The call centre will be dead in five years. I know. It’s a pretty bold claim. But if you stick with me I’ll explain not only why I think it’s possible, but how you can do it, and why you should, too.
Firstly, you can’t think of this as a quick fix, one that is instantly going to save the company a ton of money and bring you management glory. This type of strategy is for early adopters and visionaries. People who are prepared to invest time and energy now for greater gains further down the road.
Taking a ten thousand strong call centre and turning it into hundred or so people takes time. If you were building a skyscraper you would start with the foundations and that’s exactly what you need to do to rebuild your contact centre.
Build the foundations for change
Start small. Using conversational AI based applications such as digital employees, chatbots or virtual assistants take all your light to low volume inbound calls and automate them over digital channels. This helps you in several ways. It allows for the application to be tested in a real life environment and for any kinks in the process that perhaps you hadn’t anticipated to be ironed out without upsetting a large volume of customers.
It eases everyone, staff, partners and customers into the benefits of the technology. It allows the technology to learn about your business including the type of questions your customers ask, and the gaps in its knowledge base. It also gives you time to understand the new information that is delivered back to the business by these automated interactions, and how you can use it to your advantage.
In other words, it provides the foundations on which to build your skyscraper. From here you can move forward to tackle larger volumes and more complex interactions while evaluating every step of the way to ensure that objectives are being met. Then rinse and repeat, building each stage in turn.
Conversational ability is crucial
I know what you’re thinking. You’re looking at a whole load of failed chatbot stories in the media and wondering how I could possibly be suggesting such a thing—aside from the fact that we develop and market a platform on which to build them. But the truth of the matter is that most of them are built on inferior technology that isn’t able to handle intelligent conversational interactions.
Technology that can’t remember pertinent facts in a conversation, can’t understand two or three different concepts in the same sentence, and absolutely refuses to deal with any customer that goes a little off topic or doesn’t stick to the programmed terminology.
But intelligent, humanlike conversation is crucial when interacting with customers, particularly if they have a problem or an issue they want you to resolve.
Utilise the data throughout the business
But all this overlooks one of the most significant benefits to an organisation using conversation AI applications in customer service situations—data. Not the sort of data you get from focus groups where people tell you what they think you want to here, but their actual thoughts and thinking processes of your customers in real-time.
Information that you can use to feed back into the initial conversation to personalise the response and resolve the issue or close the sale faster, and data you can use to build your business and improve your bottom line by understanding the nuances and trends of what your customers really want.
In the film, Up in the Air, George Clooney is obsessed with obtaining 10 million frequently flyer miles. When he finally reaches it, along with a bottle of champagne, he is given a card that entitles him to a very special personal service. Wouldn’t it be great if you could do that, not just for your high net worth customers, but for every single one of them?
By starting now you can build the foundations to achieve this. It will save you money, both in the short and long term. It will provide you with an unprecedented amount of information about what customers want, and increase engagement in a digital world that has become faceless. But there is a greater reason for doing it. Your customer will thank you—with their loyalty.
Andy Peart is CMSO of Artificial Solutions, an international business that “Makes Technology Think,” believing that people should be able to interact with technology intelligently, using their own voice, in their own terminology and across whatever channel they choose.