Transform Agent & Customer Experiences with AI Applications
More than ever before, the contact center space is being transformed by technology. As 2022 unfolds, be prepared for changes to happen both faster and on a larger scale than you might care for. While customer service once required little more than a patient agent talking through customer issues on the phone, the contact center must now deliver an experience that will likely cross channels and be personalized in ways that agents could never have provided previously.
In terms of technology change, customer service in 2022 won’t improve due to incremental advances such as more efficient call routing, a higher capacity ACD, or a better touchscreen to navigate the agent desktop. Today’s advances are more transformational by creating new ways to engage with customers, providing richer intelligence in real time so agents can personalize each interaction and generate new analytics to optimize operational performance.
These changes truly raise the bar for what’s possible in the contact center, but it’s also what’s needed to keep pace with today’s customer expectations. To help IT leaders develop this bigger picture outlook, two meta-trends need to be at the forefront – digital transformation and artificial intelligence (AI) applications. Today, we are highlighting AI. You can read more about digital transformation in this previous blog post.
AI Applications are Transforming the Customer Experience
For businesses to become more customer-centric, everything starts with the customer. Once their needs and wants are understood, your operations and processes will need to work backwards to support those needs. This outside-in approach includes the contact center, where the objective needs to be delivering customer experiences based on those needs and wants.
Today’s customer has many more touchpoints with your business. Customer experience (CX) is now the sum of many interactions, not just with the contact center, but with sales, marketing and billing. Digital commerce is rapidly evolving – especially during the pandemic – and CX is becoming just as much about your product/service as the customer’s relationship with your brand.
The transformation of CX is primarily about going from being transaction-based to experience-based, where every interaction is personalized and intelligent. This requires an understanding of each customer’s journey and the ability to effectively engage in real time. To some degree, contact centers can do this with legacy technology, but to do this at scale across your full customer base, AI applications are essential.
Since every customer is expecting their own personalized digital experience, contact centers cannot manage this on an ad hoc basis. AI applications are already prevalent in shaping customer expectations, and their role will only grow as AI becomes woven into everyday life. Just as cloud migration is now central for how contact centers deliver CX, AI will play a vital role in 2022 and beyond.
AI Applications are Transforming the Agent Experience
The AI applications being used by customers to shape their CX may be out of your control, but the AI you can use to transform the agent experience (AX) is totally in your hands. Aside from the fact this is something contact center leaders can do, it’s also something that needs to be done, and should be a planning cornerstone for 2022. Contact centers will need to embrace AI simply to level the playing field for agents. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Global Contact Center Survey, 79% of contact centers plan to invest in greater AI capabilities by the end of 2023.
However, for AI applications to transform AX, contact center leaders will need to deploy it in ways that agents will accept and even embrace. The knee-jerk response here would be automation, and that’s definitely needed to help contact centers manage growing traffic volumes. However, while the operational benefits of automation are undeniable, this application of AI can also be viewed as a replacement threat by agents and supervisors.
On that basis, agents will reject AI, so IT leaders need to show them how it will make their experience better instead of making your contact center more efficient. In order to embrace new technology, agents must feel a sense of agency about why it’s being used and how it’s going to make their work better – and ultimately help them make customers happier.
Even better, since AI is so poorly understood, try to minimize specific references to AI. Rather, focus on integrating AI capabilities into existing contact center platforms and applications that agents rely on every day. This will make agents feel less like they’re competing with AI applications and more like these new capabilities are being used to augment their current AX.
Another layer to consider is the addition of entirely new capabilities that are AI-driven, such as sentiment analysis or real-time transcription. Once agents see how customer-centric these tools can be, they’ll become drivers for better AX. While automation is at play here, it’s in support of agents to enhance their performance to drive better CX. Given how AI applications can provide real-time intelligence at scale – for all customer interactions – every inquiry can be personalized with deeper insights and impactful outcomes, and that’s simply not possible with legacy technologies.