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The centerpiece
of your contact
center roadmap:
contact center AI

Author: Phil Muncaster

The contact center has come of age during the pandemic. Consumers surged online in greater numbers. Government lockdowns led to canceled bookings and other urgent customer queries. And the unique circumstances of the crisis drove spikes in demand for certain products. In many of these scenarios, call center agents were on the business front lines—a critical resource instrumental in delivering excellent customer experiences. Now, organizations are looking to complement their human resources with artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

That's good news if it's done well, but it puts pressure on getting your contact center roadmap right. With careful planning, the involvement of multiple stakeholders and the help of outside expertise, mature AI tools could drive significant improvements.

Why contact center AI?

A study by Canam Research found that 78% of contact centers in the U.S. plan to deploy AI within three years. Why? Because at a high level, contact center AI technology can:

  • Carry out repetitive manual tasks to free-up agents' time
  • Connect customers directly to the information they need
  • Surface key customer information quickly to help agents create an enhanced experience
  • Automate triaging and resource allocation to improve agent efficiency

It all adds up to improved return on investment, cost savings, reduced customer wait and handling times, and happier customers. And there are a range of options to choose from today—from simple robotic process automation (RPA) and self-service chatbots to sophisticated deep learning neural networks.

Contact center AI: Building the contact center roadmap

Here are three key steps that will help to accelerate your AI contact center roadmap.

Identify the business need and right approach

To turn the contact center of the future into a reality today, start by asking some key questions about your business. With help and input from call center managers and agents as well as company leadership, seek to understand:

  • Which of your current call center technologies are deficient and why?
  • Where do call center agents struggle most with day-to-day tasks?
  • Is customer service a competitive differentiator for your business?
  • How advanced are key competitors in their use of call center AI?
  • What is your budget for AI projects?
  • What is your risk appetite for trying out new technologies?
  • Do you have the in-house skills and resources to manage a new AI project?

Determine your readiness for proceeding

To get the outcomes you want—happier customers, bigger profits and improved cost-efficiency—successful contact center AI projects require seamless integration of the technology into the customer journey. To assess how ready your business is to take the next step, you'll need to understand which parts of that journey are ready for AI enhancements.

Speak to leaders from the executive team, contact center, marketing and sales, and product development to get this crucial insight. Throughout, it's important to strike a balance between cost savings, revenue growth potential and customer expectations around speaking to a human assistant.

Build a deployment plan for contact center AI

From there, it's time to develop your strategy for implementation. It can seem quite daunting at first, but once broken down into a few practical steps, the task looks more manageable. There's no definitive template to follow, but here are a few important considerations:

1. Clarify your objectives

Understand what you're hoping to achieve from a business perspective and the technical and cultural changes required to drive lasting success. The questions outlined above can help with this stage.

2. Outline your business case

This will be informed by your conversations with key stakeholders on which parts of the customer journey to enhance with AI. Define the resulting processes clearly. Talk to your customers so you can define a use case to address specific needs your customers want addressed. Then you can target solutions, such as chat bots, to help satisfy your customer pain points. Then test what you put in place and learn from it before a full-blown roll out. 

3. Assemble a team

Now it's time to put together an internal team to work on the project. This could include a lead business sponsor, a project manager, a contact center supervisor and agent, IT administrator and developer.

4. Decide which technology to deploy

Carry out rigorous due diligence to choose the right vendor. Consider what level of support they are able to offer, feedback from existing customers and future product roadmaps.

5. Decide who will do it

Determine whether this will be something you do 100% in-house or if a third-party provider could offer some help. See below for a look at the benefits of a third-party provider.

6. Conduct an IT readiness review

Next, your IT team or an external third-party should check whether your physical network and IT systems are capable of supporting the new technology. Consider elements like cyber security risk, bandwidth, connectivity and network performance.

7. Plan for the big day

Your contact center of the future is nearly ready. One final stage is to ensure all project stakeholders have clearly defined expectations of when the system will go live, how onboarding and agent training will work, and how success will be measured going forward.

How a managed services provider can help

A key consideration for your contact center roadmap is whether to engage a managed services provider. Bringing in expert help can deliver multiple benefits in the planning, deployment and ongoing management of your AI-powered contact center. It could be a particularly attractive option for organizations with fewer in-house resources and know-how. Some of the benefits of bringing in a contact center managed services provider include:

  • The option of cloud-based technology platforms, which can reduce costs, increase flexibility and offer scale
  • The use of road-tested AI technologies proven to enhance performance and agent productivity
  • Less time and effort spent on appraising and selecting specific technology products
  • The ability to offer a less risky option that's more palatable for the business
  • A simple deployment process, reducing the need for associated resources

Discover how Verizon's range of virtual and cloud-based technology solutions can empower your contact center staff.