As the country emerges from the COVID-19 lockdown, thoughts are beginning to turn towards what happens next. Contact centres have made perhaps the biggest operational changes over the past six months, embracing new tools to maintain those all-important customer conversations. We wonder if AI has proven itself too invaluable to let go…

New processes, new benefits

The coronavirus pandemic undoubtedly forced the hand of many contact centres. Traditionally among the most strident of office-based sectors, few had been set up for remote working on even a very small scale. So when the country went into lockdown and workers were asked to carry out their jobs remotely, contact centres were faced with making some of the biggest operational changes seen to date, with almost no warning and often little experience of the systems they were adopting. Managers had to move quickly to get their teams set up for working from home. Processes and procedures had to be rewritten. New technology had to be found and deployed and supervisors had to get on board with a new way of monitoring their teams. Amid this unprecedented situation, Cloud-based solutions began to make their presence felt, and AI stepped in to plug the gap.

 

The AI solution

Contact centre managers who jumped into a cloud-based solution simply because they had no other option have no doubt been pleasantly surprised by just how far AI tech has advanced in the past few years. While some may initially have sought a way to simply manage workflows and hold call queues, the sheer omnichannel capabilities of modern cloud-based and hybrid solutions will have no doubt been something of a revelation.

Maintaining positive relationships with customers has long been the goal for contact centres, and relying on ‘robots’ no doubt felt like the antithesis to this. When customers have been in particular need of reassurance, with every facet of their lives turned on its head and anxiety levels increased across the board, the human touch has been vital. For traditional call-centre managers wanting to treat every customer like a human being rather than a number in a call queue, AI may not have been the first consideration.

The new kids on the AI block will have no doubt proven themselves worthy replacements to human agents, however, offering the ability to build and tailor them in a way that not only personalises interactions to each customer, but that harnesses a brand’s voice and personality. Managers have come to see that AI can ensure that all-important personal touch, while bolstering the brand recognition and trust that is so vital for today’s consumer.

 

Omnichannel AI

Contact centre managers have also no doubt appreciated the increased insight to customer conversations that AI enables. They are finding themselves better informed of the sticking points in the customer journey, and better equipped to deploy a truly omnichannel experience for them – and one that’s based entirely on the customer’s own needs.

Every time a customer makes contact, the in-built analytics kick in and begin gathering data about every interaction. This, in turn, allows for tweaks and additions to be made to automated responses, or for new FAQ answers to be spun up into the system. Any queries that can’t be answered automatically but which take up a disproportionate amount of an agent’s time can be grouped together, and a new automation created and enacted. All of this helps to free up human agents, and ensures a quicker resolution for all customers.

In this sense, both customer and contact centre reap the benefits of using AI for auto-responding to messages or rerouting contacts to the appropriate agent, wherever their desk happens to be.

Technologies like Messenger and WhatsApp are also now being used widely by companies and organisations looking to provide instantaneous answers to frequently asked questions and queries using AI and sentiment analysis. A customer types in a query, the AI technology scans the content of the message to determine what the customer needs to know, and a reply goes back to the customer giving them all the information they need. A quick resolution for the customer, and no human agent input required. All of this has gone towards helping beleaguered customer services teams, promoting positive customer experience and keeping contact centres ticking over in the most efficient way possible.

 

Automating first contact resolution

The goal of these AI systems is to ensure first contact resolution (FCR) virtually for as many customers as possible. Amid the coronavirus crisis, getting as many queries as possible answered by virtual agents became the Holy Grail, as teams were getting used to working from hoe and operating across new channels. In many ways, offering self-service customer service through AI tools actually boosted the productivity of human agents, and it’s hard to imagine this being forgotten as we emerge from lockdown. Reducing the need for human agent input by automating responses to common queries and frequently asked questions might have been an operational lifesaver during the past six months, but it surely presents a more productive way forward as contact centres move towards a ‘new normal’.

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To discuss how AI can benefit your business, contact our team today – We’ll be happy to help you find a solution that ensures your contact centre can provide better, 24/7, omnichannel support to your customers, wherever, whenever and however they need it.

Alternatively, you can read more about the subject in our whitepaper, ‘What does the contact centre of the future look like?’ or in our blog articles about omnichannel customer communication and chatbots for contact centres.

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