Contact centers know better than most that customer expectations in 2021 are at an all-time high. To meet – and ideally, exceed – these expectations, contact centers need to rethink their day-to-day operations, and in turn, how their customers are served.
While the role of technology, particularly Intelligent Automation (IA), in assisting today’s customer will continue to grow, technology alone is not the answer. The key lies in developing the right approach and then selecting the right tools to create a real impact – before, during, and after the customer call.
With Covid-19 accelerating the shift to digital, the ‘new normal’ presents an immense opportunity for contact centers to reduce costs while simultaneously improving and humanizing experiences. In this blog post, we unpack our vision for the contact center of the future by exploring a reimagined approach to customer service delivery.
Why Today’s Agents Are Struggling
Agents’ jobs are becoming more challenging: as the digital landscape around them evolves, so does the ever-changing customer support experience. Agent support tools, however, have not caught up. To find answers to increasingly complex customer questions, agents utilize numerous tools across different platforms during their calls, every day. For a busy agent, bridging the gap between isolated systems becomes a task on its own.
Relying on siloed systems drives up the average handling time (AHT) of calls and often results in negative customer interactions. This doesn’t only frustrate the customer, of course. Disparate systems that don’t communicate contribute to a high attrition rate and adds more complexity to training and onboarding.
The recent transition to remote work has compounded the challenges agents are facing. Unless well-supported with smart technology and clear guidelines, agents have found themselves on unknown grounds, without the assistance and call-center infrastructure they are used to. Falling behind has never been easier.
A Desired Contact Center Experience
Even though automation is not new to the contact center, there are still a lot of inefficiencies to be addressed. Most often, this is due to what we call point automation, where only certain parts of processes in the front or back-office are automated. End-to-end automation, on the other hand, breaks down existing silos, provides a seamless transition between processes, and ultimately, has a much bigger impact.
Combined with the right digital strategies, IA should be targeted and embedded in the contact center with a holistic mission to cut costs and improve experiences – for agents and customers. We’ve outlined three essential stages of the customer support journey where advanced technologies and IA can transform the front-office experience.
Before the Call
Mckinsey reports that 66% of customers in need of support start in a self-service channel before they reach out to the contact center. Providing customers with up-to-date, optimized, and easy-to-use self-service content through websites, FAQs, community forums, and apps can go a long way in deflecting those calls.
At the same time, advanced analytics and machine learning (ML) can analyze call-drivers and customer behavior such as channel switching. This in turn can be leveraged to inform content generation. Artificial intelligence (AI) solutions can be implemented in parallel with data systems to anticipate customer needs and address them without the need for live assistance. Conversational AI can solve a large volume of call drivers, eliminating both unnecessary contacts and customer frustration.
Leveraging the right technology before a call results in reduced costs, contacts, and customer effort. Some contacts are simply unavoidable, however. Yet, even if a bot can’t solve an issue, it can capture the customer’s query and intent and facilitate a seamless transition to live support. This ensures the agent has all necessary background info to start the call, saving time and effort on both ends.
During the Call
While online support solutions will solve a large volume of customer requests, calls will still be an important medium for more complex problems – even in contact centers of the future. A digital and human hybrid approach to customer care is what lies ahead.
While automation solutions like Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) or Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can help contact centers improve efficiency, maintaining the human element is vital to establish emotional connections. Advanced technology can help boost this connection by connecting a customer call based on their profile, history, and issue to the most suitable agent.
In addition, when combined with ML, robotics can generate and draw on previous events and data to provide agents with the next best action (NBA), focused on the highest valued outcome – in real-time. This ensures quick, accurate problem resolution and, essentially, a more satisfied customer.
IA relieves agents of administrative tasks during a call, while actively bridging the gap between applications. This allows teams to give their full attention to customer interactions and show more empathy while achieving significantly quicker case solving.
After the Call
When a customer call is complete, the after-call work remains. Agents often spend as much as 5-10 minutes wrapping up a single call. The post-call process is often defined by manual administrative tasks such as updating databases, filing paperwork, or copying and pasting customer data between different systems. While the after-call work is most likely to be simple, it’s highly prone to human error. Allocating these tasks to their ‘digital assistant’– the ‘cobot’ that sits on their desktop, always ready to support the agent – results in improved accuracy while freeing up agents’ time and energy to resolve the next high-value task.
Additionally, the ‘digital exhaust’ captured throughout the call – for instance, the voice, click-stream, and process data – can be pushed through advanced analytics engines to identify where and how the agent/customer interaction could be improved (e.g. to reduce handling time) or utilized for RPA to simplify navigation between systems. The data can also be leveraged to influence the knowledge base agents use to handle a call and the content customers use on the support website (e.g. optimizing a product manual in line with the top 10 call drivers). In this way, every interaction helps improve the front-office.
Discover the Contact Center of the Future
Leading support executives are recognizing the value of Intelligent Automation in customer care, not simply to reduce costs or boost performance-driven KPIs, but to significantly improve employee satisfaction and attrition rates. IA essentially takes the ‘robot’ out of agents and allows them to be humans again – no small advantage when it comes to helping customers.
In a virtual event, subject matter experts from SYKES Digital Services and UiPath deep dive into the contact center of the future. Watch the on-demand webinar to fully discover and explore what lies ahead.