more productive by freeing up time for them to focus on more complex requests that require a human touch. Studies show that chatbots will eventually be able to handle between 40% to 80% of common customer service enquiries. Statistics also show that bots can cut operational costs by up to 30% and can help businesses save on customer service costs by speeding up response times and answering up to 80% of routine questions.
Bots are used to engage customers through conversational user interfaces and collect information, deal with simple queries, and hand over complex problems to an agent. In some cases they even handle moderately sophisticated conversations. Advanced bots can ‘understand’ historical chat or call logs, search for answers in a knowledge base, ask customers for more clarity, direct customers to human agents, and even provide answer recommendations.
Using machine learning to become more sophisticated, IVA bots can interpret complex language, remember the context of an entire conversation, and reply to customers with natural responses. You can also give your bot its own personality and run it on most messaging channels.
AI has been created that’s able to talk to people over the phone with a conversational and human-like voice. The bot can use deep learning to understand the intricacies of humans’ sentences, and can fully resolve certain customer service enquiries (with more complex matters or issues being routed to an agent).
These capabilities can save time for customers who might otherwise be put on hold, and can speed up processing time which further cuts down the length of the calls themselves. Using AI to automate tasks, including administrative functions such as form-filling and approval workflows, reduces agent processing time.
Furthermore, the AI will continue to train and learn from the agent corrections to output summaries. The time saved can free managers and agents from admin, allowing staff to invest more time on learning, coaching, self-development, goal setting and performance management.
Automate for speed and savings. Indeed, AI sets the stage for your organisation to thrive and keep up with your consumers’ demands.
Business insights and KPIs
While it’s important to know who your customers are today, it’s also necessary to know your contact centre is a great source of customer insights. With a mine of data, you’ll be able to see exactly how you’re doing and what strategies you can use to improve your customer satisfaction scores. In fact, a CMO Survey report from last year showed over 52% of small businesses with sales of $25M or less are using AI for predictive analytics for customer insights.
AI also has a role to play in managing contact centre KPIs. Workforce management and workforce optimisation (WFM/WFO) platforms use AI to help forecast high and low periods of call volume, manage agent schedules, and help contact centres understand call tracking metrics quickly and easily.
Allowing an automated agent to seamlessly escalate to human agents
AI-based smart routing uses behavioural analysis to detect intent and optimise skills-based routing, connecting customers to the right agent or department to handle the interaction. It can be done by sharing data from IVR with agents through innovative AI applications. For example, if a caller is entering data in order to get a building insurance quote with a bot and then leaves the chat, that departure can trigger the customer with the option to speak to an agent. If the customer agrees, then all of the information captured by the contact centre bot or the IVR is automatically sent to the agent who is taking the conversation, which saves the customer valuable minutes and avoids the frustration of having to answer the same questions again. This leads to greater efficiency, streamlined interactions and higher customer satisfaction rates.
Is AI the next step for your contact centre?
AI is likely to keep advancing, making machines smarter and smarter. Do you feel the pressure to improve and innovate your customer experience on top of daily operational demands? What are your competitors doing to transform customer experience today? What’s your strategy to meet the consumer preferences changing in your industry?
It’s clear that self-service is key to the customer experience. AI and digital innovations can be key to your success. At some point, you’ll need to help customers find immediate answers on their own. Provide intelligent self-service, handle enquiries, offer the right information at the right time, and empower your customers with 24/7 convenience.
AI won’t replace the need for humans in the contact centre. Customers still want a human connection – that’s for sure. But AI can be a tool to equip and empower your team, freeing them from repetitive tasks. AI offers game-changing opportunities for your agents to maximise their time and opportunities to develop skills, freeing them up to handle more complicated activities and interactions that demand human attention.
Originally published Sep 30, 2020, updated Jan 16, 2023