Since the first machines were invented, humans have looked to shift recurring tasks to them. While automation is booming due to the rapid development of technology, computers seem to have created as many problems as they’ve fixed. New technologies enable us to automate existing channels better but simultaneously create new channels!
Today’s consumers have the highest service expectations of ever before: service how they want it, when they want it and where they want it. As self-service continues to grow, contact center inquiries will become more difficult and less reproducible. New tools must be automated and implemented smartly where they are actually effective and solve problems.
Technology Challenges in Contact Centers
Most companies have moved into multichannel service, meaning they serve multiple channels though they remain unintegrated. Agents are forced to serve several channels such as social media, chat, and the website while at the same time using multiple applications to solve a single request. This negatively impacts consistency, productivity, customer experience and ultimately your customer satisfaction (CSAT) and NPS while at the same time making training times lengthier.
Technology in the contact center should aim to improve the interaction between agent and customer, not just automate something or deflect tickets. To repeat, technology should improve the interaction or experience - not just change metrics. With that in mind, how should contact centers proceed?
Automate - But Thoughtfully!
New software or automation for its own sake is both a waste of resources and drag on the organization. As we heard at this year’s ICMI recently, chatbots offer a tempting chance at automation but many companies have had negative experiences in the initial rollout. Either the chatbots performed poorly and ended up more frustrating than old IVR systems or they weren’t clearly identified as bots and quickly annoyed and angered customers.
How are Chatbots Most Effective?
Chatbots can easily handle routine support requests and reduce simple inquiries. However, they must be able to quickly transfer customers to an agent when necessary and not leave them unable to escape the chat like the IVR systems we all hate. Moreover, it should be immediately clear to the customer that they are interacting with a bot to manage expectations.
Chatbots are most effective for:
- Preventative interactions
- Customer support or concierge services
- Intake and onboarding
- Simple troubleshooting (e.g. using decision trees)
- Orders, bookings/reservations and other low to zero involvement sales
Technology in the contact center should aim to improve the interaction between agent and customer
Your Automation Checklist
Automation and AI must also be rolled out slowly. Customers can often frame complaints in ways confusing for machines such as “The product I just bought broke already, but the salesperson was really nice.” Mixing both positive and negative can initially trip up bots and in an example like this, you don’t want the bot’s first answer to be “That’s great.” When considering automating new technologies like chatbots, Alexa or even social media service, answer the following questions:
- What specific use cases does this technology excel at?
- What specific cases are unsuitable?
- Will the customer need to be transferred to an agent?
- If so, when? What triggers this? Should the customer decide or the software?
- Can we test this on a sample of customers first before full rollout?
- What is the value added for the customer?
- What is the value added for the contact center?
It is paramount that the above questions be answered concretely and in the form of a user story with the exact scenario. Otherwise, too many details are overlooked.
To paraphrase a general, no plan survives first contact with reality. This is true for technology as well and particularly so if the rollout isn’t planned in detail. When planning to automate and use new technology in your contact center, gather a small group of people from managers to front-line agents to concretely define the use case, different scenarios and value added for all sides.