Improve Agent & Customer Experiences with AI-Powered Routing
The pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives, and the contact center is no exception. There have been several implications in this space that compound each other, with the net result being a more challenging environment for all forms of customer service. In the early stages of the pandemic, business conditions became very fluid. In a 2020 survey by Gartner, 41% of respondents noted that contact volumes had increased. This spike is a result of the uncertainty but contact volumes have continued to remain high. That’s a major problem on its own, but other complications have since arisen.
As pandemic conditions led businesses to shift to work-from-home, many contact centers lacked the capability to properly support remote agents, making their jobs more difficult. Agent morale suffered which led way to rising turnover and the Great Resignation.
This is not a promising scenario for contact centers looking to make customer experience (CX) a differentiator for their company. Unsurprisingly, contact center as a service (CCaaS) adoption has accelerated, as contact center leaders are recognizing the need for innovation to better support digital customer experiences.
However, CCaaS isn’t the complete answer and will not guarantee success. Cloud-based platforms provide new capabilities, but the benefits can only be fully realized when focusing on particular problem sets. Improving CX and the agent experience are respective problem sets but are broad objectives.
A more practical approach is to address a specific pain point – and reducing inbound contact volumes is the best place to start. Not only does this impact the agent experience by making agent workloads more manageable, but CX also improves when routine inquiries are handled faster with self-service.
All contact centers want these outcomes, but it’s important to note that generic CCaaS will not be the answer. What’s really needed is artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that are built around these use cases. To illustrate, here are two ways contact centers can mitigate the problem of rising inbound contact volumes with AI application integrations.
Intelligent Routing to Self-Service
“Call deflection” is the term often used to describe having self-service channels handle as many incoming inquiries as possible. Unfortunately, legacy IVR systems have set the bar very low with limited ability to relieve call volumes for agents. First-generation chatbots have only been marginally better, but with conversational AI, today’s chatbots can engage more effectively with customers. An effectively used chatbot can provide a much more intuitive self-service interface, which can ultimately drive up the acceptance and usage of self-service systems.
With the scale that comes with cloud applications, chatbots can handle today’s higher contact volumes, enabling even the largest contact centers to better manage inbound contacts through self-service. This will reduce the need to continue hiring more agents and will improve the experience for your current agents, making this one of the best examples of how AI brings automation to the contact center.
Additionally, today’s intelligent chatbots can take self-service inquiries further than ever before, so when contacts do get routed to an agent, they will spend less time coming to a resolution.
Intelligent Routing to Subject Matter Experts
Contact routing for self-service helps keep volumes down for agents, but it doesn’t address the problem of reducing overall contact volumes. With digital channels, customers are finding more ways to engage with companies. Over time, this will displace some phone-based traffic, but generally won’t decrease overall contact volumes.
Going into 2023, contact volumes are going to remain high. In terms of what contact centers can do today, this second AI application integration use case must also be considered. As inquiries keep coming into the contact center, there are a limited number of agents available to handle them.
AI routing applications can do more than identify the topic or product to match and route the inquiry to the right agent. AI applications can also be used to better gauge intent, contact history, previous sentiment and agent capabilities. One can then combine this with more conventional CRM data, such as high-value or long-term customers, giving an AI application the ability to route inquiries to agents who have the necessary skills and expertise to deal with these customers and situations. Without this level of intelligence, contacts could be routed to an inexperienced agent, leading to mishandling of potentially high-value inquiries.
Another example would be other forms of expertise, such as a subject matter expert (SME), or agents with specific language skills or cultural sensitivities. Intelligent AI routing applications can quickly assess if an SME should be handling the contact and route it accordingly to an agent or someone else in the organization. With the addition of deep learning, commercially available AI applications can provide a high proficiency in many languages, with new ones being added all the time, including local dialects, and use this information to better route incoming contacts. For businesses with global customer bases, this capability can be a key driver of CX.
While this will not specifically lead to lower contact volumes, it will make the volumes more manageable and will ultimately improve First Contact Resolution (FCR), which will reduce contacts over time.
Improving CX may be the ultimate objective, but routing contacts to SMEs also improves the agent experience. Consider the general-purpose agent who knows little about a lot of things, but enough to handle a wide range of contacts. The high-value, very specific interactions discussed above should never be routed to these agents. It will add to their workload unnecessarily and they’ll become frustrated once they realize they don’t have the expertise to help the customer.
For SMEs and agents with specific skill sets, this level of contact routing will keep them engaged and make them feel valued with the knowledge that their unique skills are being utilized to truly help customers, which is the embodiment of great agent experience and success. This form of contact routing will add great value to the contact center given how hard it is to retain and attract agents today.