How Chatbots Will Enhance (Not Replace) Your Contact Center Agents


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The first chatbot said hello to the world over 50 years ago. It went by the name ELIZA and was most famously used to simulate the questions and interactions of a therapist. Though some of the early test subjects were captivated by the ELIZA, the program was only giving preprogrammed responses triggered by certain phrases. It was impressive but had clear limitations.


Even with the advancements made in the 21st century, there are still constraints on the chatbot experience. As ELIZA’s creator Joseph Weizenbaum put it, “however intelligent machines may be made to be, there are some acts of thought that ought to be attempted only by humans.” We fully agree.


Rather than call center chatbots outright replacing people, they can provide ways to enhance the capabilities of your contact center agents. Here’s a snapshot of what that looks like:


Lowered Pressure to Improve Average Handle Times

The instant gratification of social media and 5G connections have conditioned consumers to expect speedy delivery in all aspects of their life. Customer service is a prime example. Yet there’s an added challenge that contact center agents face: there’s often drastic variability in the complexity of customer resolutions that in turn impacts the speed of resolution.


Some customer requests are simple to resolve. Others require some savvy maneuvering to deliver real customer satisfaction. It’s these longer interactions that can spike averages, elevating average handle time (AHT) beyond what’s outlined in the service level agreement. Even though we recommend against using AHT to evaluate agent performance, high averages can still hang over the heads of your people – if nothing is done to remedy the issue.


Chatbots are a simple and effective way to reduce average handle times for your brand. These programs can handle the quick, transactional interactions, removing the pressure on contact center agents to rush through resolutions to help shrink the queue. When live agents don’t feel pressure, their overall performance prospers. For holiday season customer service especially, this is particularly helpful as customer volumes spike and demand heightens.


Free Up Agents for Complex Challenges

Chatbots are exceptional at handling simple questions. Answering common questions, giving updates on support tickets, and scheduling meetings are all better when automated. Even placing pizza orders (e.g. Domino’s) is now handled by bots. And they respond fast. Chatbots can create responses to straightforward questions and requests in seconds.


Where these programs struggle is with complex resolutions or those that require a human touch. It’s indisputable that artificial intelligence has made impressive strides over the years. Modern chatbots are even guided by natural language processing, which does permit them flexibility in their responses. What it doesn’t do is actually give them the power to think at a critical level.


When customer inquiries require these skillsets, call your contact center agents into action. Live chat agents are better problem-solvers, more empathetic, and better equipped to read social cues. Moreover, by using chatbots, your agents have more opportunities to leverage these skills and deliver customer satisfaction in those situations that require more finesse.


The trick is for the transition from a chatbot to a live agent be seamless. Your customer shouldn’t need to change windows or get directed to another channel. The conversation should feel as if the same person has accompanied them through the resolution process, providing an exceptional, start-to-finish customer experience.


Improved First Contact Resolutions

Think of your worst customer experiences. We’ll bet at least a few of them forced you to navigate a near impenetrable maze of extensions, directing you from one wrong party to the next. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. Human error sent you in the wrong direction, whether they accidentally forwarded you to the wrong place or didn’t know where to send you at all.


Chatbots are programmed to follow specific decision trees. If you provide them with questions or responses that match their preexisting conditions, there’s only one response they can give. This reduces the margin of error to nil. Chatbots will connect consumers with the appropriate people to solve the precise problem at hand, increasing first contact resolution in appreciable ways.


Finally, contact center chatbots are indispensable with information gathering. During interactions with your customers, they can automatically load details into your CRM. This ensures that the moment the switch is flipped and your live agents take control, they have real-time access to all the relevant customer data – and a glimpse at that person’s state of mind.


What’s the right blend of call center chatbots and live agents for your customer solution? We can help you decide. Reach out to TLC Associates for expert guidance.

Thomas Moroney
Thomas P. Moroney has worked in the contact center industry since 1990.He began his career with American Express where he worked his way from Associate to Director of Credit Operations.In 1999, Mr. Moroney joined PRC, LLC, as Director of Client Services.He went on to lead PRC’s international expansion, as SVP Global Services, reporting to Mr. Cardella.Mr. Moroney also worked as EVP Business Development for TRG Global Solutions and more recently as CEO of Donnelly Communications, an Atlanta based boutique contact center provider focused on the retail and catalog industries.


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