Digital transformation is a powerful trend that’s sweeping across every sphere of business and organisations that that stand by idly and ignore it will rapidly become irrelevant in an increasingly digitised marketplace, warns Deon Scheepers, customer engagement executive at Pivotal Data. A convergence of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), social media, mobile platforms and big data are just a few of the drivers disrupting industries and revolutionising how businesses and customers interact and engage.
Mobile in particular has been a powerful digital transformation catalyst, particularly within the contact centre. Smart mobile devices offer customers multiple channels through which to engage, be it voice, messaging, social media, web portals and various apps.
While this channel fragmentation creates complexity, it also offers numerous data points from which companies can draw customer information. This data sets can be combined with additional digital data from IoT, eCommerce platforms and database information to derive insights and intelligence that can revolutionise customer experience (CX) and enhance service delivery.
The trend is so prolific that Gartner predicts that by 2025 every business will be a data company.
However, the sheer volume of data available today makes it impossible for contact centre operators to manually manage and derive the actionable insights needed to drive the specific service tasks and engagements that improve business and unlock value.
Modern contact centres require advanced tools and systems that are capable of mining big data to construct a dynamic customer profile that accurately identifies their unique preferences. This information can then shape meaningful engagements via multiple channels to create CX that meets the expectations and demands of modern consumers in the digital age.
These modern digitally-connected customers expect always-on availability, the ability to engage via their preferred channel and the option to switch seamlessly without a loss of context or relevance. A multi-dimensional approach to CX design is needed to meet these requirements – one where artificial intelligence (AI) sits at the heart of a contact centre’s CX capabilities.
However, this is not the often misconstrued Hollywood-styled AI, where robots rise up to take over the world. While intelligent technologies certainly pose a threat to humans, it’s one of relevance in the workplace rather than one of ultimate survival.
As such, we need to reframe our perceptions regarding AI and look for ways to augment it into the workplace to enhance the way we work and operate, rather than resist it. In doing so, we will open up innumerable opportunities to create value, both for customers and the business itself.
Businesses that embrace these new technologies immediately realise significant benefits, especially in the contact centre environment. Given the advantages it offers, Gartner research reveals that 30% of enterprises already plan to prioritise AI by 2020.
Integrating AI with deep learning
The integration of an AI knowledge engine with deep learning and natural language processing (NLP) functionality could, for example, enable machines to engage customers via a text or voice interface through bots and virtual assistants. Innovations in AI-driven NLP is enabling a “Voice-First” trend that will see voice become the dominant user interface and the frontline customer service channel within digitally-enabled contact centres.
This technology is already driving the next frontier in customer service because it not only off-loads mundane or routine calls from live agents, allowing them to focus on value-adding or more complex engagements, but also exponentially scales capacity within the contact centres as many customers can manage engagements through self-service platforms, and bots or virtual-agents.
Intelligence can also be applied to automate the process through accurate predictive call routing, or workforce scheduling to meet shifts in demand to make customer engagements quicker while streamlining operations to create more efficient contact centres.
The application of AI also adds a new dimension to CX as it can help determine customer preferences and provide insights that shape and inform engagements in real time. AI then leverages this big data derived from the information gathered through the various touch points and previous engagements by applying analytics and machine learning algorithms to predictively route the customer to the agent with the best-fit skill and profile to ensure the desired business outcome is achieved.
Furthermore, this data-driven intelligence creates a deeper understanding of the customer and delivers the insights that transform how contact centre agents – both real and virtual – engage with via front-end voice, web and mobile interfaces in a personal and relevant manner.
AI technology is also able to apply automated speech and text analytics to analyse all voice and data interactions in real time, which can drive predictive outcomes and agent responses to further enhance CX. These real-time analytics capabilities can track and map the customer journey on the organisation’s website to determine the most appropriate time to engage a customer in their lifecycle to achieve the most desirable outcome, be it enhanced service, faster issue resolution times, or increased sales.
Given the current pace and scale of these AI-driven advancements, Gartner predicts that 85% of customer service interactions won’t require human customer service reps by 2020. This is a significant statistic as it suggests that customer self-service will become the preferred customer engagement channel.
As such, the rise of integrated AI-powered voice assistants and voice-enabled platforms will transcend engagement channels, effectively creating the frontline battle for customer acquisition and retention. Contact centre operators must, therefore, relook their engagement platforms to ensure they’re optimised for voice if they intended to level up their CX capabilities through the application of AI.