With contact centers globally adjusted to the new normal, there are a number of artificial intelligence levers they can pull to deliver increased levels of customer satisfaction and major cost savings that aren’t constrained by the limited capabilities of today’s chatbots., Agents remain a critical part of the equation.
When contact centers leverage the opportunity to use AI effectively, they can reduce the cost of customers switching to competitors due to poor customer service, which already costs U.S. industries $1.6 trillion. The proper utilization of AI will also result in the simplification of the agent experience which delivers an outsized impact on reducing training time and costs by 40%, lower absenteeism, and reduced agent attrition.
By using AI across all customer touchpoints—on the web, app, and voice—enterprises can finally achieve the omni experience that has evaded the industry for years. For the most innovative companies, creating this seamless customer journey is already resulting in significant benefits to revenues, customer loyalty, retention and business efficiencies.
Engaging and Supporting Agents in a New Work from Home Environment
COVID-19 created a new dynamic for contact centers. The strong peer support for agents in their brick-and-mortar centers, consistent coaching conversations with leaders, and full access to all systems and tools are now more restricted by agents working from home. This created major challenges to agent support, coaching and development, and overall employee engagement.
Artificial Intelligence can play a role in addressing these challenges by:
Using AI to replicate what the top performing agents are saying and doing. Providing that information as real-time suggestions will create significant cost savings, incremental sales revenues, all while enhancing both customer and agent experiences.
AI can serve as a “co-pilot” by leveraging customer conversations in real-time to proactively and quickly unearth the right answers and solutions from multiple knowledge management systems for agents.
Leveraging AI to focus on dramatically improving the performance of agents generates resolution insights that can also be fed back into existing automation to continue improving your self-serve capabilities.
An AI platform is able to ingest huge volumes of data—whether it’s voice or messaging data—to provide new actionable insights that legacy reporting and analytics platforms do not surface. These insights will drive enhanced business outcomes when used across sales, marketing, digital, and process improvement teams.
Digital-First Companies have a Competitive Advantage
One often overlooked benefit of leveraging real-time AI technologies is the cost benefits of driving a digital-first strategy. As customers rapidly embrace digital engagement options such as asynchronous messaging, legacy touch points such as self-serve and automation can be enhanced while also reaping significant capacity increases enabled by increases in concurrent interactions. The ability for contact center agents to manage multiple digital conversations at one time can substantially reduce costs by empowering agents to manage up to six conversations simultaneously. While this is not possible using legacy technologies, it’s achievable with a digitally agile AI platform.
Achieving higher concurrency is all about managing an agent’s cognitive load – the amount of your agent’s focus and attention required by a conversation at any given time. Most customer interactions don’t require your agents’ full focus and attention and by reducing the cognitive load of each interaction, you can enable agents to manage multiple conversations concurrently – all while preserving quality. Here are four areas where AI can substantially reduce agents’ cognitive load:
Use an AI platform that exchanges information with your customers, drafts messages and summary notes for your agents, predicts content needed for customer communication and writes updates to your systems of record, like your CRM.
By leveraging machine learning at the customer intent level, you can intelligently shift concurrent interactions higher or lower based on the complexity and urgency of the current workload.
AI-Driven Intelligent Routing
With sophisticated routing models, you can match your customers with the best agents to meet their needs—agents who’ve solved similar problems before with the most effective and efficient outcomes.
Highly Instrumented and Researched User Interface
Optimize your user interface with one that is designed to manage your agents’ focus, reduce swivel-chair behavior, and help agents engage in concurrent conversations in a very personalized manner.
By applying the technologies and tactics above, contact centers can drastically reduce the cognitive load of customer conversations. Automating routine tasks and serving up the right information at the right time enables the agent to focus on supporting their customers rather than the systems used to complete complex transactions.
The result is a level of expertise in agents that results in more efficient conversations (read: shorter handle times). The increased capacity provides the flexibility to handle additional workloads or eliminate unnecessary expense. Agility and flexibility are critical needs of contact center leaders who will be faced with marketplace disruptions today and into the future.
Rethinking Modern-Day Operational Excellence
Being able to increase agent capacity for increased interaction volume when that occurs is critical to enable existing volume to be shifted from voice to lower cost digital channels. COVID-19 has revealed the importance of agility and flexibility in contact center operating models. In some, COVID-19 highlighted significant fragility caused by antiquated technology and hard-coded business rules. There are technologies in production today that can help you re-imagine CX operations by addressing systemic issues that many organizations have learned to live with for decades.
As digital engagement is rapidly adopted in a post-COVID world, concurrency benefits will emerge as a leading enabler of optimizing agent capacities. Managing concurrency efficiently requires the alignment of both technology and workforce management.
To increase the capacity for conversations per agent, operational action is required:
Drive volume from calls to messaging – digital channels are customer-centric and can be as much as 52% lower cost vs voice channels
Give your customers a digital option everywhere they might engage to call you – and provide them with compelling experiences and you’ll increasingly drive customers from phone to digital. With more customers using messaging, agents will more frequently engage in multiple conversations at once.
Staffing options – capacity for forecasted volume increases or OPEX reductions
Many common and outdated models for workforce management, such as Erlang-C, are based on agents having a concurrency of one. This assumption results in over-staffing and agents frequently interacting with only one customer at a time. Contact center operations and workforce management teams can re-examine staffing models given agents’ increased capacity. With agents more frequently engaged in multiple conversations at once, contact centers can drive meaningful productivity improvements and savings.
In the absence of either action above, realization of the substantial benefits of digital engagements and the power of today’s artificial intelligence when applied to the contact center will not occur. However, if centers increase the ratio of customer conversations to agents—after increasing their capacity—there will be enough conversations to ensure agents are handling several messages at once, resulting in significant concurrency improvements, higher productivity, and meaningful savings.
Artificial Intelligence + Agent Empowerment = Rapid CX Transformation
Augmenting agents and supervisors with the right AI tools and platform will provide the ability to support them working from home and importantly transform your CX structure into a digital-first organization. Leveraging AI will also evolve the role humans play by providing a modernized set of intelligent tools to your front-line agents and leaders. There are many great people working in challenging contact center environments. These roles have only become more complex and stressful over the years. It’s beyond time that we equip your brand ambassadors with intelligent tools that help them perform at vastly improved levels – all on behalf of your customers. Don’t be surprised when agents begin raving about these new innovative capabilities and your customers begin raving about their world-class experiences.