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How artificial intelligence in the contact center reduces call volume

Next-Gen Technology

When it comes to a contact center’s key performance metrics, call reduction rates are often found near the top of the priority list. In fact, McKinsey & Company reports that 57 percent of customer care executives consider call reduction their top priority for the next five years. Why? Fewer customer contacts means improved efficiency, a better customer experience, and of course, reduced operating costs.

Reduction strategies have traditionally focused on training programs to help improve first call resolution rates, as well as analyzing contact center tickets to identify and address major pain points in the customer journey. These tried-and-true methods continue to have immense value in call centers, however, the advancements being made in artificial intelligence (AI) and digital automation are creating new capabilities that are providing unprecedented opportunities to further streamline customer service.

With research from Gartner suggesting that AI will be a top investment priority for 30 percent of CIOs by 2020, a new hybrid strategy is emerging that blends more traditional call reduction strategies with AI-powered approaches. The ensuing result of this collaboration will benefit both the contact center and the customer in ways that meaningfully impact call volume, brand sentiment and customer satisfaction.

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Embrace messaging

According to IBM, 70 percent of customers would prefer using messaging over voice for customer service when given the choice.

Messaging platforms, whether offered via a pop-up window on a brand’s website or through social media channels like Facebook Messenger and WeChat, are now perceived as more accessible and convenient. “The real-time messaging environment is like texting your friends,” says Joshua March, CEO and founder of Conversocial, a company working to bridge the gap between social media, mobile messaging and the needs of large enterprise contact centers. “The messaging is happening on someone’s phone, allowing users to switch between activities and open different apps.”

The convenience of messaging platforms alone is appealing—allowing consumers to get the information they need, when they need it— but when combined with AI, it also improves contact center efficiency. AI-driven systems, like chatbots, can automate a portion of the customer-brand interaction by answering common questions, freeing agents to focus on more complex inquiries. Conversocial currently leverages AI to automate between 15 and 20 percent of customer interactions with messaging technology, altogether eliminating the need to place a customer service call in some cases.

Leverage intelligent call routing

When looking to reduce the volume of customer service calls received by a contact center, it’s crucial that you get customers to the right agent on the first try. Failing to do so creates frustration for customers and puts unnecessary strain on your resources.

Most contact centers are already using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology for call routing, but according to a study on customer engagement in the banking industry, IVR has the lowest customer satisfaction rate among all major digital channels, including web, mobile, email, ATMs and non-IVR calls.

Introducing AI can help companies improve the IVR experience by making it more user-friendly. For example, if a customer calls multiple times to check on the status of an insurance claim, AI-based IVR technology can identify the call pattern, determine the reason the customer is most likely calling, and quickly escalate that query to the appropriate agent for a more efficient and satisfying experience.

Using AI-powered routing technology to assess a customer’s data in this way can significantly reduce average handle time and improve first call resolution, all the while creating a seamless and more consistent experience with your brand.

Zero in on digital self-service

Repeatedly answering common questions isn’t the best use of an agent’s time or skills. It can cut into their availability to resolve more complex and pressing queries, and even negatively impact agents’ job satisfaction and employee attrition rates.

AI can be used to help customers find answers to their questions on their own. “It’s a real balancing act to provide a standalone experience to customers that allows them to do things [autonomously], but also give them the assistance they need to complete their queries successfully,” says Vince Jeffs, director of strategy and product marketing for Pegasystems.“It’s like a continuum of different types of assistance, from self-service and AI-assisted to mainly human. As a brand, you want to think about those different levels and use them to optimize the customer experience.”

Jeffs notes that the majority of call volume “is pretty simple stuff,” including password resets, address changes and getting a status update on an order, claim or query. Pegasystems leverages AI to determine which customer queries lend themselves to automation. The company’s Self-Service Advisor — an AI-enabled “online concierge” — assesses the context of a customer’s inquiry by analyzing their previous interactions with the website such as pages they’ve clicked on or their purchasing activity. The tool is then able to automatically suggest relevant content, such as FAQs or themed articles to resolve the issue before the customer even has time to look up the customer service phone number.

Both traditional and AI-powered call reduction strategies have their limitations, but when used in concert and leveraged by skilled agents, they can become a powerful force to reduce call volume. At the end of the day, however, no amount of automation or digitization will ever fully replace the intuitive and empathetic nature of an engaged customer service agent. AI requires a significant amount of past data to learn from, making new or unique scenarios challenging to resolve. Human agents on the other hand can quickly assess and connect seemingly disparate threads to solve problems never seen before. Combining AI technology with the high-touch approach of a human customer service agent remains the key to providing a world-class brand experience.

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