How Cloud and AI Are Driving Forward Customer Engagement and Service in Contact Centers
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How Cloud and AI Are Driving Forward Customer Engagement and Service in Contact Centers

Tim McDougal, Managing Director, Deloitte Consulting LLP
Tim McDougal, Managing Director, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Tim McDougal, Managing Director, Deloitte Consulting LLP

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in contact centers, making the use of cloud technology and AI the norm for someand desired future norm for many. As consumer expectations around service continue to change, and contact centers become the digital hub for a company’s customer experience, leaders must utilize cloud and AI to make customer interactions and experiences more personalized and meaningful.

For those looking to harness this opportunity, the answer lies with the concentrated use of these technologies to amplify customer service and contact center agent performance. This is what leaders must understand about the ways cloud and AI are changing the contact center and how they can identify moments to enable more meaningful customer engagement and enhance the agent experience with new technology.

Technology is Changing Contact Center Operations — For Good

According to recent research from Deloitte Digital, at the end of 2020, only 32% of surveyed organizations were running contact center technologies in the cloud; now, 75% expect to make the move within the next two years.This is important, as cloud technology is particularly critical to contact centers, as it enables more flexible and iterative adjustment of capabilities, scale and processes for leaders, as well as drives momentum across everything in the contact center, from the core telephony platform to interaction recording to workforce management.

In fact, digital transformation is growing across contact centers even more, as 79% of contact center leaders plan to invest in greater AI capabilities in the next two years. While investing in new technology is a key first step for many organizations,leaders must find specific, targeted applications of cloud-enabled AI to drive business value, and there are three clear opportunities to do so.

The first is using voice analytics and machine learning to understand customer intent and a call’s emotional content. There are nuanced differences in spoken languageand being able to act based on these is key. That’s where AI comes in, to evaluate the emotional content of the call and how the agent handled it, then leverage this to inform further training and assessment of agents.

The second is using that same technology to analyze calls to determine what issuesyour organization can solve. For example, let’s say people are calling your bank about three things: the latest government policy on loans, the bank itself and contact center agent behavior. You can’t fix the first problem, but you can help with the other two, and analytics from cloud technology and AI helps you parse thousands of calls to figure this out.

Third and finally, agent performance can be enhanced and evaluated with voice analytics. This can be done by looking at agent interactions, such as when one travel company evaluated how agents sold a certain product. They used AI to determine differences between agents and successfully improved everyone’s performance by applying the strongest performers’ practices to each team member.

AI is Enabling More Meaningful Customer Engagement

AI is also impacting the contact center landscapeby allowing businesses to measure an interaction’s emotional sentiment, and helping leaders conduct a broader analysis of how agents are delivering on customer experience.

In the past, leaders have relied on customer surveyswhere the most motivated, either positively or negatively, responded, bringing satisfaction reports somewhat level.Now, cloud-enabled AI allows leaders to measurethe emotional sentiment of all incoming calls to not only better understand customer intent, but also give agents the tools to drive more personalized, in-the-moment experiences.

We’re also moving into a place where leaders can utilize AI to conduct a broader analysis of how agents are delivering on customer experience.Currently, leaders can onlyassess three to five calls per agent per month, on average. Using AI, leaders can observe all calls agents have with customers, positively impacting both parties. For the agent, it means leaders have a stronger insight into performance, allowing teams to change activities and operations based on what is best suited an individual. For the customer, it means a stronger overall experience with contact center agents instead of having to navigate multiple stages of a self-serve menu before reaching a live person.

This is important because historically, the industry has struggled to identify differences in agent’s call management. AI and machine learning technology now enables contact center leaders to understand how their strongest agents handle specific emotional content to better inform programming and improve overall performance.

New Technology Enhances Agent Experience

Technology in contact centers is also creating better utilization of andproviding growth opportunities for agents, as AI and cloud technology free up time and aidthem in solving the most complex problems facing customers.Responses from agents will become more personal,informed and action-oriented than they are now, largely because companies are better able to use and implement customer data.Self-service will also automate simple transactions, like an address change, all of which will ultimately leave agents handling more complex calls that requireincreased versatility and knowledge.

In turn, agents need more training and better access to tools like improved knowledge management systems that provide searchable information based on attributes and services used; advanced tutorial guides that support agent transaction processing; and Next Best Action tools that recommend set actions based on unique criteria.Leaders should invest in these tools now to up-skill their agents as more self-service applications become commonplace.

The Future of Contact Centers is Here — And Continuing to Accelerate with Technology

The uptake of cloud technology and AI in the contact center is already changing the customer experience, and we’ll continue to see shifts as it becomes more commonplace. Importantly, winners in the marketplace will be able to leverage agent interactions to add value and increase the stickiness of customer interactions.

Over time, we’ll find that human-to-human interaction will become the exception, not the rule,withmore technology integration. Service and contact center leaders must invest in these innovations now tostay ahead and keep customer experience at the center of all service operations.

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