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How Conversational AI Is Transforming Contact Center Operations
Customers demand fast and efficient call center interactions that only add pressure to an already submerged environment. Conversational AI is the lifeline.
Contact centers today are vastly different from how they were only a few years ago. As customer demand for fast and efficient call center interactions has grown, call centers have had to revamp their operations to meet these needs. As such, advanced technologies such as conversational AI have become an increasingly integral part of call center operations.
So, how exactly does conversational AI “transform” call center operations? It does so in more ways than you might think. Let’s find out!
Call Centers Have Evolved With Technology
Since the Industrial Revolution, business leaders have understood the importance of reaching customers and having a convenient way for customers to reach them. More than a century ago, a telephone wired to the wall allowed an individual to connect with a business faster than writing a letter. As early computers improved data processing capabilities, larger businesses and organizations similarly invested in contact centers to manage customer interactions.
Between the 1960s and 1990s, these call centers grew into larger spaces, where employees representing the organization became front-line ambassadors who answered calls, providing information, and handled transactions. Wise businesses invested in improved telecommunications so outside answering services could gather information through live operators when employees were busy or unavailable. Desktop computers became standard equipment for call center representatives, as did push-button menu options on the telephone for people making calls.
By the time the Oxford English Dictionary first published the term "call center" in 1983, companies began to embrace toll-free calling, outsourced and overseas contact centers for round-the-clock accessibility, and other technological enhancements to improve customer experience.
The embrace of computer-assisted interventions has grown since the first organized bureaus and agencies managed the client experience. Nearly 40 years after the phrase "call center" officially entered the lexicon, enhancements in conversational AI continue to transform the corporate landscape. Implementing a business-specific virtual AI assistant can enhance the call center experience for customers, clients, and staff alike.
Changing the Face of Contact Centers with Conversational AI
Public Perception of Contact Centers
The public has a generally unfavorable impression of contact centers. Concerns about navigating a complex phone menu or hearing an uncaring voice at the other end of the line have existed for many years. Reaching a voicemail or leaving an important message in a frequently unmonitored inbox increases frustration. Needing urgent information late at night when the center is closed hurts branding and affects customer loyalty.
Current Staffing Challenges
People travel and carry their trusty mobile devices as sidekicks. As society moves all over and moves away from the traditional 9-to-5 world, successful contact centers must adjust. The recent COVID-19 pandemic tested the system. People needed answers, and in many cases, call centers faced staff shortages, even when technology allowed for work-at-home options. When an in-person business could not occur, people called. Often, they experienced longer wait times, as fewer representatives struggled to handle the workflow.
Conversational AI Offers a Solution
Conversational AI, embedded within a firm's technology infrastructure, is a cost-effective investment to deal with this challenge. Businesses began embracing general AI practices in the early 2000s, viewing technology as a way to offer actionable insights, personalize customer interactions, and enhance staff efficiency, all while lowering operational expenses.
Some departments that have embraced AI in design, planning, human resources, and manufacturing have overlooked the value of implementing a conversational AI interface in contact center operations. They fear that adding technology might give their front-line customer interactions an impersonal feel, similar to the early computer-generated voice simulators many remember from long ago. In reality, the opposite is true.
Conversational AI Scales Call Center Capacity
Adding a virtual AI assistant to enhance your call center's existing applications involves a different approach than using it in human resources for activities such as onboarding. The very-demanding environment of call centers is complicated due to the number of requests handled, their complexity, and the need for all transactions to meet strict service-level agreements (SLAs) that establish metrics for evaluating performance by in-house staff or outside vendors.
Conversational AI Reduces Wait Times and Increases Customer Satisfaction
Today's conversational AI technology improves predictive and skills-based routing. A generation ago, phone menus and early websites directed customers to the agents with the best talents or product knowledge to meet their needs. Analytics have improved, with predictive behavioral routing offering better matches between callers and representatives.
The virtual AI assistant can handle frequently asked questions and offer requested assistance, allowing the customer support team to handle complex problems rather than general inquiries. When the virtual AI assistant can’t resolve an issue, it can transfer the customer to a human agent, along with the information it collects.
Conversational AI Personalizes Self-Service
Unlike push-button menu trees of yesteryear, today's conversational AI does more than respond to narrow, well-defined requests. For example, emotional intelligence AI interprets customer feelings as they communicate, noting long periods of silence or rising voices to assess if the person is irritated.
In addition to evaluating language pace and voice tone, Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) within the virtual AI assistant allow for the understanding of local linguistics, so the British client making an "enquiry" about a "lorry" receives the same level of understanding from the system as the American who makes an "inquiry" about a "truck."
The Duality of Digitization
Digitization allows for greater self-service. No longer does a customer need to visit a teller during banker's hours with ATMs widely available. In some instances, however, a purely technological intervention seems too impersonal and affects the customer experience.
Due to the imperfect nature of some earlier call center innovations, many customers prefer not to engage with human agents because of long wait times and frustrating interactions with the anonymous voice at the other end of the line. By the time they are asked to complete a customer satisfaction survey, they are ready to hang up the phone.
Find out how conversational AI can help you supercharge your customer service while saving time and money and why contact center automation is critical for improving your CSAT and NPS.
Conversational AI Offers the Best of Both Worlds
Using ML, NLP, and RPA, today's virtual AI assistants can minimize communication barriers while automating basic customer interactions. These conversational AI-powered agents take care of rote requests and send clients to the best-qualified human agents while also sending these agents representing the organization helpful analysis and intelligent data. The conversational AI solution can alert staff of a disgruntled or frustrated person at the other end of the line, even suggesting solutions the agent may wish to consider before the person is transferred to them.
Customers get the necessary support, often without the need to interact with a human agent. A conversational AI assistant can handle many routine requests while making customer experience a top priority. Wise executives believe the improved client experience is an even more important reason for conversational AI than the cost savings it offers.
Better customer experience leads to increased customer loyalty and sales. As such, conversational AI has the ability to assist in creating a positive overall client experience.
Implement Conversational AI to Revamp Operations
Businesses see the value of conversational AI solutions in their call centers. Research by Markets and Markets envisions this segment of the industry growing from $1.6 billion (USD) in 2022 to $4.1 billion (USD) in 2027. To ensure a successful implementation that improves customer experience, management should consider a conversational AI solution tailored to their contact center's needs rather than a generic approach.
Address Present Talent Shortages and Build for the Future
If businesses need to transform to a remote-work model during another disturbing event, the virtual AI assistant provides a cost-effective way to support staff while automating operations.
With conversational AI, call centers can better prepare human agents by informing them who is on the line, what they need, and the best ways to find a solution before the two human parties connect. Rather than a staff-reducing measure, conversational AI cuts costs while building an improved customer experience.
Ultimately, conversational AI supports your call center’s human talent, improves the customer experience, handles routine requests, and analyzes interactions. With this tool at the ready, your call center will pave the way to modern customer service.
Interested to find out more about conversational AI? Download this case study to learn how OTP Bank transformed its call center operations.