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Contact centers of the future
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Contact centers of the future

The next wave of AI: agent performance

For years, people wrote off the contact center as a cost center. That's crazy. Contact centers are wells of information and insights. There's so much data in customer service calls, outbound sales calls, group meetings and one-to-ones. In fairness, it's technology, as much as perception, that's to blame.

Legacy contact-center tech is designed to chase operational efficiency. Most legacy systems ask you to punch in numbers to select a department or say your problem out loud. That's simple automation and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) tech in action. The goal is to get you to an agent as quickly as possible, which it does. But it doesn't do much more than that. Customer interactions — probably the most valuable asset a business has — just kind of sit there.

Sure, a manager might listen in to one or two calls a day, but that's a fraction of the total call volume. Unless they get lucky and stumble on a call going off the rails or an agent not following standard operating procedures, the traditional quality assurance process isn't going to catch much. Challenges and problems slip by unseen. Potential opportunities go undiscovered.

Most customer service and customer experience leaders agree; there is a ton of value in customer interactions. But again, legacy tech gets in their way. Old systems lack the internal functionality to tap into calls and conversations and the APIs to stream them to smarter, external systems.

But ... there is change on the horizon.

Artificial intelligence-powered contact centers aren't chasing marginal operational gains. They're shifting the focus from machine-only automation like IVR to harnessing AI's power of real-time data collection and analysis. Tomorrow's agents will operate with greater efficiency while providing hyper-personalized experiences for their customers.

Introducing AI-powered customer service

Imagine someone calling their bank. Only this time, let's say their bank has an AI-powered contact center. As the customer is speaking, an Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) service transcribes everything. Once it's in a rich text format, a Natural Language Processing (NLP) system kicks in and works out what's going on.

At this point, we can do things you could only dream of with a legacy system.

Real time assist cards

The speech recognition system doesn't just pick up the customer interactions. It's listening to the agent, too. You can check whether or not the agent is following set processes: Are they greeting people by their name? Are they running security checks? If the customer is looking to buy a house, is the agent talking about finance options? It's like having an always-on manager, gently reminding, guiding and helping every step of the way.

That's huge for the customer. It raises the bar for customer experience. It ensures every interaction they have with the bank is consistent, supportive and helpful.

Power of prediction

The reality is that not every customer will be happy. People will make mistakes. Services will malfunction. Circumstances out of your control will drive negative outcomes. What's important is how businesses respond. Usually, companies sit back. They wait for customers to raise their hand and say, "I'm unhappy and want to leave." By that point, it's already too late.

At Dialpad, we're working to fix this broken system with predictive customer satisfaction surveys. We can use tone, sentiment, questions asked and other factors to identify a customer's satisfaction at the end of a call, without the caller having to take the time to submit a customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey.

From there, we can stitch together multiple calls from the same person to understand their overall experience: Are they getting happier or more frustrated? What's the root cause of their discontent? Is this a new problem or a long-running issue?

We are giving businesses the power to predict when customers are at a high risk of churn and send them to customer service before there's a problem. Instead of waiting, you're reaching out, fixing problems and putting smiles on faces.

Strategic insights

With legacy systems, human managers listen to a fraction of all interactions. With AI-powered contact centers, you hear everything. You can roll every conversation into one data set and mine it for insights: What are the top product issues you're facing? What features are customers asking for? Are people relating to a particular marketing campaign?

It's insight and analytics on a strategic level. It helps you better understand your business and drive efficiency across the entire organization.

We're just getting started

As an industry, we've only recently begun to leverage all the data that's typically lost in voice calls. Although we've made great strides — for example, ASR and NLP made manual note-taking a thing of the past — the real impact is still to come.

Smarter AI-powered self-service knowledge bases will help customers solve their own problems. Intelligent bots will shoulder much of the work that remains. With the easy questions — What are your open hours? Where is my package? — taken care of, agents will tackle the thorniest of issues. But they won't be on their own.

Agents will call on AI-powered workflows to support their work. These workflows will source information and answers, coordinate with the agent's colleagues and eliminate friction, leaving agents free to focus on the customer, their queries and the solution.