Call centre automation trends on the rise
The Covid-19 pandemic has turned the contact centre support industry on its head. So now that the pandemic is – hopefully – easing, what do the changes mean for the future of the call centre?
The biggest trend is increasing automation. This is nothing new: the contact centre industry has been adopting emerging technologies for years. But the pandemic and lockdown have forced an acceleration.
So what exactly is contact centre automation software? What are the main call centre automation trends? And how can Connect Assist’s call centre services help you introduce them successfully to your business?
Covid and contact centres
The Covid-19 pandemic saw a rise in demand for many helplines run by charities, businesses or local authorities as people tried to adapt to the unprecedented situation. Some questions were highly involved: people were in despair about job losses, or struggling to cope with isolation. Others were simple queries, repeated by different callers; for example, about changes to waste collections.
Clearly, the first type of question requires empathy and problem-solving ability – the human touch. But the second is routine, and directing people to the relevant information is a job that could be done by intelligent machines.
Getting it right is key to an enhanced customer experience (CX).
Contact centre automation
According to KPMG, before Covid-19 over 40% of companies were actively investigating automation, self-service, machine learning and AI. Between February and May 2020, that number increased to over 55%.
There are numerous benefits to services and callers alike. As senior HR leader Joanne Regan-Iles says:
“Digital transformation tools, once seen as a nice-to-have investment, are now essential. Customer-facing organisations promptly woke up to the mission-critical benefits of digital tools when they had to deploy CX solutions quickly.
“Automation, AI-enabled learning, messaging, and cloud-based systems are some of the digitally driven CX enhancements that are becoming prevalent. From email automation to AI assistance on calls, companies have already seen costs decrease while contact resolution, employee productivity, and customer satisfaction increase. Dependence on human labour is being rebalanced with a mix of people and technology.”
Contact centre support through IVR
A key technology is Interactive Voice Response (IVR). This routes phone calls either to an automated response, or to a human adviser. It’s got a bad reputation – but could it be improved?
Artificial Intelligence-enhanced IVR for call centres uses natural language processing to understand human speech better. Integration with back end systems is also improved, so callers can be easily identified and linked to databases that contain their information.
That means less frustrated yelling for callers, faster access to the information they need, and fewer straightforward calls routed to human advisors.
These days, phone-based IVR is somewhat overshadowed by web-based versions, including chatbots and voice assistants like Alexa and Google Home. At Connect Assist, we’ve designed several such systems. But many callers do not use the internet, so there is still a need for improved phone technology. And in fact, all these technologies can be integrated into an omnichannel service, connecting customers to the same back end systems by whichever method they choose.
KPMG suggests that “maturing VoiceBot capability can bridge the gap between Self-Service and Contact Centre.”
IVR and voice assistants can also be combined with text-to-speech software – an assistive technology that reads digital text aloud. This is particularly useful for visually impaired people, enabling them to self-serve for many routine queries. Again, AI is rapidly improving such technology, so that the robotic voices of yore are being replaced by natural-sounding speech.
However, it cannot be stressed enough that machines are not people. No amount of AI can replace the empathic approach that so many callers require – particularly during crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
And as the ability to self-serve increases, the types of questions that advisors will need to answer will become more complex. Advisors will therefore need to have more expertise in specific subjects such as IT or legal matters; or will need highly developed people skills, such as how to support callers in distress.
At Connect Assist, we can help you design and operate omni-channel helplines that maximise the latest technology while always retaining that human touch. Contact us today to dicuss how our call centre services or live chat services can meet your needs.