Jonathan Rosenberg at Five9 looks at AI missteps and explains five ways contact centres fall in the race to transform.
In the last five years, AI has moved from a contact centre buzzword to a foundation of customer experience for leaders in the field. By harnessing AI, CX (Customer Experience) leaders have realised benefits across the customer and agent experience while increasing insight and reducing labour costs.
The adoption of AI represents a new approach to CX that blends self-service IVAs (intelligent virtual agents) with agent-assist tools.
Machine learning, Natural Language Processing and Conversational AI is delivering real-time information, recommendations, and guidance to human agents during complex calls, while intelligent call routing is reducing reliance on hold queues, enabling faster, more efficient service.
However, in the race to transform, too many CX professionals have neglected some foundational aspects of the AI strategy. For AI to deliver its promise, it needs to be practical and deliver actual business outcomes that correlate to improved CX.
As Christina McAllister, Senior Analyst at Forrester, recently wrote, “AI is an incredible tool that can deliver enormous value in the contact centre, but it needs to be leveraged intentionally.”
Here we break down the five common mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Approaching AI as Just Another Tool
When incorporating AI into the contact centre, many organizations see it as another stand-alone tool that can be bolted onto an existing strategy.
Make no mistake, AI can fundamentally transform how your contact centre works – but only if you take a big-picture approach to how it fits into the customer journey and agent experience.
For example, in practical terms, adding conversational IVAs to your contact centre means adding a new ‘digital workforce’ that can collaborate with your agents and deliver service alongside them.
This goes beyond simply deploying new software. AI transforms how work is done and creates the opportunity to re-think the purpose and role of the contact centre.
As another example, if AI handles the bulk of transactional calls, can your live agents focus on proactive, outbound service? Do they become sales agents as well as service agents?
There can be a huge ripple effect of offloading swaths of work to AI that can free your employees to become an entirely new resource.
2. Lack of Focus on Outcomes and Measurement
Don’t just get swept up in the excitement of futuristic technologies. Make sure you adopt AI with a clear vision of what you want to achieve and how it is going to be measured.
There are numerous ways AI can deliver impact, but you must ensure you’re focusing on the right metrics for your business.
Whether that is accurately routing calls, improving call handle time, first-call resolution, call abandonment or completely automating certain tasks, or a mixture of all – make sure your AI vendor can provide proof points and customer references to back up any ROI claims.
At the same time, remember that AI itself does not create better CX. Ensure that you understand exactly how the customer will experience the AI and how you are going to measure its impact on their journey. Work with a vendor that can help you understand the impact at every stage.
3. Not Appreciating AI as a Journey, Not a Destination
While AI is helping contact centres achieve amazing things, it isn’t magic and mistakes can happen. AI relies on constant learning and uses models to train and improve outcomes. When deploying AI, consider how the technology handles mistakes.
How is it trained, and who is responsible for training it? Can it work in real-time, and does it provide agents oversight to ensure accuracy?
For example, if AI is creating automatic call summaries, human agents should be able to quickly review a summary for accuracy before it’s placed in the CRM. This step ensures accurate information and helps the AI learn and continually improve.
4. Mishandling Change Management
AI is transformational in all senses, bringing about change for agents and customers alike. There has been a lot of speculation and fearmongering over the impact of AI on employees.
It is important to counter this by communicating that AI is not designed to replace human agents, but to collaborate with them and free them to engage in higher value customer interactions.
Walk people through the changes AI creates and bring them in on the process, being clear about why it is being adopted and what it cannot replace.
AI provides many benefits, but it can never replace the empathy and kindness that your people have to offer your customers.
Likewise, include your customers in change management. Let them know you’re creating new ways of engaging with them and give them the opportunity to provide feedback.
When a call is transferred from IVA or a bot to an agent, ask the customer if the AI was helpful. Acknowledge that AI isn’t perfect and let customers know that you are working to continually improve it.
5. Going Too Easy on Vendors
Nearly all vendors in this space will tout AI as part and parcel of their cloud contact centre solutions, but AI maturity levels vary enormously. Not all AI is built the same nor offers the same flexibility needed to scale and grow.
For example, if you want to continuously take advantage of the latest speech technologies without being locked into one AI supplier, ask which conversational AI technologies your vendor offers. Is there flexibility to switch between the technologies – Google Dialogflow, IBM Watson, Amazon Lex, etc.?
Also, look into how the platform integrates with back-end systems. How easy is it for non-technical users to make simple changes to the applications and what is the agent user experience like?
Enjoy the Benefits of the Experience
When the agent and employee experience drive your AI strategy, and you take a thoughtful approach to implementation, AI enables automation, responsiveness and agility, and allows your live agents to punch above their weight.
Alongside human intelligence and empathy, AI can help brands to excel at customer experience. While it takes diligence to make sure it’s done right, the fruits of success are sweet.
To stand the best chance of harnessing AI benefits, make sure you choose the partner that will help you establish firm roots, and whose technology will grow alongside you.
To find out more about Five9, 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.