Poor employee experience is likely the root of more bad customer experiences than are likely measured in most organizations.  After decades in the industry, we have seen this countless times.  And that is why we have devoted this space to a series of articles about #EmployeeExperience – taking a deep dive into topics like tools, training, work environment, culture, and more.  This is the second in our series.  Last month, we talked about how Customers Stay When Employees Come First.  This month, we are focused on how the right tools can transform the #EX – tools like AI, the composable desktop, self-service and PRB.

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”
-Doug Conant, past CEO of Campbell Soup Company

Call Centers on Technology Fast Track

The pandemic quickly changed consumer behavior – as consumers rapidly moved from physical interactions to digital ones.  With online buying at an all-time high combined with significant supply chain and logistical challenges, many call centers struggled to keep up with record-high contact volumes.  The result: customers had to deal with oftentimes excruciating hold times, re-routing from one agent to another, verbally repeating their issues over and over, and a lack of issue resolution.

These unprecedented changes have fast-tracked the need for enhanced tools in the customer service space – not only to address customer service issues – but to also provide valued agents with the tools they need to do their jobs well – and to do so with a high level of satisfaction.

New Expectations

Customer expectations have quickly evolved much like their shopping behaviors.  A study from SOTI showed U.S. consumers prefer speed and convenience with limited human interaction when shopping.  Of those polled, 73% were in favor of technologies that allowed them to serve themselves versus interacting with staff.  Further, a study by SuperOffice showed that 88% of customers expect a response to their issues within 60 minutes, while 30% expect a response within 15.  Yet, 71% of consumers feel frustrated when a shopping experience is impersonal.  It’s quite clear, consumers want quicker, better, seamless, and hyper-personalized interactions with brands.

It’s not just customer expectations that have evolved.  As we referenced in our last blog post, employee’s expectations have also shifted.  Employees crave a work experience that contributes to their sense of fulfillment.  They want to feel nurtured and inspired.  With 65% of the population currently looking for a new job (Forbes), it’s imperative brands focus on ways to help customer service representatives meet the needs of their customers while also providing these individuals with a rewarding work experience.

Self-Service Options Provide a Win-Win

Based on the studies referenced above, it’s clear customers want the ability to serve themselves first.  By incorporating self-service options into an inbound contact center, live-agent contact volume is greatly reduced, and customers are empowered to solve their issues without ever speaking to a live agent.  In return, agents can focus on higher-level, more meaningful tasks and customer interactions.

With self-service options, customers can use an automated menu or IVR (interactive voice response) system to find answers to their issues.  Self-service options can also be used to perform a variety of tasks.  With a properly scripted menu, customers can not only solve common service issues, but they can also access a brand’s return policy, obtain product information and pricing, pay a bill, start a return, drill-down on account specific information, and so much more.  Moreover, with AI-enabled natural language IVR, customers experience a more intuitive self-service outcome that can reference the organization’s existing FAQs and other documented solutions.

The Composable Desktop

While customer service expectations have drastically evolved, customer service agents are plagued with technology that often hinders their focus on the customer.  The average agent has eight or more applications to navigate between to complete one transaction, according to a study by Velociti Partners.  This technological complexity results in longer call times, agent and caller frustration, increased training costs, reduced first-contact resolution, and decreased agent job satisfaction.

It’s ironic, in their personal lives, most customer service agents have access to the latest and greatest tools and technology – yet, at work they must contend with outdated technology, sluggish apps, and disconnected legacy systems.

The composable desktop allows brands to build a customer and agent experience best suited for that brand’s utilization without relying on a single platform.  If an organization wants to explore options like chatbots, mobile app notification, payment services, call transcription, etc., a composable desktop can unify these technologies, together with existing systems, into one user interface that is easy and intuitive for agents to navigate.  Boosted by AI, tools and widgets can navigate the agent to the right solution while the customer speaks.

Agents need a complete view of their customer with fast and easy access to their customer’s data.  The smart desktop should be able to guide the agent through the flow of the appropriate customer service process with prompts.  These prompts should appear as the result of pre-built rules that considers the customer’s data.  Ultimately, these prompts empower agents with intelligent, real-time decisions which helps identify the next best action.

AI Offers a Better Customer and Employee Experience

In the past, Artificial Intelligence has been used in call centers to enhance the customer Interactive Voice Response (IVR) experience.  By using AI-driven chat tools, smaller issues can be immediately addressed while the more complex issues can be channeled to a contact center agent.

Conversational AI continued to enhance contact center ability by improving contact routing.  Voicebot APIs helped to minimize caller and agent frustration by directing calls to agents specifically equipped to solve the caller’s issue.  Voicebots ask customers a few questions to determine needs and then use skills-based routing APIs to channel the caller to the agent best suited to address their issues.  A word of caution: poorly executed voicebot tools can actually increase customer frustration.

Predictive Behavioral Routing (PBR) and real-time sentiment analysis has taken the use of AI to the next level.  When PBR was first introduced and patented by Mattersight Corporation, PBR used AI and analytics to route customers to agents who best served their personality type, thus turning a random encounter into a personalized customer experience.  This AI-driven PBR helps to makes the outcome for both the agent and customer positive.  With the integration of AI and real-time sentiment analysis, AI can listen in and transcribe a call, analyze both the customer’s tone and word choices, and use that behavior to appropriately direct calls.

Customer support teams can use AI to significantly speed up manual and time-consuming processes and eliminate monotonous and repetitive tasks.  For example, transcription and AI analysis of customer intent and sentiment can be used to draft a summary of the customer interaction, saving significant time for the agent while ensuring thoroughness.  Also, natural language processing can quickly discern millions of customer service tickets to pinpoint a larger, underlying issue – which ultimately provides a much quicker resolution to those customer issues.

As brands continue to embrace conversational AI, you will begin to see it used in sales and marketing.  Brands will be able to offer more personalized product recommendations and more customized conversations with buyers.

While AI and other tools are improving the customer experience, they are also providing more productive, engaging, and satisfying work for agents.  These tools help agents to simplify their day, lessen their workload, serve customers better, and assist with their training and development.  And it goes without saying now – “a better employee experience = a better customer experience.”

Have questions about tools used in the contact center?  Send us a message or schedule a call.  We love to talk about this!