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Customer Contact Center Automation – Evolving Roles of Service Agents

Customer Contact Center Automation – Evolving Roles of Service Agents
Konesh Chopra - Group Manager, HCL Technologies | May 23, 2017
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  • 76% of customers prefer digital self-service above all other customer service channels1
  • 25% of customers abandon and defect to a competitor website when they can’t find self-service options2
  • Digital interactions currently account for over 35% of all interactions, and, at the current rate, will overtake voice in two years’ time3
  • 67% of consumers use three or more channels during a single transaction4

During the past few decades, call centers have evolved tremendously, becoming the customer contact centers of today. But changes in customer engagement in the last few years have been revolutionary. The new generation of tech-savvy customers and the proliferation of digital channels have impacted every aspect of customer engagement. Apart from traditional IVR systems for customer engagement, service agents are engaging with customers through digital channels: social media, emails, and web/mobile chats among others.  Customers, today, resort to phone as a medium, only when all others have failed to resolve their query. As an imperative, contact centers are embracing omni-channel capabilities so that they can engage with customers on their terms, through the channels of their choice.

Contact centers are embracing omni-channel capabilities so that they can engage with customers on their terms

Let’s see how technology is bringing about this revolution and altering the front and back-end activities at contact centers:

How Automation is Impacting Contact Center’s Front-line and Back-Office Processes

Modern technology offerings, like self-service capabilities, chat-bots, and virtual assistants are increasingly powering the front-end activities during initial customer contact. These tools are further augmented by intuitive/cognitive search options, wherein customers type-in the query in their chosen native language in natural format and the system intelligently provides him the answer or directs him to the relevant page.  Upcoming customer service solutions, like the “Intent Recognition Tool” are helping the organizations not only solve the customer’s query, but recognize the real intent behind the question. They are, therefore, better placed to offer customized products or services that are in-line with customers’ requirements.  Even post-contact customer follow-up processes, like confirmation of query resolution and customer feedback elicitation are now getting increasingly automated through contact center services.  

Confirmation of query resolution and customer feedback elicitation are now getting increasingly automated

Further, customer service solutions like Robot Process Automation (RPA) are now eliminating typical bottlenecks in front and back office processes. In a typical scenario, a service agent switches between 6-7 different applications to retrieve relevant information (customer profile, current order status, order history, open support tickets, and reward points/ wallet status) required to handle the call efficiently, which negatively impacts customer satisfaction as well as Average Handle Time (AHT). In addition, service agents go through the error-prone, repetitive activity of updating data fields in multiple systems after the call. Customer service transformation solutions like the RPA reduce the AHT by automating the retrieval and unification of customer information lying in silos to provide a single view of customer to service agents. Customer service transformation solutions can further automate the integration of data across multiple associated back-end systems, thus eliminating human errors associated with tedious and repetitive activities.

So, how are the contact center automation trends and technology impacting the customer contact center evolution?

  • Does it sound the death knell for the traditional contact center, as we know it?
  • Will automation-driven contact center services make call center agents extinct?
  • What will a customer contact center look like in the next 10 years?

Our take on the above questions:

The challenges for contact centers are immense. But we believe that the contact centers of today can overcome these challenges, provided they stay ahead of the innovation curve and evolve to stay relevant with time. The key is to make the best use of both human resources and automation tools through robust contact center services. While the simple, monotonous, and repetitive aspects of the service agent’s activities can be replaced through automation, the more complex interactions need to be transitioned to service agents to deliver a positive customer experience. Overall, while their importance will remain the same, the role of contact center agents is expected to change, as they need to be adept at handling complex queries, that too through various communication channels. Some measures that can help in achieving this are: -

  1. Deploy “Digital First” framework to eliminate loss of information due to channel switching and enable a smooth “hand-off” across channels.
  2. Up-skill service agents to handle customer engagements that go beyond voice interactions.
  3. Follow a complete set of KPIs encompassing the “Single View of Customer” across various channels rather than focusing just on voice channel.

References

  1. http://blogs.forrester.com/kate_leggett/16-01-28-online_self_service_dominates_yet_again_why_its_an_effortless_way_to_get_to_your_answers 
  2. Forrester Research, Inc.
  3. 2015 Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report
  4. http://blog.3clogic.com/is-the-call-center-agent-doomed-for-extinction

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