Though we saw a dramatic rise in chat-based communications in 2019, they’re expected to grow by a further 87% over the next 12 months. Amongst customers, chat is now the most popular of all online communication channels.
However, the success of chat-based communication depends on one thing above all else – speed of response. Forresters have recently released research showing that 1 in 5 customers will stop using a product or service if they experience slow response times through online chat.
So, what’s the solution? Thanks to developments in AI technology, Chatbots are now the most powerful and cost-effective means of providing a chat-based channel for your customers. By automating high-volume enquiries and ensuring customers are directed to the most appropriate resource or available agent, they cut expenditure, improve agent performance and satisfy customers’ desire for quick, easy and effective service.
Though investment in self-serve technology is key to upgrading contact centres and improving the customer experience, it cannot be at the expense of agent performance. Though a large percentage of customers do want to be able to resolve their enquiries without having to speak to a human agent, there’s still a significant proportion that prefer to speak to someone. This is cultural and habitual and can be influenced by ongoing communication strategies to make customers aware of self-serve options and the benefits of speed and convenience these can provide.
It’s also important to consider how providing more self-serve options can affect customer expectations. If a customer is encouraged to use self-serve tools but discover they’re unable to provide a satisfactory answer, they’ll likely follow up with a call to the contact centre. In such a case, your team needs to be equipped with the skills to handle these (potentially) frustrated customers in a delicate, empathetic and helpful manner.
This means that you need to provide improved training to your human agents. As automation allows them to step away from simple, routine tasks to tackle more complex enquiries, they’re going to need to upskill to ensure they’re up to the job. The only way to achieve this is through extensive training.
So far, we’ve looked at the importance of AI technology and the need for improved training for human agents. Much of the time, these two resources are thought of as being in direct competition. However, we believe that one of the biggest improvements you can make to your contact centre in 2020 is a shift in perspective towards viewing agents and AI as complementary.
In other words, organisations need to look at the ways they can implement AI automation technologies to benefit their human agents.
The clearest way to do this is via technologies that automate high-volume enquiries, as they allow agents to step away from the dull, repetitive and unchallenging tasks they spend much of their time on. Instead, agents have the opportunity to focus on more rewarding work.
However, AI also has a role to play in improving employee morale and satisfaction. For instance, AI is currently being used for intelligent scheduling purposes – raising morale and efficiency by offering greater flexibility and a better work/life balance for staff.
We believe there are three key reasons why the development of a truly omnichannel system could be the most important contact centre improvement you make in 2020.
Customers are increasingly mobile and use multiple devices
Mobile use is still growing at a remarkable rate and more and more customers are using multiple devices to complete a single transaction. If they’re not able to do so seamlessly, you’ll end up losing a considerable amount of business.
You have to know your customers
If a customer has interacted with your organisation before, they expect you to remember it. And there’s really no excuse not to. Organisations capture and retain data across all communication channels. However, if you haven’t adopted an omnichannel approach, this data will be fragmented and the individual parts retained within seperate channel. Until you remove obstructions to this data’s movement between channels, you don’t know your customers well enough.
Your agents must know your customers
The omnichannel approach prioritises free movement for both customers and data. It also emphasises the importance of your agents having quick and easy access to that data. If your agent doesn’t have all the information they need on a customer by the time they’re introducing themselves, there are improvements to be made.
Much has been said about the key contact centre metrics used by most organisations to measure performance. However, with the development of increasingly powerful AI applications, we’re moving beyond CSAT, AHT and Abandon Rates and entering a new age of analysis.
While these traditional metrics have served their purpose well, they have always had their problems. Speech analysis by AI technology is likely to become the best way of overcoming these weaknesses and we expect it to play a big role in revolutionising the ways we measure success.
For instance, AI can be used to analyse both chatbot interactions and phone calls, identifying patterns and trends that allow it to interpret customer feeling, sentiment and satisfaction. In the same way, it can be used to monitor contact centre agents’ performance, so that you can reward those agents who communicate in your preferred style while also identifying and providing assistance to those who could do better.
In this article, we’ve looked at five key improvements you can make to your existing contact centre.
Taking a holistic approach that’s covered chatbots, agent training, omnichannel strategy and metrics, we’ve tried to emphasise the importance of creating a contact centre that looks to AI and automation technologies as a means of enhancing both the customer experience and agent performance.
Over 2020, those organisations that develop a customer care system that makes emerging technology work for both its customers and employees will be the ones that reap the biggest rewards. The steps can be small, mitigating significant investments and be targeted at the key hot spot areas and the most common enquiry types.