The contact centre remains one of the most important parts of a firm’s customer experience strategy, as it’s often the most likely way consumers will directly interact with a business. Therefore, it’s vital the contact leaves a good impression.
However, too often, complex, confusing or repetitive processes frustrate users and result in resolutions taking too long and involving too many steps. This will put businesses at risk of losing customers.
The need to modernise the contact centre
Firms must look to modernise these activities and take advantage of the latest technology. Tools to streamline these operations have been in high demand recently, with many more companies looking for new digital solutions to cope with the post-Covid world.
Indeed, Leigh Hopwood, chief executive of the Call Centre Management Association, said the industry made up to five years’ worth of progress in three months during 2020, because of the opportunity afforded it “to implement new technology to support a mass migration to homeworking and to deliver a digital transformation”.
And with more than a third of contact centre leaders (35 per cent) now thinking their contact centres will become mainly staffed by homeworkers, solutions to make the experience easier for everyone will be a must.
One area that will be particularly useful in the contact centre in the coming years is artificial intelligence (AI), which will have a key role to play in supporting new technologies and ensuring a high level of customer experience.
Research by Interactions has found that improving customer experience is now the number one driver for AI implementations, cited by 53 per cent of firms, ahead of cost reduction (48 per cent) and the ability to drive top-line revenue (39 per cent). As this will be the first port of call for many customers, this means an AI-driven contact centre should be a top priority for this technology.
Reimagining the chatbot
One of the most prominent uses for AI is in reimagining what the chatbot is capable of. These tools have been around for a while now and can be a useful option for a range of scenarios. For example, one study found the major benefits to businesses of using chatbots in the contact centre are being able to offer a 24-hour service (64 per cent), offering instant responses to enquiries (55 per cent), and providing answers to simple questions (55 per cent).
However, with AI contact centres, and in particular tools like natural language processing and machine learning, the humble chatbot can be transformed. These tools give people the ability to interact with these services in a much more natural way and ensure they can handle a much wider range of queries without human intervention.
This frees up human agents for more complex enquiries and ensures people can resolve more issues quickly, without having to wait in queues. However, it will still be important to ensure that, if needed, a human agent can seamlessly step in and pick up the conversation in the same chat box should the limits of its capabilities be reached.
These tools will be especially important in today’s environment, as the use of chatbots has expanded greatly in the wake of Covid. Many people turned to these touchpoints for the first time to get faster responses at times when traditional comms channels were expected to be busy or understaffed, and will likely stick with them having experienced how efficient they are.
A more predictive contact centre
Another key use of AI is in making the contact centre more proactive, and this can manifest in a number of ways. As is the case with chatbots, implementing natural language and machine learning elements into systems can be hugely helpful for improving many channels, but this is only the start of what AI can offer to make operations more proactive.
For instance, in addition to their use in chatbots, predictive tools can be used to better understand customers’ intent and offer agents the most appropriate data and course of action quickly, or even suggest the most likely upselling opportunities based on past interactions and their history.
Another option could be to integrate the contact centre with Internet of Things sensors contained in the products offered to customers. This could, for example, be used to schedule maintenance or alert businesses to potential failures in items before they occur, letting the contact centre take the first step and get in touch to arrange remedies before the customer even knows they have a problem.
Intelligent call routing
The use of AI can also ensure contact centres are much more efficient when it comes to putting customers in touch with the right person at the first time of asking. Being passed around from person to person is a common bugbear for consumers, with a study by Microsoft finding this is the most frustrating part of the experience.
When customers get in contact via phone, natural language processing software can replace traditional – and often frustrating – IVR services with more effective call routing solutions. If customers are able to explain their issue simply in their own words, AI tools can use this to determine where to direct their call, ending fixed routing trees that may require customers to go through several options before reaching the most relevant agent.
These are just some of the many ways in which AI can be integrated into the contact centre. It’s still relatively early days for the technology, but those that invest well and find innovative uses for it will be able to offer the best possible customer experience across all channels.
Learn more about the future of the contact centre and the role AI will have to play in our white paper.