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The ultimate guide to contact center automation

Posted April 10, 2024
Illustration of a person interacting with a robot; the robot has four arms and is holding screens with various icons, including settings cogs, stars, a question mark and a lightbulb — all meant to symbolize contact center automation

In the fast-paced world of customer service, where challenges lurk around every corner and demands are ever-growing, there emerges a formidable hero. One that wields the power to conquer repetitive tasks, vanquish long wait times and rescue overwhelmed agents from the clutches of monotony.

Our hero is contact center automation, the crusader of modern customer experience (CX) management. Just as superheroes save the day, contact center automation revolutionizes the way businesses engage with their customers.

Read on to explore contact center automation's advantages, and discover how it can transform your approach to customer service.

What is contact center automation?

Contact center automation integrates technology to handle repetitive tasks, processes and interactions within a contact center environment. From answering routine inquiries to routing calls and managing data, automation tools are designed to alleviate the burden on human agents, allowing them to focus on more complex and high-value tasks.

"Automation is really about streamlining day-to-day activities," said Nigel Devaraj, senior product manager for hyperautomation solutions at TELUS International, in the Questions for now podcast episode, What do people get wrong about automation? "We're talking about reducing swivel chair processes or eliminating swivel chair processes and simplifying the work or the activities involved in servicing our customer."

With integrated automation tools, agents no longer have to worry about switching between various tools and/or platforms; instead, they can focus more of their time and energy on delivering exceptional customer service experiences.

Nigel Devaraj, senior product manager for hyperautomation solutions at TELUS International, on the Questions for now episode: "What do people get wrong about automation?"

Benefits of contact center automation

According to Grandview Research, the global contact center software market size was valued at $33.38 billion in 2023, and it is expected to grow to a staggering $149.58 billion by 2030. Contact center tools offer a plethora of benefits to organizations striving to deliver exceptional customer service while optimizing operational efficiency, making their estimated growth over the next decade no surprise. In fact, according to Salesforce's Guide to the Modern Contact Center, "88% of service organizations that use automation reported benefits such as a reduction in errors, more time to focus on customers, and more time to take on new projects."

A few of the notable benefits of contact center automation include:

  • Increased efficiency: By integrating advanced search functionalities and centralized databases, automation tools provide agents instant access to a wealth of information at their fingertips. These automation tools help agents quickly retrieve relevant data, such as customer profiles, product details and troubleshooting guides. This enables agents to address customer needs with reduced effort, increased speed, and leads to a quicker resolution of issues and reduced wait times. In fact, according to Hubspot's Annual State of Artificial Intelligence report, a notable 78% of customer service professionals credit AI and automation with enhancing their efficiency in their roles.
  • Reduced errors: Automation reduces the reliance on manual data entry and processing, minimizing the risk of errors that can occur. Additionally, automation tools can instantaneously access and retrieve information from back-end systems, ensuring that agents have access to the most up-to-date and accurate data when assisting customers.
  • Scalability: As contact center volumes fluctuate, automation provides the flexibility to rapidly scale operations up or down to meet demand, without extensive manual intervention.
  • Lower costs: Automation helps with resource allocation and optimization, resulting in heightened productivity that translates to cost efficiencies. In fact, Gartner predicts that conversational AI within contact centers will yield substantial cost reductions, estimated at $80 billion by 2026.
  • Customer service consistency: Integrating automation into customer service processes, such as emailing customers via automated email triggers, aids in maintaining consistency in interactions. Additionally, automation platforms often include built-in quality assurance mechanisms to validate data inputs, flag discrepancies and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Higher employee engagement: Automation eliminates mundane and repetitive tasks, allowing agents to focus on more meaningful and challenging work. According to the aforementioned report by Hubspot, a notable 71% of customer service professionals credit AI and automation with enabling them to dedicate more time to the aspects of their role they enjoy the most.
  • Enhanced customer experiences: Call center automation impacts a number of key performance indicators, including average speed to answer, average handle time and first call resolution. The culmination of these benefits leads to a more desirable customer experience overall.

Contact center automation offers many benefits that significantly impact both organizations and their customers. By increasing efficiency, lowering costs and promoting higher employee engagement, automation revolutionizes the way customer service is delivered.

Contact center automation examples

While the use of AI and automation in the contact center isn't a new concept, recent trends indicate a significant surge in investment. According to a survey conducted by Execs In The Know, sponsored by TELUS International, investment in AI for CX has exploded in the past 12 months. A staggering 73% of all survey respondents reported actively investing in such technology — compared to just 48% in 2022 — underlining the growing importance of AI in optimizing contact center operations.

There are a number of different contact center automation use cases. Read on to discover some of the most popular automation tools implemented by CX leaders in their contact centers and uncover their unique 'superpowers' for delivering exceptional customer experiences.

Two photographs edited together; one features two people looking at a tablet, while the other features a number of people typing on keyboards

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Also known as virtual assistants, chatbots serve as the first point of contact for customers and are designed to interact in natural language, typically through text-based conversations. They leverage technologies such as natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to understand user inquiries, provide relevant information and execute tasks autonomously — around the clock. In addition to assisting customers directly, customer service agents can also utilize chatbots to quickly retrieve information needed to assist customers with their inquiries.

Chatbots in action

TELUS International's HR help desk was experiencing a large influx of repetitive inquiries from team members, including general requests for benefits and compensation information. Moreover, the help desk's unavailability during evenings, weekends and holidays considerably delayed responses to requests during these periods. The mission: Decrease the volume of routine tickets and enhance response times for agents.

Chatbots to the rescue

A conversational HR help desk bot was implemented to answer basic FAQ inquiries without the need for human agents. The chatbot, available 24/7 to employees and capable of responding to nearly 50% of all internal HR inquiries, led to an increase in customer satisfaction (CSAT) by 24%. Additionally, HR ticket creation plummeted by 27%, leading to a yearly time savings of over 6,900 hours. This translates to cost savings exceeding $135,000 annually.

Interactive voice response

IVR technology enables callers to interact with a computerized system via voice or keypad inputs. IVR systems use pre-recorded messages and menu options to guide callers through various actions, such as accessing information, making selections or connecting to specific departments or agents.

Moreover, incoming calls can be intelligently routed based on caller input or predefined criteria, such as language preference, account number or reason for calling, ensuring callers are directed to the appropriate department or agent. In addition to call routing, IVR systems offer self-service capabilities to callers, such as checking account balances, making payments and updating personal information.

IVR in action

A U.S.-based corporation that provides financial services, property information and business intelligence across consumer credit, real estate and capital markets, engaged TELUS International to assess its existing contact centers. The mission: To drive efficiencies, improve technology and increase client satisfaction.

Amongst other improvements, our CX process consulting team suggested re-designing the client's IVR system across various business units. Recommendations to improve call deflection capabilities and address the client's self-service aspirations were identified.

IVR saves the day

With TELUS International's guidance, an improved IVR system was created and implemented. The system seamlessly integrated with the client's existing infrastructure, offering intuitive menu options and personalized self-service functionalities. This enhancement, along with other CX improvements, resulted in call deflection rates soaring, freeing up agent bandwidth for more complex inquiries. Additionally, customers benefited from faster access to information, and the client realized a reduction of average handle time by 25%.

Robotic process automation

Robotic process automation, or RPA for short — a technology that automates repetitive and rule-based tasks by mimicking human actions within digital systems — plays a crucial role in streamlining operations and improving efficiency in the contact center.

RPA software, or "bots," can perform a wide range of back-office tasks, such as data entry, form filling, updating customer records, processing orders, report generation and system integration — across multiple applications and platforms.

RPA in action

A multinational frozen food company that operates a vast network of warehouses and distribution centers faced challenges in efficiently managing appointment information across its operations. Initially, employees were tasked with manually extracting crucial appointment details from emails originating from approximately 20 warehouse sites daily. This manual process for managing warehouse appointment notifications, changes and cancellations was not only time-consuming, but also prone to errors.

Recognizing the need for a streamlined solution, TELUS International was selected as the organization's automation partner. The mission: Implement an RPA bot capable of automating these tasks, thereby enhancing the appointment management process and minimizing the reliance on human intervention.

RPA — faster than a speeding bullet

With the implementation of RPA, managing appointments became quicker and more efficient, freeing up staff to concentrate on higher-value activities. The bot's ability to operate in a continuous loop ensured that appointment updates were swiftly executed, preventing delays and disruptions in warehouse operations. Moreover, automating data entry tasks eliminated human error in the workflow, enhancing the client's accuracy and reliability.

The optimization of processes resulted in a substantial $300,000 in annual savings for the client.

Knowledge bases

Knowledge bases are centralized repositories of information that contain a wide range of resources, including articles, guides, FAQs, troubleshooting tips and best practices. They serve as a valuable resource for customer service agents, providing easy access to relevant information in order to assist customers effectively. Moreover, knowledge bases enable customers to find answers to their inquiries independently, without the need to engage with a live agent.

Automation tools can be integrated with knowledge bases to quickly access relevant information during customer interactions. For example, chatbots can utilize knowledge bases to provide accurate answers to customer queries, while IVR systems can prompt callers with self-service options based on information stored in the knowledge base.

A knowledge base in action

A growing consumer robotics company was looking for a way to uphold exceptional customer experience standards amid a period of rapid scaling. Although the organization maintained an extensive and informative knowledge base, frontline agents needed help to efficiently locate relevant content and context while actively supporting customers. The mission: Facilitate seamless access to answers for customer inquiries within their CX team.

Our team of experts suggested the implementation of an agent-assist chatbot to empower their CX operation. Leveraging the wealth of information stored in the existing knowledge base, the bot effortlessly surfaced accurate information, along with helpful tips, scripts and reminders, to support frontline agents in delivering exceptional customer service.

Knowledge bases — the cerebral superhero

The agent-assist chatbot's ability to sift through the knowledge base for information significantly expedited workflows and boosted resolution rates for the client. With customer service information readily accessible, agents could swiftly address inquiries, leading to notable improvements in performance metrics. This implementation resulted in a 28% reduction in average handle time, a 37% increase in agent satisfaction and contributed to longer tenures for in-house agents.

These contact center automation use cases are only a few examples of how automation can optimize processes and enhance CX. Gaining the most from these tools will require following some best practices.

Contact center automation best practices

Implementing contact center automation requires careful planning and execution to ensure success.

Some best practices to consider include:

  • Align automation with business objectives: Clearly define your business objectives before implementing automation. Whether you're looking at improving customer satisfaction, reducing operational costs or increasing efficiency, ensure that your automation initiatives support these goals.
  • Develop a strategy: A comprehensive automation strategy that outlines your goals, target areas for automation and the technologies you'll use is essential. Consider factors such as customer needs, agent workflows and existing infrastructure to create a roadmap for implementation.
  • Scale gradually: Begin with pilot projects or small-scale implementations to test automation solutions and identify areas for improvement along a roadmap. Once proven successful, gradually scale up automation initiatives across different departments or processes.
  • Focus on customer experience: Keep the customer at the center of your automation efforts. Prioritize initiatives that enhance the customer experience, such as personalized interactions, self-service options and seamless omnichannel support.
  • Integrate systems and data: Ensure that automation systems are integrated seamlessly with existing contact center infrastructure, including CRM platforms, ticketing systems and knowledge bases. This integration facilitates data sharing and ensures a unified view of customer interactions across channels.
  • Ensure compliance and security: When implementing automation, prioritize compliance with relevant regulations and ensure data security and privacy measures are in place to protect customer information.
  • Monitor performance metrics: Regularly track and analyze key performance indicators (KPIs) related to automation, such as first-call resolution rates, average handle time and customer satisfaction scores. Use these metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of automation initiatives and identify areas for optimization.
  • Continuously improve: Automation is an ongoing journey, not a one-time implementation. Continuously gather feedback from customers and agents, monitor industry trends and technological advancements and iterate on your automation strategy to stay ahead of the curve.
  • Keep humans-in-the-loop: While we've highlighted contact center automation as the superhero of customer experience management, it's vital to acknowledge the true superheroes of the contact center: customer support agents. Automation should enhance, not replace, human agents — automation should serve as the ultimate super-sidekick. Provide agents with the necessary tools, training and support they need to effectively leverage automation technologies while maintaining a human touch in customer interactions. This fusion of human expertise with automation capabilities ensures that customers receive personalized and empathetic assistance.
  • Work with an experienced automation partner: By collaborating with a seasoned automation partner, you can leverage the expertise and insights of professionals who specialize in implementing automation solutions tailored to the unique needs of contact centers. An experienced partner can provide guidance on selecting the right technologies, designing effective automation strategies and optimizing processes for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. With their knowledge and support, your brand can navigate the complexities of automation implementation more smoothly and achieve better results in enhancing customer experience and operational performance.

Ready to supercharge your contact center operations with automation? Our team of automation experts are here to guide you every step of the way, from strategy development to implementation and beyond. Don't let inefficiencies hold your business back — contact us today to learn more about how we can help you unleash the full potential of contact center automation.

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