Contact centres are crying out for help
Contact centres and contact centre agents are under immense pressure, dealing with increased contact volumes, rising customer frustration, and agent attrition. A recent survey of 1000 contact centre leaders in the UK, US, and Australia has revealed a very telling and consistent view that contact centres are hanging on by a thread.
This survey, conducted by Censuswide, found:
- 68% of contact centres report rising chat and call volumes
- 66% of contact centres agree that contact volumes are spiralling beyond their capacity to handle them
- 70% of contact centres report escalating customer churn
- 68% of contact centres are experiencing increased agent attrition
- 66% of contact centres report that dealing with frustrated customers is impacting the mental health of frontline customer service employees
The findings of this survey are not good. Not good for contact centre agents, not good for customers, and not good for businesses. However, the survey also uncovered that 96% of contact centres are planning technology upgrades in the next 12-24 months to keep from a complete breakdown of customer service under these pressures.
While technology won’t solve all the issues facing the contact centre industry, the right solutions will go a long way in alleviating some of the stress being placed on agents. These solutions include both tools designed specifically to support agents as well as customer-facing tools that create easier digital self-service.
Offering 24/7 intelligent self-service options to customers alleviates pressure on busy contact centres by reducing the number of incoming contacts. Chatbots and virtual agents can answer your most common questions that don’t require engagement with a human, so your agents no longer have to answer the same basic queries over and over. Chatbots backed by a more sophisticated conversational AI platform can also guide customers step-by-step through troubleshooting instructions and hand-hold users through the completion of forms, applications, and even the sales process. This further reduces contact volumes and frees up agents to deal with most sensitive, complex customer issues.
Regardless of what channels your agents are delivering support on – phone, email, social media, SMS, messaging apps, live chat – it’s important for them to have the information and tools they need to help customers efficiently and accurately. Easy-to-use desktop conversational AI solutions are proven to reduce training time for agents and also give all contact centre staff members easy access to the same level of information to help customers.
Agents can find the information they need by typing in questions using natural language or internal abbreviations. As with customer-facing chatbots, a high-quality conversational AI platform allows for conversation flows to help agents guide customers through procedures, processes, and forms. The tool can provide ‘next-best-action’ prompts to assist with up-selling and cross-selling. And when integrated with voice technology, the tool can ‘listen in’ on calls and present agents with relevant information as the caller explains their issue.
Staff training on how to deliver compassionate, emotionally intelligent engagements can be augmented with an agent self-service tool for supporting potentially vulnerable customers. Agents use search terms such as ‘job loss’, ‘anxiety’, and ‘autism’ to access tips on how to support customers’ needs effectively and sensitively within company guidelines. Links to practical and helpful resources can also be included to help create more empathetic experiences for vulnerable customers as well as act as a way for agents to find reliable information and services for themselves.
With these customisable contact centre tools, agents no longer need to worry about memorising and retaining content or shuffling through multiple pages of notes and handbooks. Instead, they know they have all the information they need at their fingertips and can concentrate on the human engagement with customers.
Deploying conversational AI technology for both customers and agents as part of a cohesive strategy delivers a variety of benefits for the contact centre:
- Customers are happier and less frustrated because they have a better option to self-serve.
- Increased self-service containment and resolution means reduced contact centre traffic.
- Agents are more readily available to support customers with the most complex issues instead of spending time dealing with basic, repetitive questions.
- Agents have instant access to information, guides, and tips for helping customers effectively and sensitively.
- An improved experience for agents means lower agent attrition.
- An improved experience for customers means lower customer churn.
There is no quick fix or magic solution for all the pressures contact centres are currently experiencing. However, conversational AI is one technology that can help overcome some of these challenges by addressing them from both the customer and agent viewpoints. The key to finding success with this approach is to work with a conversational AI provider experienced in both areas.
If you find yourself agreeing with the findings of this survey within your own organisation, then it’s time to talk to the conversational AI experts about crafting your own contact centre strategy.
Mandy joined the Creative Virtual team in 2008 and currently manages the company's marketing activities. She is a member of the Forbes Communication Council, was named to the Women Leaders of Conversational AI, Class of 2023, and has won multiple awards for driving brand recognition, thought leadership, and lead generation activities. Mandy...