Omnichannel AI Virtual Agents, a COVID-19 antidote?

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COVID-19 has created a perfect storm for the call center industry.

Many companies are grappling with unprecedented call volume as a result of disruptions to their core business while, at the same time, contact center managers are moving their agents to work from home. These are unique challenges on their own, but they’re now compounded by increasing pressures to reduce costs in an uncertain economy.

Meanwhile, customers are paying attention to how companies respond and will remember their experience and the service they receive. Organizations that meet customers’ expectations will retain them for life, those that do not risk losing customers for years to come.

Fortunately, there are now tools available that make it easier than ever to continue to provide exceptional Customer experience while navigating the eye of the storm.

One such option lies with AI-driven Omnichannel virtual agents. Chatbots, IVRs and self-service technologies are not new. Many have been in place for years as part of strategies to deflect calls from live agents in the call center. However, with the advancement of cloud infrastructure and natural language processing, these tools have significantly improved their effectiveness and support new deployment options.

You can even get started with intelligent and conversational voice automation with just one or two call types regardless of whatever phone system or IVR you’re using today. This ensures you can respond quickly to your crisis needs, and expand at your own pace.

As example, The City of Kansas City, MO (KCMO) was able to deploy a Cognitive IVR to handle calls into their 311 center from citizens that needed to report missed trash pickups. They were able to start with just one call type and immediately improve caller experience by reducing queue times and call abandon rates. Additionally, the City saved 85% per call by deflecting these calls from live agents. The City has since expanded the use of this technology to handle a wider range of calls. The results produce continuous cost savings while offering a compelling caller experience to their citizens.

Another innovative strategy is to move customers to digital self-service when they enter your IVR by providing the option to have their questions answered by an AI powered SMS bot. Many digitally native customers actually prefer SMS and texting over speaking on the phone, so this can be the perfect way to service their needs and control costs.

There are several types of customer interactions that are well suited for AI powered automation, such as answering Frequently Asked Questions, processing reservation and appointment changes, level-one tech support, routine account maintenance calls, and checking order status.

You don’t need a massive upgrade to your existing contact center to enable voicebots, chatbots or an SMS based IVR either. Many omnichannel virtual agents work with whatever phone system you have in place today and can even integrate with your CRM or back office systems to realize the full benefit of automation.

The best way to meet your current crisis objectives is by starting simple and iterate. Contact Centers tend to be pragmatic in their planning, however, you can still be pragmatic and move fast by adopting more agile principles.

Each of these technologies and interventions can be deployed within hours or days with no capital expense (CAPEX) and will have an immediate impact on your call center and business.

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