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Artificial Intelligence: Streamlining Contact Center Technology

April 08, 2019 Jim Iyoob

It is hard to believe it now, but artificial intelligence used to be nothing more than a futuristic dream. It was portrayed in old movies as the vehicle that would completely change the world and propel our culture to unimaginable heights. Now, artificial intelligence—the stuff of the future—is all around us, and we are still learning just how much it can benefit us.

In addition to improving our daily lives by helping us find restaurants, driving us around in our vehicles, and even controlling the lights and appliances in our homes, AI is also improving the world of business in a variety of ways. Automated systems are especially helpful for call centers, and Gartner predicts that non-voice interactions in customer service settings will likely rise to 85 percent by the year 2020.

Many contact centers are discovering how artificial intelligence can benefit them and help them turn a greater profit while serving customers’ needs more effectively. If your contact center does not currently make use of AI, you may be spending more than you need to and missing out on your full potential to appease the needs of your customers.

Consumers are increasingly desiring self-service options, but they still want the ability to speak with a live customer service agent if needed. When you offer digital solutions that recognize and predict the needs of your customers, you create a seamless user experience. While artificial intelligence should never replace the human component of your contact center, it can be used to help busy call centers handle larger call volumes with greater efficiency.

How Artificial Intelligence Drives Effortless Customer Experience With Human Touch

One of the most universal challenges experienced by businesses of all types is the constant struggle to improve the customer experience. In fact, 72 percent of businesses list customer experience improvement as their top priority, according to recent data published by Forrester.

Call centers that experience a high volume of customer service calls may consistently struggle to deliver a quick and effective customer service experience. Since recent research from NewVoiceMedia reveals that companies in the United States lose approximately $62 billion each year as a direct result of poor customer service, it is imperative for companies to turn the statistics in their favor by taking actionable steps to improve the customer experience for their consumer base. One of the most effective ways to do this is by incorporating artificial intelligence into the call center customer service process.

Using AI in the call center can improve customer service operations in the following ways:

  • Improving business agility
  • Achieving operational excellence
  • Providing machine-centric intelligence with human-centric interaction
  • Increasing versatility and flexibility
  • Predicting customer behavior
  • Maximizing available resources and reducing operating costs
  • Delivering a consistent, reliable experience to each customer
  • Meeting customer needs around-the-clock
  • Creating relationship-based interactions instead of transaction-based interactions

Speech recognition systems can be implemented to relieve the burden of high call volume from human agents. Such systems can also take care of after-hours phone calls when call center agents are not available. This benefit makes it possible for businesses to take care of customer needs around-the-clock, without paying call center agents for graveyard shifts or overtime. In a digital age, more customers expect businesses to be able to meet their demands 24/7, and implementing a speech recognition into your call center can help you live up to evolving consumer expectations. 

When integrated into the call center, advanced speech recognition systems, such as interactive voice response (IVR) systems, make it possible for customers to easily navigate through a menu of options by using their voice instead of the telephone keypad. Other call center speech recognition options include speech-to-text, voice search, call routing, and voice dialing.

For many businesses, automating the telephone answering system is an efficient way to handle anywhere between 40-85 percent of incoming calls. More and more businesses are leveraging the efficiency and predictability of speech recognition systems to improve efficiency and anticipate customer needs.

Achieving the ideal blend between an automated, self-service environment and live agent interaction in the call center is a challenge worth pursuing. Providing customers with the option to navigate self-service systems without taking away their ability to talk to a real person as needed comes with a variety of benefits, including cost savings, more efficient customer service and improved customer experience.

How to Use Artificial Intelligence As an Effective Quality Monitoring Solution

If you were to ask 10 different companies for the definition of “excellent customer service”, you would probably get 10 different answers. There is no single, universal definition of superior customer service that can be applied to all businesses. For this reason, it can be hard to nail down the standards that you need your call center team to adhere to in order to deliver the highest level of customer satisfaction.

The challenge of determining, analyzing, and enforcing behaviors and actions that meet excellent service standards for your business most likely falls on the shoulders of your quality monitoring group. Their task is a monumental one, but it is necessary for delivering a concise, uniform approach to customer service. By using updated Artificial Intelligence software, it is possible to increase the effectiveness of your quality monitoring team. The highly accurate data provided by the AI software can direct your quality monitoring team to changes that may need to be made by call center representatives. The end result is an improvement in your contact center’s processes and methods for interacting with customers.

Automating your quality monitoring system can provide some of the following improvements to your business:

  • Reduced agent effort
  • Better sales results
  • Compliance with regulatory requirements
  • Improved customer experience

Artificial intelligence, when used correctly in a call center, can effortlessly monitor and gather valuable data from your team’s phone calls, chats and emails. It can also assist management in identifying opportunities to improve customer satisfaction, sales conversions and processes. Speech recognition technology is capable of anticipating customer needs and quickly delivering predictions and solutions that are specific to each customer. This level of customization can have a big impact on the customer-business relationship.

Importance of The Human Touch

As helpful as an AI technology in the quality monitoring system can be, the human element is still needed to improve the quality assurance process. With the human touch, the information gathered by an updated AI system can be analyzed and compiled with the end goal of increasing customer satisfaction rates.  The quality assurance group should have a goal of constant improvement and increasing customer satisfaction numbers. Some of the ways these goals can be achieved include:

  • Being involved with regular call and chat monitoring.
  • Taking time to perform routine performance checks.
  • Availability and willingness to assist through call and chat barging.
  • Regular review and incorporation of suggestions given through customer feedback.
  • Instituting more effective training programs via peer coaching.
  • Offering effective classroom type training programs.
  • Empowerment agents through flexible scripting and resolution procedures.

While automated QA programs are efficient and can be used to deliver a convenient and consistent experience to each customer, human intelligence and adaptability will always be needed to assess performance, provide feedback and coaching, and make gentle corrections as needed. Additionally, automated systems will always have limits, especially when customers call in with complicated questions, complaints or needs. Having a live agent available to overcome these limits and provide assistance to the customer in real-time can ensure that that automated experience never becomes a hindrance to the customer experience.

History Shows That AI Won’t Destroy the Workplace

The impressive Industrial Revolution was feared by many and predicted to completely destroy the workplace as humans knew it, but we all know that did not happen. Although the Industrial Revolution did shake things up a bit and ultimately resulted in a decrease in human farming jobs, it also resulted in an increase of white-collar jobs such as business consulting and stockbroking.  The coming AI revolution is similar in that it will likely lead to new opportunities and will not replace the human element completely.

Embracing, rather than fearing, technology can have a positive impact on business. Gartner predicts that 20 percent of companies will need dedicated workers to guide and monitor neural networks by the year 2020. AI will be especially valuable for companies that have large data sets that cannot be adequately analyzed or understood by humans on their own.

The Intelligence Revolution will most likely decrease the need for human beings in certain types of jobs, but it will inevitably create new, unprecedented positions that will open exciting doors for professionals. Forrester predicts that the cognitive era will create approximately 8.9 million new jobs by 2020 in the United States alone. While future possibilities for AI are practically unimaginable, it is important to remember that machines will never be as adept as humans at thinking creatively, making quick assessments and judgments, or connecting a variety of seemingly unrelated ideas.

As with every previous revolution throughout history, integrating artificial intelligence into daily call center business operations has the potential to reshape the workplace and provide unimaginable opportunities for growth. The Intelligence Revolution has the potential to bring us all to an improved era of innovation where man and intelligence work together to create a superior customer experience.

Why Technology Is Nothing Without the Human Touch

In a perfect contact center world, machines that are programmed by agents would be capable of handling almost every issue that arose. Each call and resolution would be part of a continuous loop from which AI would gather and evaluate information and immediately feed it back into the ever-learning system.

Though this may sound like the ideal scenario for call centers around the world, customers today expect human interaction in order to feel that they have received excellent customer service. Intelligent automation can help call centers to move customers gently to a place where they realize just how beneficial technology is. For instance, some call centers can now send photos or information directly to the smartphone of a client during the call, cutting down on additional questions and possible frustration.

Creating the right mix of smart technology and live agent support can give your call center an advantage over competitors who do not achieve a good AI/human balance. Once you have obtained the right combination of technology and human support, you will enjoy a smarter and more efficient call center environment that is capable of meeting the needs of your consumers and delivering a more enjoyable customer experience.