The contact center has come a long way from the centralized call center of the past, which did little more than handle product support, customer inquiries and outbound telemarketing campaigns. With a new focus on customer experience, companies recognize the contact center’s value as a multifaceted connection point to customers and an opportunity to create brand awareness and loyalty by delivering a great customer experience. Meanwhile, customers are choosing to communicate by other channels, in addition to telephone calls.
These changes are leading companies to consider investments in new technologies for their contact centers, including artificial intelligence (AI) and other forms of automation. In fact, Gartner, Inc. predicted that by the year 2020, 85 percent of contact center tasks would be completed without human intervention.1
Technology brings many potential benefits
AI offers multiple benefits. For example, a recent Forrester Research, Inc. report, “Artificial Intelligence with the Human Touch,” indicates that AI can:2
AI can enhance the customer experience in a number of ways. It can automate conversations with customers and can even make conversations natural, personalized and effective. AI can also anticipate needs based on context, preferences and prior queries; monitor opinions and emotions; and deliver advice, resolution, alerts and offers while learning over time.
Other technologies that can aid in the improvement of customer experience include automated self-service, chatbots, virtual assistants, predictive analytics, sentiment analysis, journey analytics and robotic process automation (RPA). For example, RPA can automate repetitive agent tasks such as information gathering and case disposition. It can also streamline inquiry capture and resolution, thereby freeing up agents to handle more complex calls and forge a more personal connection with customers.
The mountains of data that contact centers collect often include information that can help companies uncover new revenue streams. Using speech, text, and predictive analytics, patterns in large data sets can reveal new insights companies can use to create and monetize new services for customers.
Human interaction remains important
But what do customers want in this digital era? Contact Center World’s 2018 "Customer Experience Study" indicates that resolution of issues during an initial contact is the number one sign of a great customer experience for more than 65 percent of those surveyed, followed by friendly agents (65 percent) and quick resolution (63 percent).3
The same survey found that the telephone is still a preferred channel when someone reaches out to a contact center.
Source: Contact Center World's 2018 Customer Experience Study
While some new technologies can help companies build customer loyalty, a recent customer survey from software provider Calabrio, Inc. found that loyalty improves when customers feel that they are heard and when they develop an emotional attachment to the brand.4 The study also found that such an attachment can only be created through a human connection. Calabrio also further discovered that 74 percent of customers are more loyal to a company if they can speak to someone. For these reasons, the telephone continues to be king of the contact center.
Recommendations: Finding the right balance
Companies should balance the convenience of technology with the personalization that only humans can bring. New technologies should complement operations (especially telephone operations) rather than serve as alternatives.
Because not all new technology is a fit for every company, companies should know their customer demographics and choose the technologies that support them.
It’s wise for companies to take an outside-in approach when considering new technology. They should consider the potential effects from the perspectives of customers and agents. They should ask questions such as, “Does this technology create a better customer experience?” and “Does this technology help the contact center do a better job?”
In any case, as companies implement any new technologies, they should keep the customer connection at the heart of every strategy.
While many of the high-profile innovations such as AI are not being adopted at the expected rates, many companies have some form of contact center automation on their roadmaps. Companies that are slow to adopt such technologies risk being left behind.
This article was originally published in our Spend Trends application. Spend Trends captures the latest insights and perspectives from our global team of category specialists from torn from market-moving news and what we think it means for our clients, to in-depth supply market overviews.
Sources and references: