Contrary to what many might think, remote working is nothing new for the contact centre industry. Gone are the days of hundreds of agents sitting in the same room, working a 9-5 shift pattern with automated systems now providing much more flexibility.
In this contributed article, Jay Gupta, director of product marketing at Talkdesk, explores how AI virtual agents and other AI-powered tools can help maintain a collaborative relationship between agents and their supervisors, even with teams now split across multiple locations.
AI tools have proven vital in helping identify security issues and reducing the chance of human error during customer interactions, as well as ensuring agents feel well supported in their role – no matter where they choose to work.
A Shift to More Flexible Working
For a number of years there have been discussions about the introduction of flexible working and even the prospect of the four-day working week, with many firms now placing a greater emphasis on employee wellbeing.
The pandemic rapidly accelerated this shift, forcing the majority of businesses to make tough decisions to allow their employees to work from home – often proving more successful than many had anticipated.
As a result, a range of new remote working practices have been introduced, leading to new routines and demands from both employees and employers, including the adoption of AI.
One report shows that AI-powered tools are expected to increase rapidly in the coming years, with many unlikely to return to the pre-pandemic office shift pattern. Looking more specifically at contact centres, investment into AI technology is expected to grow from $800 million in 2019 to $2.8 billion by 2024.
Which Industries Were Best Prepared?
According to one report exploring which industries were the most prepared for the practical and cultural shifts driven by remote working, technology, unsurprisingly, came top, followed by the banking and finance sector.
Businesses in these sectors have been investing in technology to help drive collaboration for a number of years, requiring central systems that can safely and securely protect customer data.
The same applies for the CX industry, with agents now responsible for huge amounts of customer data and managing interactions across multiple touch-points.
Even when the ‘work from home’ message was in place, businesses needed to be able to offer great customer service and without a robust digital infrastructure to keep agents connected, this task became virtually impossible.
Creating a Virtual Floor
What we are now seeing across the CX industry is firms adapting their existing digital infrastructure and deploying artificial intelligence (AI) tools to create a virtual ‘floor’. These tools allow agents and management teams to effectively collaborate – as they would if they were physically working on-site, via a cloud-based system.
Certain day-to-day tasks can easily be replicated virtually, turning round to speak to a colleague, for example, can be replaced with instant messaging, while agent queries that would previously have required a more senior member of the team can be answered by AI or redirected.
Not only can AI tools help maintain the collaborative processes that were already in place, they can actually drive new initiatives, making the virtual floor even more effective than the conventional working environment. Digital tools also help encourage collaboration and strengthen teamwork.
Driving Better Customer Service
One of the main concerns for businesses considering flexible working patterns is that customer service will take a hit. How will management teams know that queries are being resolved to a high standard, or if agents are following company procedures?
AI can actually significantly improve CX and according to one study, this is now the most frequently cited factor driving AI implementation decisions (53 per cent). This puts it above cost reduction (cited by 48 per cent) and the ability to drive top-line revenue (cited by 39 per cent).
AI-driven customer journeys can deliver better and more effective engagement, guiding agents step-by-step through each interaction wherever they are working from. Whenever an agent gets stuck while working remotely or is unsure of the action required, the AI can make suggestions, just as a colleague with more knowledge in a certain area might.
Digitally engaged teams are better informed and are aligned with the purpose of the customer experience mission – whether working remotely or not. Being equipped with the proper tools and data sources, they are able to get issues identified and solved with more ease and efficiency.
Today CX professionals must build their system in the knowledge that at least part of their team will likely be working on a virtual floor – AI is playing a really important role to make this possible and even more effective than conventional contact centre floors.
Thanks to Jay Gupta, Director of Product Marketing at Talkdesk, for this contributed article.
To find out more about Talkdesk, visit their website.
Call Centre Helper is not responsible for the content of these guest blog posts. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Call Centre Helper.