Please Hold: 5 Ways AI is Changing Customer Service in Call Centers

Excellent customer service is vital to the long-term success of any business. Yet, millions of people around the world are frustrated on a daily basis as call center agents keep customers on hold for long periods, are oblivious to a customer’s distress or are unable to provide accurate information. Meanwhile, agents themselves are frustrated with their labor-intensive, repetitive jobs, resulting in a high turnover rate, and requiring businesses to spend more money to recruit and train new agents. All-in-all, it’s not a good recipe for business success.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing all that. These cutting-edge technologies are streamlining labor intensive processes, supporting customer service agents and improving operational efficiencies. It also provides customers with more seamless experiences, agents with training opportunities, and managers with hugely valuable business insights. We will take a closer look at some of these benefits in the following article.

Happy Customers Means a Healthy Bottom Line

Good customer service matters. There have been many studies which prove the importance of happy customers to a healthy bottom line. A report by American Express found that US consumers are willing to spend 17% more to do business with companies that deliver excellent service, while 33% of consumers say they will consider giving their business to another company after just one bad experience.

A Zendesk report considered the impact of customer service on long-term revenue and found that good service can change customer behavior. Of the 1,044 U.S consumers surveyed, 58% have previously stopped buying from a company because of bad service, 52% switched to a competitor, 52% told friends and family to avoid the company, and 48% would not consider buying from that company again in the future.

Unfortunately, for companies that do slip up, people have good memories of bad experiences. The same survey found that 46% of consumers remember a bad experience from two or more years ago, while only 21% remembered a good experience from a similar period. When you consider that it costs, on average, five times more to attract a new customer than it costs to retain an existing one, and that the probability of selling your product to a potential customer is a lot lower (5-20%) than selling to an existing customer (60-70%), the impact of bad customer service become frighteningly clear.

Although most companies realize the importance of good customer service, it seems that frustrating issues affect customers daily. From finance to retail, healthcare to hospitality, customers will inevitably contact a customer service agent to voice a problem. People may not have yet received their product, may not be able to access their account, may want to return a dysfunctional product, or may want to complain about poor service at a physical store.

What Customers Want

When people voice their concerns to a customer care agent, or ask about a new offering, they expect to be treated well, they expect the call center agent to know their name (and pronounce it correctly), they expect the agents to be friendly and helpful, and they expect their problem to be solved. What consumers don’t want is to be transferred to multiple agents, to wait for minutes on end to have their call answered, or to have to repeat their query every time they speak to a new agent.

The fact of the matter is that expectations of customer service are on the rise. In this digital age, where companies are expected to be available on numerous channels and at all times of the day, customers, especially Millennials, want even better customer service than just a few years ago.

Zendesk states that 65% of Millennials expect customer service to be faster than it was five years ago and 41% want more ways in which to contact customer service. The sobering fact is that 96% of all businesses fail within 10 years. When the odds are stacked so heavily against businesses, the last thing they need is to deter customers with bad or slow service.

As more and more large organizations appreciate the crucial role customer service plays in business success, they’re increasing their investment in sophisticated AI technology that can make sense of the massive amounts of information gathered by call centers, revolutionizing how they interact with their customers in the future.

AI in Call Centers

Artificial intelligence in call centers affects both the agents and the customer. AI models can give customers the right information at the right time by offering self-service options, eliminating the need for a call to customer service. AI also has the potential to give customer service representatives more information to help them handle the complicated issues that self-service cannot resolve.

With so many benefits, it’s no surprise that artificial intelligence is taking center stage. In fact, the potential of AI in call centers is so huge that experts predict that by the end of 2020, more than 85% of all customer interactions will take place without the need for a human agent.

Benefits of AI in Call Centers

1. Intelligent Call Routing

Intelligent call routing reduces call duration and wait time by matching agents with appropriate customer queries. This leads to reduced customer service agent costs and increased customer satisfaction.

2. Chatbots streamline lower level inquiries

Consider that one of the biggest pain points for traditional call center agents is processing high volumes of simple support queries. Dealing with these queries impedes their ability to focus on more complex tickets. While the ultimate goal of any interaction with a support team is to solve customers’ problems and cement brand affiliation, a vast proportion of queries don’t require hands-on support from an operator.

Director of Machine Learning at DefinedCrowd, Christopher Shulby, explains how the majority of customer support queries (for example, a request for a PAC code from a mobile phone company or a request to check a bank balance) can be pooled into a few very simple categories. Automated customer support bots can relieve a huge amount of pressure on call centers by dealing with these requests (up to 80% of commonly asked tier-1 queries).

And the pressure has an effect on a business’s bottom line: turnover among contact center agents today can be around 40% a year. Crucially, the purpose of customer support bots is not to replace human operators but to relieve them from routine queries, giving them time to focus on more complex tickets. The benefits of this are two-fold: agents have the time to provide a better service to customers and are provided with more stimulating work.

3. Chatbots & IVRs lower operating costs

By 2022, it is expected that chatbots will save businesses more than $8 billion per year. The fact is, although businesses offer their customers more channels in which to get in touch, voice call volumes remain strong with 75% of customers successfully resolving issues on the phone as opposed to solving issues on the web (11%) and via social media (5%). With companies spending $4,000 on average to hire a call center agent and another $4,800 to train them, implementing cognitive technology in their call centers can speed up response times, make their self-service channels more intuitive and efficient all while saving them a staggering 30% in their customer service costs.

4. Chatbots improve customer experience

With technology guiding even inexperienced agents through a call, chatbots can provide a consistent, convenient customer experience, available 24/7. For example, agents can receive disclaimers, vital information and prompts based on customer cues in real-time to provide the most value to the customer during the call. An automatic post-call analysis can help agents identify areas for improvement. Meanwhile, intelligent call routing reduces call duration and wait time by matching agents with appropriate customer queries. These lead to reduced customer service agent costs and increased customer satisfaction.

5. Chatbots can generate new revenue streams

With chatbots you can leverage Next Best Action to upsell and drive additional revenue by recommending new or upgraded products at the right time based on the conversation with the customer. According to Marketing Schools.org, “Next-Best-Action is a marketing strategy designed to gather information about individual customers and then use that information to encourage a sale, retain the customer’s business for future transactions, and determine the cost-to-benefit ratio of serving that customer”.

Conclusion

As advances in AI and NLP continue to present call centers with powerful tools to support agents, increase efficiency, cut costs and enhance customer experiences, the fusion between human-operated tasks and machine-led insights is set to reinvent the face of customer care.

Investing in the right technology to improve managerial decision-making and empower operators is the first step in shifting away from customer support and towards customer success. Here at DefinedCrowd, we’re committed to driving the evolution of AI and NLP technologies to champion customer success with a quality-focused data platform, combining the best of data training and AI.

For more information on how our high-quality datasets can help you drive business goals, please contact us at [email protected]