Growing demands – and rising costs
These are challenging times for contact centres. Studies suggest that customer expectations have hit an all time high, and in one case, that a large majority of customers now consider the experience a company provides to be as important as its products or services.
At the same time, pressure on agents is intensifying. Our own research finds that many are on the point of burnout. Other surveys come to the same conclusion. If nothing changes, significant numbers of stressed, under-fire agents may leave the industry in the near future.
These challenges come at a time when many contact centres face increased competition, and with it a downward pressure on fees.
So what’s the solution? How do contact centres optimise efficiency, deliver great customer experiences and reduce the pressure on agents, all at the same time?
It’s a tough ask, but at least part of the answer may be AI.
AI technology is changing the ways contact centres work – and ramping up both customer and agent satisfaction and operational efficiency.
AI-driven speech analytics is a boon to your quality assurance (QA) strategy. Where once a team manager might have listened back to occasional conversations for QA purposes, now speech analytics can monitor every customer interaction in real-time.
By doing so, it can gauge customer sentiment and identify challenges and frustrations. It can give you a clear sense of how customers feel about your products, services or competitors. It allows you to take positive steps to confront issues before customers decide to leave.
By giving you meaningful insight into customer attitudes, speech analytics allows you to improve customer experience. It also helps agents become more effective communicators.
Speech analytics provides agents with information on every customer, allowing them to tailor conversations in a way that makes them more personal and relevant. It can even provide suggested responses in real time to help guide agents during calls.
Speech analytics help contact centre managers identify customer pain points and highlight areas for improvement. That might involve targeted training for agents, better omnichannel communications or more self-serve options, to name just a few. But by helping to make customer journeys smoother, speech analytics enhances operational efficiency and allows your contact centre to boost productivity without ramping up cost.
Speech analytics can also help you identify vulnerable customers, something that is more important than ever after new Consumer Duty regulations came into force at the end of July. It does so by analysing not just what a customer says, but how they say it. For example, unnatural hesitancy or uncertainty in agreeing a new payment plan may indicate vulnerability and, with it, a higher risk of defaulting. The software can highlight potentially vulnerable customers automatically.
Customers don’t always want to pick up the phone. They certainly don’t want to sit in call queues. Many want to self-serve where possible, and they want to do it at a time that is convenient to them.
AI-driven chatbots give customers better self-serve options. And by handling routine enquiries and frequently asked questions, they also reduce incoming calls, dial down pressure on agents and provide 24/7 customer service.
That’s good for everyone, and it has another benefit. By freeing up human agents for more complex or sensitive interactions, chatbots improve both employee satisfaction and customer experience. A recent Microsoft survey found that 89% of employees and business decision makers with access to automation and AI tools feel more fulfilled, because they have time to spend on more meaningful work.
It’s no wonder that about 76% of contact centres now leverage chatbot technologies, according to one study.
But all chatbots are not the same, and AI-chatbots are a huge step up from the virtual helpers of old. They use natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to craft relevant, personalised and natural responses, replying to questions and comments with human-like agility and understanding. They even get better at answering queries over time.
We’ve seen how useful AI can be in contact centres, but its value comes from being an effective enhancement to agent ability, not a replacement for it. Think of AI as giving your agents superpowers!
Whether it’s speech analytics or AI chatbots, one of the main benefits of AI in contact centres is the time it gives agents for more complex, creative or sensitive work. By taking away repetitive, mundane tasks, it increases employee satisfaction and also gives agents the freedom to develop new skills and acquire more up-to-date knowledge.
It also lets managers and team leaders identify areas for improvement. By targeted training sessions at known weak points, agents become more confident and productive, and contact centres more efficient.
The benefits are real, but managers need to implement AI carefully and clearly communicate its purpose to frontline teams. The wider discussion around AI often centres around the jobs it will replace, despite the World Economic Forum’s prediction that technology will create 97 million new jobs by 2025. Leaders should emphasise the message that human skills are crucial to contact centre success, and that AI will empower agents to be better.
The fact is, people still like talking to people. Maybe not for the routine tasks they want to get out of the way as quickly as possible, but certainly for important questions over repayment schedules, spending decisions or insurance claims, to name just three. And when something goes wrong, customers often want a human at the end of the line telling them how to put it right.
Taken together, AI tools can have huge benefits for contact centres:
- They reduce pressure on agents, by handling routine queries and freeing up time.
- They create better customer experiences, by providing meaningful insight and giving customers more self-serve and out-of-hours options.
- They improve contact centre efficiency, by highlighting bottlenecks in customer journeys and areas for improvement.
Or to put it another way, AI can give contact centres a competitive edge. With technology evolving all the time, leaders in the sector need to stay on top of the latest developments.
MaxContact can help. We already offer powerful speech analytics and AI-powered chatbots as part of our contact centre solution, and we continually scan the horizon for upcoming innovations. We also ensure that our AI solutions integrate with your systems and processes to provide game-changing benefits. By doing so, we provide an easier path to AI implementation.
If you’d like to know more about MaxContact’s contact centre solution, we’d be happy to show you. Get in touch today.