The contact centre automation opportunity is more than just AI-powered chatbots, it’s made up of three strategic components that all contribute to significantly reducing calls volumes, says Alex Klose, VP of Marketing at IMImobile.
Going into 2018, if there’s one thing we can confidently predict, it’s that contact centres will be looking to further increase their use of AI and automation technologies.For both, the contact centre and the customer, the automation opportunity is about time and efficiency. When we asked customers what their priorities are in our recent ‘Digital Consumer Interaction Report’ survey, time was at the top of the list.
Time is a similar priority for the contact centre – every minute an agent spends on the phone with a customer is either an acquisition or a service cost. When I was at a recent industry event dedicated to the digital contact centre, I heard during one of the panel discussions a Head of Contact Centre admit that it takes them around 90 seconds to verify every customer’s identity when they phone in. That’s 90 seconds of agent time dedicated to just verification, and if an agent takes 100 calls a day, that amounts to over two hours of essentially wasted time.
What’s most important, is that consumers are open to rising level of automation. In the same survey mentioned above, we found that 58% of consumers would be willing to embrace automation if it resulted in a more efficient customer service experience.
Automation is more than just the use of chatbots
With cost and efficiency in mind, contact centres need to take as many low-value, repetitive interactions as possible and either automate them or move them to digital channels. Preferably both.
Currently, AI-powered virtual assistants and chatbots are dominating the headlines of contact centre automation, and it’s easy to get lost in the hype. But really, they are just one aspect of a customer service automation strategy, which should be made three strategic components that all contribute to significantly reducing inbound call volumes:
Rules-based automation: As stated above, virtual assistants are an essential part to an overall automation strategy, as any interaction that could be resolved by referring to an FAQ can be automated, either by using webchat or a chatbot. Any information gathering exercise that can be presented in a web form can be automated, as can any simple two-way interaction that can be captured in a workflow. These could include interactions like balance enquiries, password reminders, parcel delivery tracking, opening hours information, appointment reminders and scheduling, and giving a standard quote.
As opposed to full AI, which uses machine learning and natural language processing to understand a customer’s intent, rules-based AIs are pre-programmed to respond to a particular set of queries, and only those queries. Outside of the cases it is set up to handle, or an unexpected request from a customer, the bot simply has the ability to seamlessly transfer the case to a live customer service agent on the same channel, or gets an agent to call (or email, or message) back.
Proactive messaging: This is the second element needed to drastically reduce call volumes. Digital channels now allow contact centres to send multi-part messages to customers to provide real-time information and automate different processes. These types of proactive messages include fraud alerts, large payment verifications, status updates, organising engineer times, and other routine customer interactions that are either time or lifecycle-based. What’s key is that contact centres need to anticipate when and why customers are calling in to ensure they are implementing the right proactive engagement channels.
Once proactive notification based messages are in place, contact centres can take the next step in advancing their call deflection strategy by using the very same messaging channels to allow customers to engage directly with an agent. Using a channel like SMS or Facebook Messenger allows customers to initiate a conversation with an agent to answer mundane enquires and the agent to determine follow-up actions.
An orchestration platform: Finally, the ability to orchestrate and utilise customer data across the contact centre and all business systems is crucial for automation. If data, processes and functionality all sit in separate siloes it’s impossible to even visualise full ‘contact flows’, never mind automate them.
An increasingly popular solution is to deploy an orchestration layer on top of existing contact centre infrastructure. To speed up the delivery of automation initiatives, contact centres need to be able to connect channels, processes and infrastructure, enabling data to be accessible. Only when contact centres have this layer, will they be able to deploy personalised data enriched customer journeys across multiple channels that automate various processes, services and customer interactions.
Automation is more than just savings and efficiency, it’s about maximising agent value
Imagine if you were able to free up your agents from handling call after call about routine matters. Sure, you should always try to improve processes and fix points of failure to stop customers from ever needing to contact you, but it’s unlikely you’ll reduce inbound volumes significantly that way.
What humans do exceptionally well – a lot better than machines for now – is add value. They can listen and empathise when a customer has a complaint. They can use their initiative to investigate problems and track down solutions, and then use their common sense to make judgement calls. They can spot up-sell and cross-sell opportunities and close them. They can even find out what is making a customer unhappy and stop them from switching to a competitor.
Automating the most repetitive tasks and situations will free up agent time, allowing them to focus on high priority enquiries and complaints that risk churn and effect customer loyalty. This is where an agent’s value (empathy and listening) can be maximised to help retain customers.
Alex Klose, VP of Marketing at IMImobile, is a senior marketer with extensive experience of working in the information software technology, mobile and digital industry. Alex has previously worked with clients such as Coca-Cola, Lufthansa, Nokia and McDonalds, and was a UK Board Member of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) for 5 years.
This article was originally posted on www.contact-centres.com