Contact Center Automation: The Preferred Path Forward
The last two years have made a lot of things clear for contact center leaders:
- Sweeping changes can happen in the blink of an eye.
- Forecasting request volumes and staffing needs has become virtually impossible.
- Contact centers will never go “back to normal.”
On the whole, Covid-19 and its resulting challenges have made certain that in order for customer service to improve, contact centers will have to make some transformational changes.
The issues that have plagued contact centers over the last two years are here to stay. The time when leaders could rely on strategies like outsourcing, deflection-oriented IVRs, and seasonal hiring is never going to return.
And contact centers can no longer kick the can down the road.
Today’s consumers have grown accustomed to meals being delivered at the touch of a finger and refunds being offered with no questions asked. They expect tremendous service from every brand they interact with and they’ll quickly hit “unsubscribe” until they get it.
Agents have rethought what they want out of a job and shifted the hiring curve downward as they seek more engaging work. And the customer service talent pool may never fully recover.
So amid all these changes, what does the new era of customer service look like?
Augmented Agent Experiences
The pandemic led customer service representatives to rethink what they want out of a job. It drove a mass exodus of talent away from contact centers as they sought more engaging work and less monotony.
For agents still committed to providing excellent customer service and nurturing valuable relationships, their stress levels have never been higher. To retain and support them, a new agent experience must be offered.
Whereas agent assist solutions have long helped service reps execute their roles more efficiently, Contact Center Automation has risen in popularity due to its ability to transform agent responsibilities entirely.
Contact Center Automation is the process of automating tier 1 customer service requests while empowering agents to focus on more complex and nuanced customer challenges.
It represents the next generation of customer service operations where agent time is maximized to focus on conversations that require high empathy and creativity.
With automation, agents rely on intelligent machines to fully resolve high-volume requests like order updates and account authentication, as well as back-office work like data entry and conversation analysis.
Contact Center Automation opens the door for customer service agents to learn new skills, earn higher wages, and find long-term engagement in their jobs.
It forgoes the strategy of imploring agents to answer more calls, chats and texts for the entirety of their shifts. Instead, Contact Center Automation relieves them from their most taxing tasks, so they can focus only on conversations that provide the most value to their brands.
Better Customer Experiences
What drives spikes in contact center demand? Traditionally, isolated events like seasonality, holidays, service outages, or product recalls result in outsized customer requests. But when we look at the trends of the last two years, we see a new culture-based customer service driver entering the fray.
Customers have grown accustomed to a new marketplace where one-touch service is the expectation. When they pick up the phone, or open a chat, they look forward to an immediate response that begins solving their problem instantly.
At the heart of Contact Center Automation is this new customer persona. Customers win with Contact Center Automation because it eliminates the causes that put “A Nation on Hold” in 2021.
In fact, wait times become a thing of the past with automation, no matter what channel customers choose (important, as conventional technologies like the telephone and email will account for 81.5% of the total contact center inbound interactions despite the advent of new channels).
Simple customer requests are resolved immediately with Contact Center Automation by intelligent machines that can achieve the same – or better – customer satisfaction scores as human agents. Built on conversational AI, automation allows customers to naturally state any number of requests, and interact with a machine as they would with a human all the way through resolution.
Meanwhile, agents become more accessible for customers who truly need human assistance. Brands who adopt Contact Center Automation are already seeing the strategy pay dividends, as customers find their requests are being resolved by intelligent machines, and not trapping them in a web of deflection tactics.
More Prepared Contact Centers
Unpredictability in the contact center isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s never been more prevalent between supply chain issues, ongoing pandemic challenges, and changing weather patterns.
There’s no better way to address unpredictability – not agent assist tools, not expanded self-service resources, not Business Process Outsourcing – than to automate every single inbound or outbound tier 1 customer interaction, 24/7/365, at unlimited scale.
Contact Center Automation solutions can be deployed and begin answering phone calls and chat messages in weeks with integrations into virtually any CMS, CCaaS, or telephony system. Once implemented, it can provide accurate data and intelligent insights into what additional call flows it can automate.
Contact centers essentially get a cost-effective, infinite supply of 5-star agents for tier 1 customer requests. Downstream, they can slash training and hiring costs, promise greater productivity and engagement to their agents, and focus on true long-term retention.
And for the next decade-plus, as data becomes the ultimate resource, contact centers can lean on a library of auto-transcribed customer interactions that help surface insights and improve their automation via machine learning.
Companies already employing the strategy have seen that this is not a solution offering a 10% increase in productivity or cost efficiency. It is a complete transformation wherein customers, agents, and operations receive permanent relief to the demand, labor, and forecasting challenges of the last two years.
The longer labor shortages persist in contact centers, the more choices operations and CX leaders will have to approach the problem.
Contact centers will need to think long-term to decide whether incremental improvements in internal communications, agent assist features, and self service options are enough to get them back to stability, or if true transformation is needed to increase their competitiveness in a customer-first world lacking enough reliable agents.
In either case, a new era of customer service is here. Brands who embrace Contact Center Automation first will be in the best position to capture the talent and customers who have long demanded it.