How Call Centres Can Embrace Intelligent Technology
Guest Blog by Alex Fleming, Product Marketing Manager, Speechmatics
It wasn’t that long ago that call centres relied on a sophisticated version of a switchboard, with very little insight into the customer journey and no way of intelligently routing calls or monitoring sentiment. Things have changed significantly over the past decade, particularly when it comes to new products and processes created to assist agents.
Technological innovation has led to shifting customer expectations – the competition over customers who are able to switch to rival providers with minimum effort has driven the development and deployment of new technologies that accelerate the resolution of issues, reduce cost for the operator and provide best in class service to callers and agents themselves.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one such technology. It has the capability to provide huge benefit to the contact centre. Nowadays, agents are the most important resource in contact centres. They’re well trained and highly skilled, meaning that simple and repetitive tasks can quickly lead to boredom, burnout and their eventual departure.
Thankfully, AI can play a significant role in addressing these issues. By pushing customers through a funnel, contact centres can ensure that calls being answered by agents are those requiring more human input and interaction, alleviating the boredom of said agents, providing them with the appropriate challenge, and allowing business to retain key staff while ensuring their best talent is operating efficiently.
Contact centres have adopted omni-channel capability to enable interaction through a range of channels, including text, email, instant messaging and automated text bots within a browser. This enables flexibility and drives engagement but relies on the input being text-based. While text can be easily fed into AI tools, voice is still the primary means of interacting with the contact centre and provides the richest source of data.
Speech-to-text solutions enable the transformation of customer and agent voice into a text-based format which can then be amalgamated with other data sources for a unified insight across all channels. This unified raw data can then be used within AI tools to drive best practices and insight. But not just any speech-to-text solution will do, and the level of insight is proportionate to the capability of the automatic speech recognition (ASR) solutions that are adopted.
It’s the old adage that you get out what you put in. If the accuracy of ASR tools is poor, then the output will reflect this. Accurate data collection is the key to harnessing the power of the conversations being had within the call centre and can truly reflect what is going on in the organisation, to the benefit of both customers and staff.
Call centres used to have one of the highest staff turnover rates of any industry. Today, organisations are investing huge amounts of time, effort and money in increasing the engagement of their agents and ensuring their retention. For example, an agents’ time is often divided into three sections: talk time, after call work, and downtime. After call work includes writing up notes, key actions, next steps, milestones and other important elements of a call, which means agents have to document important information while simultaneously engaging with the customer, not only leading to a poorer experience for the customer, but increasing the chances of an agent missing important information.
AI tools like speech-to-text mean that a full transcript of the conversation can be added to the interaction history automatically, almost eliminating the need for this after call work, while also significantly reducing the cost of storing audio files by replacing them with text.
For agents, ‘Agent Assist’ can also identify utterances and provide real-time information to agents to ensure they have the best and most unified information to advise the caller, providing a consistent experience to the consumer. The technology can identify key red flags through the speech being used, instantly providing the agent with all the information needed to avoid a conflict, and escalate the call to a supervisor before the customer is lost or hangs up.
Identifying trends and patterns of frequent requests, as well as best practices of how they can be solved effectively, is only possible at scale by using analysis of the data. The deployment of new automated services like synthetic agents or online portals, where callers can self-serve to resolve their own issues, are a direct response to the value derived from AI initiatives. Self-service reduces the load on agents for simple requests so they are able to utilise their skills to solve more complex issues and feel empowered through their contribution.
Real-time analysis of calls enables the agent to achieve live feedback and rewards as they hit specific milestones or achieve set objectives. Leveraging the language and acoustic models within advanced ASR solutions can automatically identify and route callers with a specific emotional profile to specially trained agents best placed to optimise these challenging situations; this is reliant on highly accurate automated speech recognition in real-time.
Improve the Customer Experience
The automation and utilisation of AI solutions enables the contact centre to monitor far more calls than is currently possible with a traditional human QA team who can only spot check and listen to a very small number of calls. By leveraging AI, contact centres can delegate the heavy lifting and data gathering to automated tools, leaving the teams to review the transcribed audio and provide insights into the customer journey and the performance of staff to ensure no mis-selling is taking place and all legislation is being adhered to.
Analytics are key to the development of more intuitive solutions using the data captured from a huge amount of audio. The discovery of trends, themes, key words and processes can inform how to make positive changes to deliver on key KPIs within the contact centre, like first contact resolution, customer retention and agent retention. In addition, the data can be used to identify best practice to roll out across an organisation.
These days the contact centre is a hive of innovation. AI delivers on the promise of advanced features, capabilities, insight and engagement, all while reducing costs and optimising efficiencies. As long as the input method for the data is sound, this technology will continue to improve both the customer and the agent’s experience.
Guest Blog by Alex Fleming, Product Marketing Manager, Speechmatics
Alex Fleming is a Product Marketing Manager at Speechmatics. Alex was formerly a Marketing Manager and Sales Support Manager for Nokia, Alcatel-lucent, and Content Delivery Network provider Velocix. Previous to that, he worked in the film industry delivering product placement for leading brands like BMW, Ducati, MINI, Sony Computer Entertainment and Cisco. He spent as much time on the ground across the UK on film sets as in the office managing logistics.