Technology is rapidly changing the business landscape, especially for contact centers.
Contact centers with outdated tech will quickly lose the race to provide their customers with seamless customer experiences—resulting in customer attrition and lost revenue. The stakes are high: One study shows that one in five customers will almost immediately abandon your brand after a single poor experience.
Great agents, customer-first strategies, and technology all have to work hand in hand to stay ahead in the customer experience market. Here are five contact center technologies to help you keep that edge and expand your influence through personalized, customer-centric pathways.
1. Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) uses computer processing to help contact centers and agents automate simple tasks and requests. And while AI’s not ready to take over the world any time soon, it is becoming increasingly adept at managing a surprising portion of customer interactions—freeing up agents to provide more robust customer support.
Here are the most common usages of AI in a contact center (and the ways you should be using it already).
Chatbots are computer programs that interact with customers without a live agent present. These self-service tools are excellent for customers looking for basic information on account balances, shipping information, stock queries, or other basic questions.
But like we said above, chatbot AI has a way to go before replacing human agents. Outdated chatbot tech can actually hinder the customer experience (think frustrated customers stuck in a chatbot feedback loop unable to find answers to their questions).
The solution is to implement advanced chatbot AI that offers the user a call from a live agent when it senses customer frustration (such as repeatedly typing “agent” into the command bar) or when it reaches the limit of its self-help capabilities. This level of omnichannel support helps contact centers accomplish two things:
- Help deflect low-level customer support queries away from the contact center.
- Carry customer context between channels, so agents can see who the customer is and where they need help—leading to faster resolutions.
Agent assist is an AI “layer” of software that sits above the core processes of a customer service agent. It provides context and background information to the agent and can suggest product-based solutions to a customer’s issue as the conversation unfolds in real-time.
Where agent assist shines the brightest is how it helps reduce a contact center’s time-to-resolution (TTR) rate. With agent assist tech, agents can spend less time looking for critical information—like customer data and contextual resources in a knowledge database—and more time providing customers with answers.
Not only does agent assist tech make for faster resolutions for your customers, but it also helps create a more seamless experience for your agents before, during, and after their calls.
- Before the call: Agent assist can provide agents with valuable customer data, so they’re better equipped to address the caller.
- During the call: Agent assist can listen to the call and prompt agents on what to ask or what issues they need to address.
- After the call: Agent assist can quickly summarize the call and use natural language processing to note customer and agent sentiment.
When you tee up your agents for better calls, it drastically reduces customer frustration and gives agents more confidence in their conversation—helping them deliver a more human-centered experience.
IVR (interactive voice response) is an automated procedure that allows inbound callers to obtain information via a voice-response system. But a poorly-constructed IVR system can cause callers to drop off and churn.
A study from Vonage found that 51% of consumers have abandoned a business altogether because they’ve called and reached an IVR menu. And 74% of the money they would have spent ended up in competitors’ pockets instead. That’s because customers don’t want to sit and listen through an antiquated menu of options, press a button, then listen through another menu of options until finally directed to the correct department. They want to quickly get to the right place—whether a self-service menu or a live agent.
To accomplish this, a modern IVR must function as an intelligent deflection tool and a gateway to the contact center. It needs to be modular, flexible, and easy to use so callers can quickly self-serve without hanging up in frustration (and becoming a repeat caller when they try again, hoping for a better result) or connect with an agent without spamming the 0 key or repeating “Agent” a million times.
Finding that perfect balance rarely happens overnight. Here are a few resources to help you create a winning IVR sequence:
- Top 10 Ways to Optimize Your IVR Experience
- Does Your IVR’s Personality Match Your Business?
- How a Dynamic IVR Can Transform the Customer Experience
2. Speech analytics
Speech analytics uses speech recognition software to identify spoken keywords and emotions in audio recordings or live calls—giving agents and contact center managers insight into why their customers call and the sentiment behind those calls.
For instance, contact center managers could program a speech analytics tool to flag conversations where callers say “cancel my service” or identify conversations where the customer sounds frustrated with their service rep. Customer experience managers can use this real-time call data to spot where they might need to step into a call to address the caller’s concerns and, after the call, can use the data to better coach and train their agents.
Speech analytics tools also help ease the burden on agents during their conversations and after-call work (ACW). It serves as an extra set of ears in every conversation—automatically recording key moments, identifying the reason the customer called and the sentiment behind that call, and serving as an agent accountability and monitoring tool.
3. Voice biometrics
Consumers use voice biometrics every day—from smart speakers and assistants like Alexa and Siri to high-level security clearances where they have to speak their name to log in. Voice biometrics (VB) is a way to identify your customers through their voice cadence, pitch, tone, and even their accent. Because those factors make your voiceprint unique, it’s challenging for bad actors to replicate or alter.
Many contact centers are turning toward voice biometrics because VB allows customers to identify themselves through voice rather than rigorous questions and answers—saving both callers and contact centers massive amounts of time. Instead of asking for sensitive information like birth dates or social security numbers, voice biometrics could allow a customer to bypass all background checking and get straight to resolution— leading to a significantly reduced number of time-consuming agent interactions.
4. Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Not to be confused with AI, robotic process automation (RPA) handles mundane tasks like information gathering. Where AI continuously learns from human interaction, RPA is strictly rule-based task performance.
For example, you can tell a bot to analyze 100,000 customer interactions and receive a report within minutes rather than spend months collecting and collating data from customer calls. A Deloitte report states that RPA can bring a company as much as an 86% increase in productivity in some industries.
Some tasks should rarely ever involve an agent. Tasks like gathering a customer’s name, telephone number, address, or date of birth can easily be assigned to an intelligent virtual assistance (IVA) and used in multiple channels. An RPA creates seamless omnichannel experiences because it takes customer data and carries it across channels—meaning they won’t need to repeat their contact information whenever they switch support channels.
When you save agents from having to look up or input low-level customer data like phone numbers or addresses, they have more time to resolve the customer’s issue.
5. Virtual queueing
A virtual queue holds a customer’s place while they wait for support, guaranteeing they’ll receive a callback when it’s their turn to speak with an agent. This lets customers skip waiting on hold and get back to their day. At the same time, it helps contact centers create more evenly distributed call volumes, better agent forecasting, and higher customer satisfaction (CSAT) and net promoter scores (NPS).
No one enjoys waiting on hold, and our client data shows customer satisfaction drops nearly 100% after a five-minute hold. As a response, those callers take their frustration out on service agents—leading to demoralized contact centers and higher levels of agent burnout.
Virtual queueing empowers your customers and puts them in control of their support options. When customers can skip walking around with their phones crammed up to their ears, they feel like you’ve valued their time, which say is “the most important thing a company can do” to provide them with excellent customer service.
Technology will make or break your contact center. On the one hand, it can lead to greater operational efficiency and make life easier for your agents and managers. On the other hand, it could lead to customer (and agent!) frustration and churn. Finding the right mix of tech is critical for the success of your contact center.
But while technology can be beneficial, its true value is only realized when a company implements and maintains a proper customer-centric mindset. Providing customers with personalized, omnichannel experiences is table stakes in an environment where customer service is the differentiator between businesses.
Here at Mindful, we live and breathe helping companies use customer-first tech to create fantastic customer experiences. From virtual queues and click-to-call widgets to seamless omnichannel transitions and a best-in-class real-time feedback platform, we’ve got the tech you need to impress your customers and keep them coming back for more.
Schedule a demo with our team to see for yourself.
This article was originally posted in January 2018 and has since been updated.