Introducing smart automation into cloud-based contact centres is more than just technology innovation: instead of having to choose between a great customer experience (CX) and reducing costs, it is now possible to have both, and to improve them too.
In this context, we are talking about smart automation for customer service, or what is often referred to as ‘bot’ technology. However, that simple term downplays how conversational AI voice and advanced chat create far more realistic and intelligent ways to interact with customers and deliver service excellence. Plus, by taking ‘robot’ routine tasks away from staff, their time can be put to better use.
Those potential benefits are significant, because it is well known that two of the biggest challenges facing contact centres are keeping control of costs and ensuring high-quality customer service. Traditionally, it has been hard to achieve both without a compromise. With staff turnover in contact centres high, continued investment in training is necessary, and during peak times, managing inbound traffic becomes time-consuming and therefore expensive: the longer the time on a call, the greater the cost.
The problem is that — until recently — automated response services often undermined customer satisfaction. Many people do not like or trust IVR systems that are inefficient, or responding to a chat bot that has limited and basic options. So, in many cases, callers would rather spend time in a call queue, even though the waiting time also causes frustration.
The irony is that the vast majority of incoming questions can usually be answered very simply and are easy to find, although customers understandably do not want to hunt for that information themselves: they want quick answers.
If there were a way to deal with those queries in an automated way that still delivered a great CX, then that would give businesses the efficiencies and savings they require. Fortunately, with smart automation, that is now possible. Advanced chat and conversational AI can even improve the CX, because they deliver accurate answers extremely fast, by combining natural language programming, voice recognition, transcription and other technologies. Agents can then focus on calls that cannot be handled by smart automation.
At the same time, live chat has advanced and these days, can support quite complex processes that can resolve many customer questions, or qualify them better before reaching an appropriate agent. Moreover, all this can be integrated into the overall contact centre infrastructure, ultimately supporting an omnichannel approach across all channels, related applications and systems.
Probably the best way to really show the benefits is to provide some typical scenarios, including a couple of real-world ones already developed and deployed by Botsquad and masvoz (both part of Enreach).
A FAQ developed for an airline has subsequently reduced the number of calls that need to be handled through human contact by almost 50 per cent. This is because routine questions — such as ‘what is my check-in time’ and ‘what is my baggage allowance’ — are straightforward to answer. Not only has the airline reduced costs, it has also boosted customer satisfaction, because people get more rapid resolutions to their queries.
Another example is providing information services at live events, where staff are already very busy even without being inundated by queries such as ‘I’ve lost my ticket, how do I get a replacement?’ Smart automation not only answers the question, it activates the reissuing of that ticket, so the effort required by the visitor is minimal, and non-existent for staff.
Restaurant and entertainment bookings, online retail, financial, healthcare and government services are just some other areas where smart automation can deliver tangible advantages.
In the future, smart automation in contact centres will evolve further. For instance, the technology will ‘listen’ to conversations between the agent and a caller and instantly present answers, whether from the company website or information about the customer’s account. Ultimately, there can be just one bot for everything, across multiple channels, with the bot treating everything as the same customer transaction. By preventing a fragmented stop-and-start approach, further improvements in customer satisfaction and cost savings will be gained.
In practice, this means that when a customer starts a conversation with a chat or voice bot, that conversation ‘travels’ with them if necessary, for instance from the web to WhatsApp to a conversation with a human agent. Of course, all transactions — whether voice, chat, email or text — should be able to be centrally recorded and integrated into CRM and other systems, providing far deeper visibility into engagement with every customer.
In the meantime, businesses can start using what is already available, with minimal disruption, commitment and investment. As well as helping organisations with existing contact centre environments, cloud-based platforms using smart automation are a great way for other organisations to adopt ‘casual’ contact centre functionality.
While many businesses can choose to adopt smart automation themselves, many will turn to resellers, to provide a complete service. In turn, this helps resellers establish an early mover advantage in this fast-growing market, move away from a pure telecom sell to broaden what they can offer. Regardless of who or how smart automation is provided, several important factors will contribute to successful deployment.
Our in-house experts recommend starting with an entry-level approach, such as WhatsApp for Business, prioritise what is going to have the biggest gain, and then scale as needed. This will help to overcome any resistance to smart automation and any bias caused by negative experiences with automated services in the past (though much of Gen Z is arguably more comfortable engaging with a digital service than a human anyway). Demonstrate to both customers and staff the advantages of smart automation in one area and then expand outwards.
However, it is important to accept that not everything can be automated. For some tasks, the effort will outweigh potential gains. If something is extremely complex, then it is not yet realistic for a bot to take on that task, and human intervention is still needed.
Also, look for solutions that have been developed by teams with true know-how in delivering chat bots, conversational AI and contact centres, with a clear future product path and able to easily blend into existing environments.
Enreach has that expertise, experience and roadmap of innovation for smart automation, and is part of how Enreach is moving beyond just telephony services to add value in other business areas. As well as existing capabilities within the group, the acquisitions of mazvoz and Botsquad have taken those to a new level, with the added advantage of already being focused on the needs of the SMB community in Europe. Connecting with best-of-breed voice recognition systems and services such as WhatsApp, Enreach delivers smart automation today, with an evolving strategy that will deliver far more in the near future.
While implementation is simple, training is provided if required, to help customers make the most of the opportunities available. Smart automation is a great example of how digitalisation can help companies be more efficient and make better use of their budgets, while also delivering more meaningful contact experiences and service excellence in a seamless, omnichannel environment.
This article was published on Comms Business.