opinion


Five key questions to help define contact centre AI strategy

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru, explores best practice in the use of artificial intelligence in the contact centre environment.

Contact centre technology has been transformed by an accelerating focus on innovation, with (artificial intelligence) AI now offering a route to the most far-reaching period of improvement the industry has ever seen. From the delivery of predictive routing and chatbots to robotic agent assistance, intelligent automation is helping to deliver more effective, personalised services at scale than has ever been possible before.

With many organisations still only in the foothills of their AI journey, there remains huge potential to use technology to drive better outcomes for consumers who are increasingly focused on quality of service. With so many tech options on offer, however, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Part of the problem is that implementing AI in isolation, rather than as part of a carefully considered plan, can be perilous. In defining an effective long-term strategy, therefore, organisations should address five key considerations to bridge the gap between the potential of AI and the needs of customers. These include:

Focus on customer demographics

In just about every contact centre use case, customers are focused on a fundamental part of the engagement experience: convenience. Applying AI-driven technologies and processes has the potential to deliver a more effective experience that minimises frustration. It’s vital, however, to ensure that intelligent automation is compatible with what customers actually want and need. The question is: how?

The service development process should always start with an assessment of customer demographics. For instance, which age groups are using the contact centre services? Which channels does each demographic prefer? When are customers using contact centre processes the most? Are some customers more important than others? Are some more vulnerable?

Only by building a detailed understanding of the issues most clearly impacting customer priorities does it become possible to pin-point the places where AI can improve their experience.

Assess how AI is being used today

Make no mistake, AI is fast becoming a major feature of the customer experience, which in turn drives the contact centre investment strategy. According to data from Ventana Research, for example, three-quarters of organisations will have introduced more than one AI or machine learning application into their contact centre service processes by next year. But in building a strategy for the long term, it’s important to review how AI is being used today.

Specifically, what is AI’s existing role and impact on customers, your contact centre team and in a wider sense, your business objectives? The point is, if existing AI technologies aren’t delivering the desired outcomes, it’s probably time for a reassessment. By focusing on where and how your existing services and processes can be improved, instead of ripped and replaced, contact centre operators can avoid throwing away existing investments, and therefore help keep expenditure within budget.

Focus on employee experience

As well as improving customer journeys with AI-enhanced processes and experiences, the same technology is also ideally suited to improving the workforce experience. This shouldn’t be overlooked as an engaged, productive workforce with manageable workloads will always deliver better contact centre efficiency – and a better customer experience.

In practical terms, how might AI reduce the burden on human agents? Are there specific interactions that are essentially algorithmic and therefore best suited for AI treatment? And ultimately, will the application of AI enable your agents to use their skills and resolve customer queries more effectively and even enjoyably? Striking a balance between human and AI resources is key to delivering a convenient service that retains that vital human touch and drives down disruptive and expensive workforce churn.

Choosing a solution

With a wide range of AI solutions now available to contact centre operators, choosing a solution that will integrate seamlessly with existing technologies and processes can be challenging. However, cloud-centric contact centre technology vendors offer a range of options that can bridge the gap between the functionality you have and the AI capabilities you need. For instance, providers with strong integration abilities, or who incorporate leading-edge Robotic Process Automation technologies within their solutions, will help prevent data silos in your contact centre experience, which in turn will improve customer satisfaction, retention and revenue.

Looking Long Term

In almost every situation, the objectives of each contact centre operator and the demands of their customers will evolve over time. That’s why it’s important to plan for the long term, so that investment in AI technologies provides a solid foundation for customer service to keep improving in the future.

As the contact centre of the past evolves into the engagement hub of the future, AI will underpin how organisations personalise every customer interaction. It will also become increasingly key to enabling organisations not just to anticipate a customer’s needs – but also to identify if they are becoming dissatisfied and which actions to take proactively in order to win back their loyalty.

By following a process based on a thorough evaluation of business and customer needs, organisations will put themselves in the strongest position to blend the benefits of increasingly powerful AI with human experience and know-how.

 

Martin is the Co-Founder and Deputy CEO of Content Guru, a leading global cloud communications and customer experience technology provider. Martin’s responsibilities include product innovation, strategic market development and the business’s fast-growing healthcare and public sector practice. A pioneer in cloud communications and real-time billing, Martin has been active in growing his business group around the world, since setting up its first company in the UK at the age of 22. An elected council member of the Confederation of British Industry, Martin is a regular guest lecturer on strategy and entrepreneurship at the business school of King’s College London, his alma mater.

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