The following is a guest blog by Charles Schrier, Director of Marketing at SmartAction.
As a lifelong customer service professional, you’ve watched the customer service function change from necessary evil to cornerstone of business success. For so long, businesses found ways to cut costs and increase efficiency in the call center because it was always viewed as a “cost” center. But with today’s customer demands for experiences that are easy and effective, and with more contact channels than ever before, it is getting near impossible to forecast and staff the call center, train agents in the proper skills, and offer consistency across channels and touchpoints.
Companies have an amazing opportunity to meet customer demands and create a strategic advantage over the competition by incorporating AI automation into their customer service operation. Forrester research tells us that 2/3 of consumers said that valuing their time is the most important thing to them, which helps to explain the rise in self-service adoption. With conversational AI automation, businesses are offering self-service for many of the simple and complex repetitive tasks that their call center agents had always been doing. Thanks to consumer tech products like Siri and Cortana, customers are actually very adept and comfortable interacting with conversational AI, whether through voice or digital media. Therefore, companies with AI automation are outpacing competitors by offering the effortless experience their customers want while migrating their operations towards sustainable growth.
AI automation’s most impactful ROI promise is in helping call centers conquer headcount challenges. As contact volumes explode through more and more channels, it has become increasingly difficult to forecast and accurately staff the call center. Even when volume spikes are predictable, they are still expensive to manage using live agents alone. The answer to higher volumes is no longer to hire more people, but rather to use AI agents mixed with live agents in order to automate more and make the live agents more effective for the inquiries that require the human touch. Many companies have found success using an AI virtual assistant service to:
- 1. Automate repetitive calls, chats, and texts with live agent failover. This helps agents focus on the top priority customer conversations because the routine tasks, like checking order status or making payments, are taken care of by AI.
- 2. Gather customer data upfront before passing to live agent for assistance. An example is customer account authentication with screen pops for agents so that customers do not need to repeat information.
- 3. Automate outbound calls and SMS texts for appointment confirmations, delivery reminders, reorders, or other alerts. This is normally a huge cost and time-suck for live agents.
- 4. Offer a conversational AI Front Door, which uses a natural language greeting like, “How can I help you?” to capture intent. Conversations then get routed either to the IVR, a live agent, or additional AI self-service.