Just because you can automate something in the contact center doesn’t mean you should. To know which tasks to turn over to a machine is a challenge, as one must balance core service goals with digital worker capabilities and provide exceptional customer experience.
As the nature of work changes, the key is to evolve human labor alongside digital labor to improve productivity and experience quality. We call this “Thoughtful automation.”
Automation in the contact center serves several purposes beyond just cost containment. For example, the most commonly discussed application is to automate simple, repetitive tasks. This shifts the value of the human service labor upward to be available for more complex or emotionally charged interactions. But there’s so much more possibility. Contact center automation can be used behind the scenes to assist associates, helping them make better, quicker decisions, as well as scale up digital service knowledge capture, codification, and application, to enhance customer service quality over the long term.
By thinking of how contact centers operate, numerous opportunities for thoughtful automation emerge. Customers use many engagement channels—voice, web, mobile, chat, social, and in-person—to connect with a company’s service organization. They are looking for resolution of issues, and provide data to the company in the form of speech, text, video, or social information. Associates interact with customers in these channels, using internal systems of record to get information to resolve issues, such as CRM, ERP, knowledgebase, billing, etc. The human associate must work manually within the systems of record to find what they need, then communicate back to customers through the systems of engagement.
This creates a perfect environment for automation and AI tools to bridge the manual, human-intensive gap with AI-enhanced systems of intelligence. It is a closed loop system in which humans help AI to help humans. Three examples of thoughtful automation and AI in the contact center include:
- Customer assist: Automatically connects customers to the systems of record via chatbots and voice assistants in whatever engagement channel customers use. It removes communication channel barriers, speeds up resolution, and eliminates the manual associate responsibility to resolve issues. It uses automated intelligence so customers can act autonomously, self-serve, and interact directly with the internal systems without human intervention.
- In the competitive contact center space, employees are a company’s differentiator. They are brand ambassadors and often have the “secret sauce” of what makes a customer interaction successful. It could be a certain inflection, phrasing, or cadence, or knowing when to push and when to pull back. These are all insights that human associates can help teach the AI systems to be more thoughtful.
- Associate assist: Use automation and AI behind the scenes to help associates. Connect them with the information in the systems of record more quickly and effectively. They can interpret information and data accessed in real time and to scale to help customers resolve issues. The intelligence can serve associates the right information at the right time so they can more easily assist customers through the systems of engagement.
- Phase 4: Customer experience improvements are integrated, documented, and systematized. Employees are as focused on complying with the CX initiatives as on driving profit. This “rubber meets the road” phase is no easy task and is rife with varying complexities, obstacles, and success criteria. The key to Phase 4 is to iterate, adjust, and maximize the “right” investments made, while moving away from those investments that are not yielding return on investment.
This thoughtful automation approach in the contact center marries human intuition, creativity, and empathy with a computer’s brute-force ability to remember and calculate a staggering number of options and outcomes.
Benefits of thoughtful automation
Adding an AI-enhanced system of intelligence to the contact center provides a number of benefits. It redefines the nature of service value creation at speed and scale. Automation can be turned on when it’s needed, and turned off when it’s not. Surge events or unexpected issues can be more easily managed with a layer of automation and AI available.
AI also reshapes the transformation of customer experiences and establishes new service models. The stress on employees is reduced, and they can focus their attention on more important or complex issues to serve the customer. With the infrastructure in place, new channels can be added and new ways to serve customers can be considered. The knowledgebase is continuously updated, keeping employees up to date on how best to resolve issues.
And perhaps most importantly, automation changes what success looks like in the contact center. It moves the focus from handle time, calls per hours, other operational KPIs to outcome-based metrics like customer satisfaction, first contact resolution, and NPS. When bots handle the operations, there is no need to measure success on how “hard” the bot worked or how many interactions it facilitated. Instead, the focus can be put on how well the customer was served and if they came away from the interaction with a resolution.
So how can you put thoughtful automation to work? Read more best practices and tactics in the TTEC white paper, “Thoughtful Automation Transforms Customer Care.”