Contact Center Automation has gained widespread adoption across the customer service world. It’s being used by B2B companies, direct-to-consumer startups, and billion dollar-plus enterprises throughout industries like consumer services, healthcare, insurance, financial services, and travel & hospitality.
But while automation is top-of-mind for most customer service leaders, many are still wrapping their heads around it. Can automation really resolve tier 1 requests? Do customers actually want to use it? What’s the best way to choose a partner?
According to the 2022 Benchmark Report: Automation in the Contact Center, 80% of study participants are planning or evaluating automation and intend to invest in it within the next 12 months.
For contact centers still in the discovery stage of their automation journey, developing an action plan is crucial to overcome the common barriers that can prevent a deployment from getting off the ground. Starting with these guidelines can help you understand the market, gain team-wide buy-in, and develop a scalable automation strategy:
Step 1: Understand the contact center market is quickly adopting automation
Contextualizing where automation currently stands in the market can enable leaders to understand the “why” behind a potential investment. According to the 2022 Benchmark Report, the adoption of contact center automation is past the tipping point: 16% of the study’s participants have already implemented automation and 91% report that automation is a critical or important priority in the next year.
More than half (54%) of contact centers in the study believe automation will have a disruptive or revolutionary impact in the next five years. This level of adoption positions contact center automation at the start of the Early Majority phase of maturity. This is the ideal time for organizations to adopt emerging technologies and solutions because the cost-benefit ratio is most favorable. The potential to gain a competitive advantage from contact center automation is very high.
Organizations should start positioning themselves now to leverage automation by gaining internal buy-in, becoming familiar with the solutions landscape, developing the business case, allocating budget, and educating customers and agents on the benefits.
Step 2: Prepare to leverage automation
The Benchmark Report identifies cost and IT resources as the biggest barriers to automation in the contact center. Fortunately, these barriers are some of the easiest to flatten. To build your business case, begin with clarifying a goal for automation.
The top goal of the centers in the study is improving the customer experience (77%), a goal that favorably impacts customer retention, satisfaction, and profitability. Close behind are the goals of reducing costs (55%) and increasing agent productivity (49%).
Establishing a goal for automation should guide every phase of an automation project. Choosing a solution and determining an initial use case will allow teams to confirm how well the solution enables meeting the goal. Furthermore, this study provides cost reduction expectations for implementing automation: 72% of centers in the study expect reductions of 25% or more.
Developing a business case should also include identifying benchmark metrics to help refine the range of savings automation will provide, allowing the creation of an expected ROI. These steps often are made alongside an existing solution provider, which can ease or even eliminate the burden on IT staff.
Step 3: Ensure that voice is part of your automation plan
Two-thirds (67%) of contact centers in this study believe to a large or very large extent that voice automation is a means for solving common customer issues. These centers also rate voice as one of the most effective channels for resolving customer issues and first in terms of value for leveraging automation across the channels they use. Research has shown that 71% of people would rather speak to a machine than endure 15 minutes on hold. These findings affirm the need to include voice as part of the automation plan.
Other channels — email, webchat, social, text — enjoy the perception of greater structure and therefore seem to lend themselves more easily to automation. Until now, voice automation hasn’t shown the same effectiveness. But modern solutions can now offer the same seamless customer experience across channels – hence the outsized value of voice automation. One-third of study participants feel voice automation will be transformative. By prioritizing the phone channel in your automation plan, leaders can secure significant benefits to the organization and customers, while allowing agents to focus on calls that require human empathy and creativity.