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Are chatbots now a no-brainer for contact centres?

29th Mar 2021
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Each year, NICE inContact surveys both consumers and businesses to understand trends in consumer behavior and expectations as well as understand priorities, strategies and technology adoption forecasts from businesses. The NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark is fielded in the US, Canada, UK, Australia with two surveys, one among consumers and one among contact center decision makers.

Last year, we discussed the numerous impacts that the global pandemic had on both businesses and consumers. Businesses were fast tracking technology initiatives that had originally been on a 3-5 year roadmap and moving them to the top of the list to adapt to the tectonic shift that the pandemic caused around the world. On the consumer side, consumers were also busy adopting digital channels and alternatives to what they had grown accustomed to as they adjusted to quarantine, lock downs and social distancing. The study and report yields insights into this digital acceleration -- both from a business point of view and a consumer point of view.

To start, our survey revealed that 8 in 10 consumers are more willing to do business with companies that offer self-service options, yet only 61 percent agree that companies are offering easy, convenient self-service. When rating self-service channels, only one third of consumers are highly satisfied. While this feedback may seem discouraging, it’s not. The reality is, businesses that were in the throes of implementing significant operational change were in fact implementing self-service at rates high above pre-pandemic. 

Fast implementations that are reactive will undoubtedly result in operational hiccups and performance variables that impact that customer experience. However, for contact center leaders or operations execs that may be frustrated by a chatbot implementation; rest assured, you made the right decision. Our study revealed that Consumers (84%) are more willing to do business with companies that offer self-service options. If you’re thinking of self-service as a band-aid to get through the pandemic, it’s important to realize that an informed, digitally fluent consumer base will expect self-service long after life returns to normal. Even more so, now that they have learned how to leverage it effectively. 

A defining year

2021 is the year businesses need to get self-service right, making the improvements that will yield strong ROI, improve agent productivity and most importantly build customer loyalty. In this blog I want to focus on a cornerstone to enabling seamless, frictionless self-service, chatbots. 

A well implemented chatbot offers benefits to customers and to agents. Typically, users find using “chat” as a channel method to be convenient — for example, they can get immediate help while making an online shopping decision. And 74% of chat interactions result in a first-contact resolution. In fact, our latest study indicated a milestone for self-service through the first 12 months of the pandemic. FCR for self-service (62%) exceeded FCR for agent-assisted (55%) for the first time in 2020. Consider that datapoint and what it means for your contact center. Consumers that trust self-service will leverage that channel as a reliable means of getting their job done with your business; whether it’s paying a bill, scheduling an appointment or purchasing a product.

As they turn to self-service to accomplish these things, your agents gain that bandwidth back. That ‘returned bandwidth’ empowers your agents to focus on more complex issues and requests, they can become a proactive engine across your customer journey helping amplify sales and marketing efforts and they can leverage that bandwidth to develop new skill sets. That development will increase agent satisfaction, reduce agent churn and up-level their ability to achieve and exceed contact center KPI’s for your business.

The value of chatbots don’t end at agent productivity, chatbots and automation also deliver significant savings to contact center operations. In a recent article, CEO Mike Smith of Directly, a startup developing a platform that leverages AI trained by subject matter experts to analyze contact center interactions claims companies can reduce support ticket volume by up to 80% and cost by over 90% per customer contact, which is substantial, considering that the top 2,000 corporations in the U.S. spend about $250 billion each year on customer support and field about 50 billion customer cases a year.

As I’ve spoken with contact center and ops professionals over the last 12 months, many have noted a concern of a ‘robot takeover’ where human agents (and human contact center leaders) can ultimately be replaced by AI-powered tech that can do the job faster and cheaper. While I certainly understand empathize with those concerns (no one wants to feel like their job could be replaced by a machine) I don’t see that as realistic. Contact centers remain, ultimately as a forum for human contact. Bots and other AI-powered tech are there as a tool for human agents, not as a replacement. As noted in a recent Forbes article,  AI-enabled conversational assistants aren’t just getting customers basic info they need; behind the scenes, they’re also feeding human agents intelligent data and analysis to deliver better, faster outcomes, without customers ever being aware.

Companies using chat today (which most are) owe it to themselves to test the waters with chatbots and virtual agents. When you consider that over the course of 2020, consumer adoption of digital channels has accelerated and combines that with the never-before seen swells in contact center volumes, giving agents and customers a helping hand with chatbots is a no brainer. What’s more, it eliminates (or at the very least substantially mitigates) the likelihood of customers waiting in queue to address an issue. 

This post was originally published on the NICE inContact blog here

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