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How AI Might Help Contact Center Representatives Now

automationCOVID-19 has disrupted normal operations for customer contact centers and customer service operations on multiple levels. First, there’s the increase in call volume across all industries. Then, there’s the increase in customer expectations of a short wait time and a quick resolution to every call. Also, there are the challenges around supporting agents who are working remotely.

From the customer service representative’s point of view, mundane, time-consuming back-office tasks - such as hunting for the customer’s information and past history - are not the best use of their time. They slow customer service representatives down and result in longer wait times. This difficulty is made even more complex when agents are working remotely and struggling to access multiple data points about the customer on the line. Mundane tasks not only drag on an agent’s productivity, but they also contribute to employee dissatisfaction on the job and even burnout. A study found that 74% of all contact center employees are at risk for burnout.

When we look at contact centers by industry, telecom contact center employees have the lowest rate of job satisfaction, while banking and financial services contact center workers are most satisfied, according to McKinsey. Across all industries, the most common contributing factor to contact center burnout is that employees feel the company is not focused on the customer and providing a positive experience. Customer service representatives are on the frontlines and often bear the brunt of customer dissatisfaction.

Customer service improvements can come in all shapes and forms, from email to live chat to social media. However, a major downside to interacting across multiple channels is that there’s just too much data for agents to manage, and in too many places. One way to make a positive impact is by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to better manage, analyze and store data. By using AI to create intelligent bots that serve as personal assistants to agents, contact centers may be able to run more efficiently and create a better experience for humans on both sides of the interaction.

By implementing AI in the contact center, companies achieve the right balance between bots and human interaction, freeing up customer service representatives to focus on customer requests that require complex problem-solving skills, which in turn results in better service quality and customer retention.

Let’s explore 5 ways that customer service contact centers might benefit from AI-powered automation.

1. Delivering better customer service, faster

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) empowers customer service representatives to get more done in less time by streamlining query processing and automating personalized customer service. This helps customer service representatives keep customer files complete and organized through recording and analyzing each complete call record. Quick access to mission-critical information reduces customer service representative mistakes and ensures speedy end-to-end resolution during the first inquiry.

2. Complementing human productivity

There’s no question that the pandemic accelerated the advancement and adoption of automation in the enterprise. To keep pace with customer expectations, brands were forced to uplevel their quality of service across channels to consistently resolve critical customer issues more quickly and on the first call.

The question then became how to apply automation to its maximum effectiveness while channeling human power to address nuanced, complicated inquiries. Essentially, contact centers needed a way to offload customer service representatives from high-volume, mundane tasks by figuring out which processes were a good fit for automation. Automation can help customer service representatives by identifying which tasks are best suited for RPA, and then creating a workflow so AI-powered bots can learn the task and take it over.

3. Reducing errors

Consider this example: customer service representatives at a leading telecommunications provider were struggling with an unexplainable increase in customer address-change errors. Using AI to analyze the data surrounding these cases, the company codified address entry by providing agents with a script to confirm address changes with the customer before completion, saving time and improving accuracy. Essentially, bots studied worker patterns and made intelligent recommendations to prevent errors and increase efficiency.

In another example, a major insurance carrier contact center was experiencing lengthy call-time lags, which resulted in compromised transaction completion. Because customer service representatives were tasked to retrieve data from a variety of siloed point solutions, they couldn’t capture the data quickly enough to complete the transactions in a timely fashion. In this case, RPA solved this problem by autonomously researching customer information and supporting agents with complete data records. By delegating relevant tasks to bots, customer service representatives are able to pull customer information in real-time, reducing customer waiting time and lowering average call time. AI bots complete a process the same way every time, eliminating human error while ensuring compliance for improved customer satisfaction.

4. Freeing up customer service representative Time for Complex Tasks

Once upon a time, automation was viewed as a threat to customer service representatives who believed that it would render their jobs obsolete. Today, automation does the heavy lifting required to address persistent, systemic problems that can’t be solved by humans alone. Customer service representatives are liberated from struggling with technology-based inefficiencies, and empowered to do what they do best — speak to customers with confidence and empathy, and deliver on a best-in-class customer experience powered by the technologies that are continuously improved.

5. Removing friction from the customer service process

Automation can help get customer service representatives up to speed on projects faster and with less frustration, because the technology tailors the user experience to guide them efficiently through the steps they need to follow to do their jobs effectively. Because bots capture the detail of each call contemporaneously, the data sets for supporting customer service representatives are continuously up to date, which means that customer service representatives are always working with current data.

Despite the hype, not all enterprises benefit from AI using RPA if they are unable to manage unstructured data across silos. The end goal is to improve customer satisfaction and empower customer service representatives to solve problems quickly. Companies need to focus on how they can quickly collect information to allow customer service representatives to spend more time on person-to-person interactions to up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. AI-powered automation is one way to get the job done cost-effectively and with little disruption to the day-to-day business.