For innovative businesses, the future of contact centers will be less a catch-all for customer complaints and more a window into building unique customer experiences. Paying attention not just to customers’ one-off experiences but also to how they interact with your company over time is critical for business success.
Contact centers have long been a good news/bad news scenario for customer engagement. The good news is that when customers call, they are initiating a contact and creating an opportunity for the business to build loyalty. The bad news is that incoming calls are often from people who are experiencing difficulty with a product or service. Keeping customers on hold, transferring them multiple times and being unable to answer their questions only makes matters worse, turning an engagement opportunity into a negative experience and an unhappy customer. But new emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and next-gen technologies can help organizations provide personalized experiences with seamless, instant and consistent interactions that consumers crave.
Self-service gets smarter with digital customer experience
Interactive voice response (IVR) is the technology that provides menus of options that customers can navigate to have their questions answered without speaking to a human operator. While IVR has been around for years, its track record in enhancing customer experience has been decidedly mixed. Many companies implemented IVR soon after it appeared as a means of saving money by replacing human operators with menu options. Unfortunately, the convoluted decision trees they created were often confusing and difficult to navigate. That only frustrated customers more.
More recent advancements in IVR technology use artificial intelligence, voice recognition and cloud integration to streamline the process. At the same time, the popularity of digital voice assistants has made people more comfortable with speaking to machines.
Virtual assistants can now understand even complex customer questions in multiple languages and provide automated responses or route callers quickly to appropriate agents. Powered by artificial intelligence, virtual assistants or agents provide an automated, self-serve customer experience across digital channels that is consistent and personalized. From the first interaction, you can get customers an answer quickly using the channel most convenient for them.
Conversational AI, or Conversational IVR, represents the latest advancement in Virtual Assistant technology. Conversational AI uses natural language-based speech recognition and understanding to capture the caller’s intent and anticipate caller’s needs. Conversational IVR can carry on conversations that almost feel human, and lets callers interact with the system in their own words, delivering an enhanced customer experience with lifelike interactions.
Contact center technology trends: faster, more accurate routing
Another major innovation affecting contact center technology trends is automatic call distribution (ACD), a technology that automatically routes calls to service representatives based on factors such as availability, expertise, language proficiency and even prior customer interactions. Customers who struggle with IVR menus can be proactively routed to a live agent, and VIP callers can be placed at the front of the call queue. In today’s hybrid or remote work environment, where agents can work from anywhere, features such as ACD can significantly reduce both customers’ wait times and unnecessary call transfers by connecting the customer to the right agent every time.
ACD systems can also be connected to an organization’s customer relationship management and order history systems to automatically pull up a complete record of the customer’s previous experiences with the organization before the representative even answers the call.
Perhaps the most revolutionary innovation among contact center future trends is speech analytics—software that listens to conversations in near real-time and takes action based on what’s being said. Speech analytics open a world of opportunities that can allow businesses to use their call centers to spot customer experience trends and make improvements. Some sample use cases include:
- The software can detect emotion in customer voices and present representatives with scripts tailored to either soothe frayed nerves or encourage add-on sales, depending on the customer’s temperament. Managers can be alerted to intervene in a heated discussion and guide the call to a resolution.
- Mentions of a competitor can be flagged and representatives immediately presented with an offer to head off a customer defection.
- Multiple conversations can be scanned to look for patterns, such as repeated mentions of the same quality or usability issues.
In addition, the combination of all three of these innovative technologies has a collateral benefit of empowering service agents to delegate routine problems to software and focus on the most interesting and impactful issues. In a field in which turnover rates can run to more than 40%, according to Avoxi, the value of retaining skilled agents can’t be overestimated. Human operators will be part of the future of contact centers for a long time to come. Technology can ensure that they’re working on the issues that most impact the business and using their talents to send customer experience trends in the right direction.
Learn more about how Verizon solutions can help you build the virtual contact center of the future.
The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.