“The future is digital”, is a mantra no one would argue with. In recent years, we’ve really started to see how the practical applications of AI and automation can empower us as consumers. It streamlines many aspects of our interactions with the organisations that provide our goods and services. Through apps, chatbots, and automated services, we can now make secure transactions, change settings and get most of the information we need at the touch of a button. All without having to talk in person with supplier organisations.
So far, so good. On top of this, our digital connection to the company is a two-way street. All this digital interaction is generating vast swathes of data on product and purchase trends that supplier companies can use to hone their services and gain insight into customer preferences.
The “moments that matter”
However, while consumers and businesses alike have embraced the benefits of automation, there are still many situations when the human touch is essential.
Indeed, all that data generated can be used to profile customers. Used effectively it will route interactions for optimum efficiency to strike the right balance between automation and human service. For customers with straightforward enquiries, automation via chatbots works well. When the query becomes too complex, the customer should be routed onto a more appropriate channel to avoid frustration. This means connecting them to a human contact centre agent.
In fact, 60 per cent of consumer interaction, on average, is via voice, and in the “moments that matter” – when there is an emergency or need for specialist advice – this rate jumps to 83 per cent. These calls are some of the most valuable from a customer service perspective.
By the time the customer makes the decision to pick up the phone, they need help with something they cannot resolve themselves via automated services; they may be angry or need immediate assistance. They expect to talk to someone who can fix the problem. That person is expected to make immediate judgement calls on the best course of action; it is this all-important human touch that is still at the heart of customer service.
However, just because the customer interaction is taking place human-to-human, rather than through digital channels, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a role for digital technology.
Indeed, these more complex calls offer high value strategic insight, so capturing them through call recording and speech-to-text translation means they become searchable and can be analysed. Integrating the resulting data into customer service streams to assist call centre agents is becoming a priority for customer-focused organisations.
Supporting the supporters and closing the digital loop
When a call comes in the call centre agent has only between 3-5 seconds to prepare – that’s no time at all in which to absorb any background data available on the customer and context of the call. When they pick up, they may fail to initially understand the customer request, which is likely to be complex. Even if they do, they must then enter it manually into the CRM system. Agents are only human and this is where errors creep in – fatigue, pressure and inexperience can all lead to inaccuracies – and the opportunity to build up a comprehensive “digital signature” for the customer is lost. Furthermore, and most importantly for the brand, the customer’s experience is less than optimum.
This is where many organisations have started using artificial intelligence and conversational computing to close the digital loop. Voice calls are transcribed into the system with all questions or actions captured via speech-to-text, analysed for understanding, sentiment and topics. In short, it offers digital insight into the conversation, not via the agent’s keyboard, but via the conversation itself – no gaps, just great data. This assists the agent, reducing the pressure of doing accurate data entry and allowing them to focus on the part that humans do best – empathising and problem-solving.
The emergence of “tuned” speech processing that aligns to specific industry terms, products and phrases with incredibly high accuracy, together with the addition of AI and deep-learning capabilities, are giving call centre agents a real-time edge. These technologies “listen-in” to the call conversation. They detect customer questions and suggest appropriate responses. They also use NLP to interpret sentiment – everything from anger to gratitude. Furthermore, they use voice biometrics to analyse tone, inflection and speech patterns. This is valuable in detecting potentially fraudulent calls in all sectors, but particularly finance and insurance.
Real-time speech analytics can also cross-reference with internal data such as product notifications or sales offers, drawing in external data from sources such as news-wire services. All of this helps agents provide a more informed, satisfactory service, turning those critical “moments that matter” interactions from risks to opportunities, at the same time as protecting and enhancing the brand.
The facility to bring all this customer data and context together in a single on-screen location also helps agents pitch the tone of the customer engagement correctly in those few seconds before they pick up the call. Their on-screen system delivers a rapid overview of recent interactions and the customer’s general sentiment towards the organisation. This allows the agent to demonstrate understanding of the customer’s history and quickly build empathy, reducing friction and, ideally, customer churn.
This kind of onscreen customer profiling has been a feature of contact centre technology for some time – with various approaches such as changing screen colours to indicate the warmth of the customer’s relationship with the organisation. However, today’s ability to pull information from all contact channels and consolidate it into an instantly digestible overview makes it more valuable for the business.
Powerful insights that form a competitive edge
The businesses or organisations that deploy this capability are capturing massive insights. They’re going beyond the contact centre as a low-value, transactional service and transforming it into a strategically important differentiator. Applications range from ensuring that calls include compulsory compliance statements and questions – reducing organisational risk – to identifying opportunities for upselling and thereby growing revenues.
Analysis of all the accurately captured conversation text can be used to identify areas of concern with products and services. For example, are particular products suffering a higher than expected failure rate?
Agent performance is improved by increasing the quality and complexity of what is captured within the system of record. Performance can also be more effectively managed and enhanced. The conversational tactics of the best agents can be identified and adopted throughout the contact centre.,
In this way, the job of contact centre agent shifts from being mundane, low-level employment and instead becomes a more senior role. It requires knowledgeable professionals who are comfortable using a range of AI and information systems to deliver excellent customer service. It is no longer a humble job, it is the centre of a business, as all calls that reach this location seriously matter.
By supporting contact centre agents in real-time with rich and detailed customer history across all channels, from web enquiries, chatbots, voice calls, backed up with contextual insight around the tone and sentiment of those conversations, we make all that data work effectively on a human level when the interaction occurs.
We shouldn’t be talking about a binary choice between automated or human interactions. Instead we need to operate on a customer service scale that collects and monitors data at all points – even voice – and uses it at the point it’s needed to deliver a fully 360-degree customer service. In this way we can combine the best features of automation, artificial intelligence and the human touch for optimum effect.
Founded in 2017, Contexta360 is a high growth company with Headquarters in Amsterdam, and offices in London and Frankfurt and is now a globally focused entity targeting large enterprises. The organisation has a simple mission: to harness the power of conversational intelligence to improve customer retention. Contexta360 seeks to understand the meaning behind speech in order to improve relationships and interactions.
Contexta360 has a team of highly skilled software developers and computer scientists with a passion for artificial intelligence, speech-to-text, and natural language understanding. It helps customers build a 360-degree view of customer interaction. This helps enterprise organisations capture voice and video conversations across multiple languages, transcribing and analysing them for compliance, sentiment, topic, context, effectiveness and customer experience.