Advances in data science and knowledge engineering have produced a new world in both core and value-added business capabilities for call centres. This new artificial intelligence (AI) frontier can, once and for all, meet the common efficiency bottlenecks and customer experience challenges that contact centres have had to contend with for years. According to Walker Information's Customers 2020: A Progress Report, the customer experience is set to overtake price and value as the single most important unique selling proposition.
With the right technologies in place, contact centres can reduce wait times, resolve problems during a single call, and increase staff efficiency. And it needn't mean a cost-prohibitive, time-consuming integration period. As a result, they'll experience improved customer happiness rates, higher revenue streams, and lower operational costs.
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5 Problems Currently Impacting Contact Centre Success
Without the assistance of AI, the work of contact centres is more difficult than it needs to be, leading to:
1. Long Wait Times
Wait times have become virtually synonymous with contact centres. They invariably lead to a portion of callers hanging up while in the queue, detrimentally affect customer satisfaction levels, and make in-line sales optimisation campaigns more difficult. After all, a customer annoyed at having to wait on a call is less likely to be open to upselling or cross-selling initiatives.
2. Failure to Achieve First Call Resolution (FCR)
Solving a customer's problem on the very first call helps augment loyalty rates and reduce future inbound call volume. The benefits of achieving higher rates of FCR can be felt across the operational workflow of the contact centre, regardless of whether the agent is office-based or remote, and on company financials. Put simply, FCR is a metric that all contact centres can aspire to for optimised efficiency rates, but it continues to be a stumbling block for many. Customers regularly call again within a 72-hour period, which is generally considered an unsuccessful FCR.
3. Staffing Problems and Overheads
Contact centres that rely on a large workforce to handle calls have to absorb the associated labour, infrastructure, and equipment costs. Even remote agents incur a proportion of these costs. And for companies that offshore contact centres, they might reduce operational costs, but the trade-off is generally a poorer customer experience.
4. Disaster Vulnerability
Possible disasters that can impair a contact centre's ability to operate include power outages, earthquakes, flooding, network interruptions, and fires, among others. While contact centres are typically insured against property damage, the impact on customer service is not. During recovery periods, even if agents are able to switch to working remotely, without the kind of backup system that AI can provide, the ability to serve customers can be heavily curtailed.
Forward-thinking contact centres are already benefiting from a range of advantages that machine learning and knowledge engineering make possible.
5. Difficulty Optimising Sales
Like all customer touch points, contact centres can turn interactions into commercial opportunities. However, long queue times and low FCR rates make maximising sales, such as for new products, upgrades, or add-ons, more difficult than it has to be.
Unleashing the Call Centre of the Future With AI
The days of only being able to respond to the simplest of customer needs via interactive voice response (IVR) are gone. Contact centres can now harness the power of a new era in AI capabilities for more complex tasks.
The immediate result is a sharp reduction in wait times. An AI-powered solution can deal with many common customer issues without having to involve human agents, or it can make significant progress on more complex queries that do need to be handed over to a human.
Then there's the ability to speak to customers via other channels for a better customer experience. For instance, virtual agents can resolve customer issues via the customer's preferred communication channel, such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
Such capabilities in omnichannel communication, hyperpersonalisation, and customer data analysis, in turn, make sales opportunity identification and optimisation easier. Moreover, virtual agents can help live agents by identifying answers faster and engaging customers by speaking to them in natural language. And should disaster ever strike, contact centres can rest safe in the knowledge that they have a powerful AI system as backup, to keep resolving their customers' needs without service interruption.
Forward-thinking contact centres are already benefiting from a range of advantages that machine learning and knowledge engineering make possible. They've shed their dependence on legacy technologies, streamlined staffing needs, and maximised conversion on in-line commercial opportunity touchpoints. The result is a contact centre that reports reduced operational costs, maximised revenue, and an enhanced customer experience.