23 October 2020 – Google Assistant, Siri, and Amazon Alexa are names that need no introduction as they play an integral role in our daily lives. These virtual assistants keep progressing and growing smarter, allowing for effortless communication between humans and technology via voice and speech. The human voice is the most natural interface for anyone to interact with; it is how we express emotions, resolve our problems, and how we work and live. Naturally, this behaviour has also dynamically affected how customers interact with their favorite brands.
Today the customer service is a US$470 billion industry and is ripe for change. Due to the pandemic, people are increasingly looking at customer service to solve complex issues through various platforms quickly. To address this new behaviour, conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) is high on business leaders’ agenda to deliver a more wholesome customer experience and build long-term affinity with customers.
The impact of new and disruptive technologies presents a huge opportunity for Malaysia’s customer experience workforce to capitalise. According to Contact Centre Association of Malaysia (CCAM), the country has an opportunity to upskill to higher-value roles, where complex customer interaction meets technology. The upskill can result in the enrichment of customer services and experiences. CCAM adds that the industry has evolved over the last 20 years, and companies have started to realise the importance of adopting advanced technologies. These advancements could lead to better targeting of customers through more efficient engagement.
Despite having understood the importance of customer experience, the challenge businesses are facing today is finding the right tool or channels to achieve this in real-time and at scale. Conversational Service Automation (CSA), an AI-powered platform, can take this to a whole new level. It is the only platform that addresses the entire conversational experience for both customers and agents. Using conversational AI, robotic process automation (RPA), and workflow automation to blend front-office and back-office operations, CSA is the key to unlock two-way happiness for all those involved.
Talking up speech technology for business
Voice capabilities and conversational AI are not limited to platforms like Alexa or Google; it has evolved into different areas. Enterprises across industry verticals – from banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI), telecommunications, education technology (EdTech) to healthcare – are investing in conversational AI and adjacent technologies today. Contact centers in these industries act as one of the touchpoints where consumers and businesses converge.
For example, after-call work in a contact center refers to summaries written, calls categorized, and actions taken or scheduled. Other next steps include ensuring that the conversation history is accurately documented for future interactions with a company. During a global pandemic, one company that has adopted a CSA platform reportedly revealed to have improved productivity of more than 1,000 of their agents. Besides, the company achieved up to 80 percent reduction in after-call work and a 20 percent reduction in average handle time.
Having AI to streamline and automate such routine and essential tasks could not have been more beneficial. CSA helps to ensure the quality and consistency of wrap-up efforts and reduces the average handle time. Automating the call disposition improves accuracy and drives better quality call categories in the customer relationship management (CRM) system – delivering measurable and sustainable business value.
Speaking up during the pandemic
COVID-19 is said to be a catalyst for new experiences, and in the context of voice and CSA, this is no exception. A global survey that Uniphore commissioned shows that contact centers played a vital role during the health crisis, but many could not handle the influx of calls. As a result, businesses turn to AI and other technologies to give their valuable front-line call center agents a hand. In addition to the routine traffic, the survey also found that over 42 percent of the respondents had recently reached out to a contact center to resolve COVID-related issues around travel, employment, insurance, medical or financial matters.
This surge in contact center calls shows that customers prefer to speak to another human being, rather than a bot or a virtual assistant, especially during crisis times. This is because, unlike machines, humans are capable of empathizing and understanding distress. However, the reality is that more than 43 percent of respondents could not speak with a representative after calling a helpline, according to the survey. Forty percent of respondents also noted they did not even receive helpful information when finally contacting a healthcare call center.
The above highlights a clear technological gap. Business leaders know that conversations are the ultimate drivers of customer satisfaction and loyalty, in good times and in times of crisis. As customers, businesses, and societies navigate the current realities and unknowns, their conversations with a company will have a longer-term effect on how customers feel about a brand and how long they stay with that brand. What is needed is a better understanding of the types of experiences people have with contact centers and how to improve satisfaction – and ultimately – achieve happiness.
Happiness is a two-way street
We have seen how CSA can benefit both contact center agents and customers to move companies close to improving customer experience. Both the technology required and the people skills needed in agents seem to be equally important. That brings us to whether businesses should invest more in AI and automation, or should they rely on people to give that human touch.
According to Jeannie Walters, CEO & Chief Customer Experience Investigator at Experience Investigators, these two go hand-in-hand. During her conversation on Uniphore’s Conversations That Matter, a podcast for contact center professionals, she said, “In order to build a tool to help customers, it is important for businesses to ensure a team that is truly representative of this customer base. If a business fails to do this, they will not see things from the right perspective and the tools they use will not help anyone achieve satisfaction or happiness”.
In retrospect, for companies to stay ahead while keeping customers and agents happy, they must first invest in solutions that can deliver the best and most efficient customer experience. Thus, the secret to happiness lies in showing empathy and understanding and leveraging technology to better communicate the way we always have – with our voice.
by Ravi Saraogi, Co-Founder and President of Asia Pacific, Uniphore