digital storage evolution

Self-Service in the Modern Call Center: Key Considerations for Technology and Strategy

With technology’s rapid evolution, convenience and self-service from decades ago don’t quite measure up to today’s expectations. The days where a simple IVR system did the trick are long-gone. Today’s consumers want more convenience — and they’ll take their business elsewhere to get it. For contact centers, it’s an ideal opportunity to rise to the challenge.

It’s funny how some things change, while some stay the same. Twenty years ago, “staying home to watch a movie” typically involved a trip to the corner store to rent VHS tapes that you had to rewind. (Flashback! If you don’t remember paying the late-return fee, your parents probably do.) Today, we are spoiled with hyper-personalized recommendations on the next series to binge-watch over the weekend. It’s fast and easy. And do you really miss paying those late fees? I sure don’t!

One thing that hasn’t changed: People love convenience. More than ever, we expect this in our lives and in how we do business. Gone are the days where an IVR system with an exhaustive menu and no escape (press 1 for this, press 2 for that…) meant good customer service. Today’s consumers want more convenience — and they’ll take their business elsewhere to get it.

More than ever before, we’re seeing the impact of self-service innovations, including Artificial Intelligence, in the contact center software landscape. Certainly, there are savings to be had: according to Forrester, live agent chat typically costs $6-12 per interaction—versus automated interactions ringing in at 25 cents. The ROI lies in agent productivity and customer satisfaction.

Did you know that 45% companies offering self-service showed reduced phone inquiries – and happier agents? When customers are empowered to “help themselves”, contact center agents are relieved from repetitive tasks (such as booking appointments, checking account balances, or taking orders) and answering the same questions over and over. Instead, they are invested in interactions that truly require human intervention. With the right self-service mix, businesses of all sizes can reserve more complex tasks (or higher-value interactions) for their agents to care for — and capitalize on technology to handle the rest. By offering better self-service options, you can cut contact center costs and improve the customer experience.

Already many of our transactions today are handled without having to speak with a human – but how do consumers feel about that? The latest Customer Experience (CX) research reveals that forward-thinking businesses are confident in AI, but consumers are more cautious. While customers are happy to avoid long queue times, our latest CX Transformation Benchmark reveals a surprising gap between the perceptions that businesses and consumer have – and contains some critical takeaways for businesses of all sizes.

Self-Service Innovations for Today’s Call Centers

What technologies should call center leaders consider when thinking about self-service? Let’s take a look at a few ways Automation and AI innovation improves the overall customer experience:

  • AI-powered Applications for Agents: There’s much on the horizon when you equip your agents with insightful customer data before they even take the call. With screen pops that instantly serve up timely, relevant details about the customer or account, you’ve laid the foundation for agents to work smarter, serve faster and provide more personalized service. By enhancing CRM data with AI-powered solutions, key barriers are removed between your agents and who they’re serving. Instead of having to navigate multiple systems to look it up, agents know who they are speaking with and have their history as a customer and even relevant insight on the reason they may be contacting your business.

How does this impact the customer? For one, agents instantly have the information to greet each customer by name — for the kind of connection that builds trust between your brand and those you serve. Can you imagine this capability in the hands of every call center agent in your organization? You can look forward to a substantial impact on both efficiency and your bottom line.

  • Innovative Automation: Call center software doesn’t have to be customer-facing to make a big impact on how customers see your company. Bringing automation tools into your organization can make a big difference. Easy-to-use, helpful features like accessible guides, one-off sign-on, and real-time coaching are already making an impressive impact when it comes to return on investment. With better tools on the inside, your call center agents can work more efficiently and solve problems faster.

  • Next-level IVR software: The first-generation of IVR systems featured poor speech recognition, which didn’t always set the stage for sound customer experiences. And complicated IVR menus just don’t cut it anymore. Today’s IVR systems offer AI-powered conversational capabilities that enable more natural interaction and an improved better experience (that can lead to brand trust and customer satisfaction) and provide an easy, seamless route to speak to an agent, if it becomes necessary.

  • Smarter Chatbots! The chatbot revolution is here. Today, over 11,000 chatbots operate on Facebook Messenger. With consumers embracing bots in their homes, like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, our expectations with chatbots have grown. How does this impact the call center? Having a bot that can talk to your customers online is key, especially in uncertain times. Smarter chatbots are transforming IVR and self-service around the world, helping businesses respond to tons of incoming questions very fast. The key to higher quality chatbots is text-to-speech processing powered by AI innovations, like Natural Language Understanding (NLU), Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning. Chatbots make the perfect candidate for tasks with a predictable and well-defined conversation flow. They scale quite easily and can handle hundreds of conversations at a time.

How could automation and AI boost the customer service experience that your contact center delivers? Discover what’s next in this on-demand webinar, Contact Center Self-Service Strategies.

Ready for new insights on AI solutions for the contact center? For tips on boosting your self-service initiatives to deliver the largest benefits to your customers, agents and business, you don’t want to miss this webinar. Click here to watch now!