Contact centers have experienced overwhelming strain since the onset of the pandemic and for many organizations this chaotic trajectory has continued.
In the travel industry, for example, airlines are currently facing record-breaking call volumes and their service agents are struggling to deal with a surge of inquiries. Delta reports call wait times of two to three hours and other major U.S. airlines have call wait times as long as 8 hours and 30 minutes.
Extending superior customer experiences in these types of circumstances is challenging, if not impossible, and customer service agents are equally affected. The average customer service agent remains in their job for approximately one year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The time has come for organizations to drastically reimagine their contact centers through the power of automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and the cloud.
Ronald van Loon is a Five9 partner and is providing his substantial experience as an industry analyst to explore the impact of AI and cloud on contact centers and the customer experience (CX).
Organizations across every industry are experiencing similar frustrations in responding to changing customer behaviors as digital-experiences become ubiquitous and customer service becomes even more meaningful under the weight of the ongoing pandemic.
So how can organizations leverage AI and the cloud to supercharge their contact centers while maintaining the fundamental “human spirit” when it comes to delivering a fantastic CX?
Despite Best Intentions, Customer Service Can Fall Short
Maintaining a consistently seamless, personalized, end-to-end CX across all channels is the new standard for modern contact centers. But delivering on this standard can be difficult and organizations across industries are up against similar challenges, many of which are associated with the expense of operating costs, lack of accessibility and inefficient agent workflows.
- Human agents are working remotely from a variety of locations and are not equipped with the right tools and technology to work effectively.
- Interruption of offshore operations that can prompt excessive wait times and busy signals.
- Persistent concerns over security and privacy as remote work and hybrid work trends continue.
- Transitioning customers throughout channels and experiences, or guiding customers to the best channel to respond to their needs.
- Traditional interactive voice response (IVR) systems can be difficult to navigate and don’t always address customer issues or needs, resulting in a sub-par experience.
- Ability to offer customers a cohesive, comparable experience and uncomplicated access to support or information from anywhere.
- Ensuring agent availability and brief response times even during peak times and unanticipated occurrences, like massive communication or natural disasters.
- Stabilizing workloads for human agents across both non-voice and voice channels to boost agent efficiency.
These challenges can prevent organizations from meeting rapidly changing customer expectations, such as accessing self-service options whenever they want, quickly changing or canceling orders right after they’ve been placed, finding the right information, getting personalized resolution for a problem, or communicating with a brand in real-time.
The Great AI and Cloud Adoption
Organizations are seriously rethinking their strategies, service delivery models and technologies to expand their contact center capacities and better support both their agents and their customers. After all, contact centers are essentially the spearhead of many CXs and the initial line of contact for a diverse assortment of customer issues and concerns.
Contact center leaders are looking to utilize AI and cloud to increase agility and minimize operating expenses via seamless integration, build a cohesive omni-channel CX, sustain robust accessibility levels, and enhance and simplify their agent’s workflows.
According to Grandview Research, the contact center software market size is expected to reach $90.6 billion by 2028. Social media’s exponential growth and use by customers globally is expected to drive the market, as is the need to cater to constantly changing customer requirements.
AI-driven cloud computing for contact centers provides a common platform to gather customer data for analysis. This setup can effectively use demographic, behavioral, and location-based customer information to suitably match the right agent to the customer with proximate accuracy. Furthermore, this assists businesses in maximizing customer satisfaction while simultaneously conveying various improvements in cross-sell and upsell rates. For example, AI and automation in the form of intelligent virtual agents can augment human contact centers agents with a digital workforce. Human agents don’t have to be bogged down by repetitive activities, the organization can minimize support costs, and customers have access to intuitive self-service options. Also, sensitive customer data can be collected without disclosing the information to the human agents, which ensures that privacy violations can be avoided.
Many organizations across the globe are adopting intelligent cloud-based contact center software solutions that boost operational efficiency, improve customer service, offer enhanced reporting features for management, and meet emerging demands for reinforced multichannel experiences.
Evolving into an Experience-Powered Contact Center
A 2021 Deloitte survey revealed that contact centers have the potential to evolve into experience hubs and the CX will be the most critical strategic focus for service leaders over the next two years. The survey also indicated that only 32% of organizations ran contact center technologies in the cloud at the end of 2020, but 75% now plan on making the transition within the two year timeframe. Additionally, 79% of contact center leaders plan to invest in more AI capabilities within the following two years.
Companies want to maximize the potential of their contact centers to optimize the CX, and cloud-hosted contact center systems offer the path forward. AI-driven cloud contact center solutions, such as The Intelligent Cloud Contact Center from Five9, apply a combination of automation, AI and cloud to help contact centers improve the CX
Enhance agent performance
Organizations can alleviate the pressures of managing all of the complex tasks related to the daily operations of a modern contact center, which usually falls on managers and supervisors. Intelligent capabilities that enable staffing optimization, quality and performance management, CRM integration, and workforce analytics can keep agents more engaged and empowered so they can better serve customers and facilitate a great CX.
Streamline workflows, services and decisioning
Automation and analytics can provide the means to easily connect other business systems, obtain comprehensive performance views, aggregate data and automate cross-platform workflows. This eradicates time-consuming manual processes and technology interactions that hinder agents from truly zeroing in and being empathetic to customers and their needs. Also real-time reporting capabilities can help contact centers make reliable decisions based on quality data to support strategic objectives, or respond in real-time to fluctuating conditions.
Anticipate and adjust to customer needs
The cloud provides scalability, business agility, and ease-of-maintenance. It also allows contact centers to support a distributed or remote workforce so their agents are able to work from home to enable continuous operations in any circumstance by providing them with the tools to stay connected, informed and able to focus on the interaction at hand.
The Beating Heart of the CX
As the world continues to favor digital interactions and customer behaviors evolve, organizations need to respond to shifting customer needs and expectations, accelerate their customer service strategies and transform their contact centers into the “beating heart” of customer-centric experiences. But it will take AI and the cloud to get there.
By Ronald van Loon
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