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Delivering Self-Service During the COVID-19 Uncertainty, Part 2: Supporting Contact Centre Agents

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about the immense pressure organisations are under to deliver quality service and support over digital channels during this period of coronavirus-related quarantines, lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. We took a look at some of the benefits of using AI-enhanced chatbots and virtual agents to offer customer self-service. In Part 2, let’s explore how this technology can be deployed as an Agent Assist tool to support your contact centre agents.

No matter where you are in the world or the nature of your business, your contact centre is now dealing with a new reality. For some, this may mean supporting agents working from home. For others, it may be working out the logistics of social distancing and new policies to keep employees safe while in the office. Many organisations are also dealing with an increased number of calls, emails and live chats coming into their contact centres. Despite these disruptions and a bigger workload, agents still must deliver a positive experience to your customers.

Providing contact centre agents with desktop conversational AI as a knowledge source gives them an extra edge in providing customers with quick, competent service. Agents have access to a virtual agent that understands questions asked in natural language. This means agents can type in queries using the same language as the customer they are assisting, instead of having to remember the relevant keywords or phrases to find the information they need. The virtual agent can also be set up to understand internal abbreviations and acronyms commonly used by agents to make it even easier to access the right content quickly. The tool acts a virtual supervisor, giving agents instant access to information and step-by-step guidance through procedures and processes that is current and up to date.

Here are a few benefits of having an Agent Assist tool to support contact centre agents in the current uncertain situation:

  • Reduce average handing times and improve first contact resolution – Average handling time (AHT) and first contact resolution are always important metrics for contact centres. However, they are more important than ever during high volume periods, and it’s essential that they be addressed hand-in-hand. Reducing AHT but not solving those customers’ issues benefits no one. It leaves customers frustrated and dissatisfied and usually results in them reaching out to your contact centre again. An Agent Assist virtual agent gets your agents to the correct, complete information they need quickly, thus cutting back on length of calls and improving the quality of resolution.
  • Provide agents with alerts and instant access to updated, time-sensitive information – As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, things are changing rapidly in many parts of the world with new government directives and updated company policies being issued all the time. The Agent Assist desktop can be configured to provide agents with real-time alerts about important updates and announcements, so they are always in the loop even if they are working remotely. With the ability to update the virtual agent content quickly, organisations can also ensure agents have consistent access to time-sensitive information and the most recent versions of procedures and policies. This helps you improve consistency and compliance across the contact centre as well as the customer experience.
  • Reduce training time for agents – Some businesses are dealing with the increased pressure on their contact centre by reassigning employees from other areas to field customer questions or taking on new agents. This creates an additional challenge of training those people quickly and efficiently. Using a virtual agent in your contact centre reduces training time because it gives all agents the information they need right at their fingertips. The tool is easy to use, doesn’t require agents to remember specific keywords or abbreviations, and can provide step-by-step guidance through procedures, applications, etc. New agents, and seasoned team members, don’t need to worry about retaining the content because they can easily access it as they are interacting with customers. This enables you to focus training more on the best ways to have those interactions and deliver compassionate, emotionally intelligent engagements – which is more important than ever right now.

A great resource for organisations thinking about using conversational AI to support agents is the whitepaper A Chatbot for Your Contact Centre. It provides tips for selecting and implementing a conversational platform that fits with the needs of your organisation as well as best practices for deploying and maintaining an Agent Assist tool. Also included are contact centre specific questions to ask when evaluating different virtual agent offerings.

Coming up in Part 3 of this series on self-service, we’ll take a look at how virtual agent and chatbot technology can alleviate some of the stress of supporting a remote workforce. I will also share my top recommendations for getting new virtual agent projects deployed quickly and upgrading existing tools that aren’t performing well.

Ready to get started on your Agent Assist project? As always, the team at Creative Virtual is available and prepared to help you meet your contact centre goals – request a personalised demo here.

A Chatbot for Your Contact Center

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Contact centers around the world are celebrating Customer Service Week this week, recognizing their agents who deliver service and support to customers all year long. But many of those contact centers are missing an important team member. A team member who never needs a day off, who doesn’t get annoyed answering the same questions over and over, and who makes the rest of the team better at their jobs. They are missing a chatbot.

Chatbots and virtual agents have become essential tools for providing 24/7 self-service to digital customers. Yet many organizations are missing out on the added benefits of using these solutions in the contact center. Contact centers require a great deal of investment – from recruiting and training staff to putting the necessary tools in place for agents. A chatbot can help you maximize on those investments while creating a positive omnichannel experience for customers. They instantly provide agents with information to assist customers, reduce average call handling times, and increase first contact resolution. Training time for live agents is drastically reduced, and you build confidence with customers by assuring consistent communication from all agents.

A chatbot in your contact center works essentially the same way as a chatbot on your website, except the users are your agents instead of your customers. The tool understands questions asked in natural langue, as well as common abbreviations used by your contact center, and can guide agents through processes and forms step-by-step as they assist customers. By giving all staff easy access to the same level of knowledge regardless of experience, anyone from support teams to trainers and coaches can step in to answer customer questions with confidence at peak or busy times.

Contact centers looking to implement a chatbot need to be aware that not all chatbot and virtual agent technology is created equal, and not all solutions on the market have been designed for the contact center. The new whitepaper A Chatbot for Your Contact Center explores tips for selecting and implementing a conversational platform to support agents and provide an omnichannel customer experience. Designed to act as a buyer’s guide, it provides questions to ask when selecting chatbot technology for your contact center, guidelines for how to align your contact center with digital channels for seamless customer support, and best practices for successfully implementing and maintaining a conversational platform.

Outlining and executing successful digital customer experience (CX) initiatives continues to grow in importance as consumers become more digitally-savvy and digital natives gain more buying power. A successful digital CX strategy goes beyond what your customers are experiencing online to include what’s happening in your contact center. It’s crucial to select contact center tools that will not only improve performance now but set your contact center up for continued integration with the digital channels of the future. With chatbots, you can maximize on contact center investments, provide seamless omnichannel customer support, and incorporate your contact center into your digital CX strategy.

Download your copy of A Chatbot for Your Contact Center for important tips and questions to ask when selecting and implementing a conversational platform for your contact center agents.

Happy Customer Service Week!

Don’t Worry, the Customer Only Wants You to Be Perfect

By Scott Tompkins, Enterprise Account Executive, USA

So…. I have this diploma and now have no idea what to do! Anyone else been there after graduation? Being from Delaware, I thought I would try my hand at one of the many financial service companies that call the First State home. My interview seemed to go well and as it was concluding the hiring manager asked me to sit with one of her agents for 30 minutes so that I would have a better understanding of what I would be doing in this role. I sat down and listened to “Steve” take his first call. The caller was a very polite woman who I assume had lived a long, enjoyable life. She was calling to cancel her credit card. I can’t recall all of the dialogue but when she hung up the phone not only was the card not cancelled but she now was the proud owner of the “World Traveler Card.” How did that happen? At that moment, I realized this was not the job for me! What an incredibly difficult position for an agent. How do you show empathy for your customers while at the same time complying with the push to meet goals the company has outlined?

Fast forward a dozen or so years and now I am a seasoned member of the working class that at times requires support from brands I purchase from. My expectations when speaking with an agent are that they will handle every situation the way I would handle it if I was on the other end. Imagine asking an agent to meet each caller’s personal expectations. I really dislike the word “fair”, and don’t allow my children to use it, but my goodness, that is an unfair expectation.

So, what is the answer? For me, it’s automation. When I take inventory of all the reasons I pick up the phone or live chat with a brand, most of those things could be answered in some type of automated fashion or by a chatbot. Whether I need information about my account or steps to troubleshoot a process, I shouldn’t need another person to take the time to help me. Chatbots have evolved in 2017 to be intelligent, easy to access and conversational. They should be used in everyday transactions and leave the “high-touch” scenarios for the agents. Companies should strive to create an environment where customers are able to get immediate support for everyday issues, while at the same time having agents available for consultative help. Companies will not only create a superior customer experience but also help bring sanity back to their agents. Allow the agent to spend their day consulting with customers on new products and offering advice where necessary. Let the chatbot handle the password reset, account balance, and “I need to reset my router” questions.

Contact us to learn more about our chatbot experts and solutions.

Postcard From Las Vegas: Happy Customer Service Week!

By Claudia Ramos, Senior Customer Success Manager, USA

When I got news that I’d be relocating with my family to Las Vegas, NV, I was thrilled with the possibility of finally breaking out of the Contact Center world and embarking on my new dream. I envisioned my big entrance in the Hotel Bizz. Dreams aside, I had to provide for my family. The reality of a crashing economy shattered my dream of working in a new exciting field. I knew that I had become great at something I did not like so much anymore. So, I accepted a Contact Center Manager job that paid 50% less than what I was making previously. Looking back, at least I had the view of the Las Vegas Strip and the occasional fun background check to review and decline for hire…

However, what was it that changed my love and passion for working at a Contact Center?  It was never the clients, the calls or coaching sessions, and certainly not the amazing Potlucks. First, I was fed up with the fast-pace of hiring demands. Second, was how quickly we had to teach the agents to follow quality guidelines and memorize all the products offered. At one point, I remember being the only manager on the floor with 45 New Hire agents and every other agent was asking the same question. If you do not know the feeling, it is equivalent to hiking Red Rock Canyon without shoes (it’s a long story)! I would go on to interview, hire, train, coach and motivate agents for the next few years. Each day, reminding myself that all this experience would come in handy one day. At the very least, I was able to fit into some old Levi’s from my early 20’s due to all the walking around answering questions!

I have a new spring in my step these days! In 2016, I took the challenge from my mentor to join a team of Artificial Intelligence experts. Without a doubt, my first thoughts were, “Bots are here to take our jobs”, “Bots are not conversational”, etc. Do you want to know what made things interesting? The VP told me, “These are some of the best conversations you are going to read” (insert LOL emoji). Fine, I would like to read these myself! As I started reading through conversations, they felt more like a face-to-face conversation with a person than talking to a robot. I was noticing that the chatbot was handling more concurrent chats. All the while helping resolve the customers’ questions. The chatbot was apparently alleviating issues at all levels, resulting in a reduction in phone escalations. The additional development was that the chatbot could assist agents with listening and providing accurate responses to customers. My initial reaction was jealousy. I wished this technology had been available to me during all those years of on-the-job training for New Hires and walking the sales floor!

The hustle of my Vegas Contact Center days was not in vain. I feel good being able to contribute to a fast-paced world that needs happier, more satisfied agents and customers! Chatbots are created by people who are passionate about helping others. Individuals who understand the importance of clients receiving speedy and accurate resolutions and carefully curating answers that maintain a conversational element.

Big shout out to all the New Hires out there. Y’all are too much sometimes, and that is okay because I love you. Thank you for all you do!

Reach out to learn more about our AI experts and solutions.

“Thank you for calling..this is Mike, how can I help?”

By Mike Murphy, CEO, USA

Taking customer service calls is a lot harder than you imagine it would be. No one is particularly happy to be speaking with you, and they get a little less happy with every passing second. I’ve said it many times…being a call center agent was the most difficult, challenging, and rewarding job I’ve ever had. The goal is to warmly greet a stranger, figure out which of the hundred or so possible issues they need help with, convey empathy in an honest way, talk them through a resolution, wrap the call with appropriate branding and thank them for being a customer…and do it all in 12 minutes, before picking up the next call with the same level of energy…rinse and repeat 30 or so times in a shift, unwillingly do the same in your dreams at night, and start again the next day without missing a beat. By the way, you’re also logging case notes in real time, clicking through a call-flow tool, and looking up information in several different windows. Heavy drinking the night before is ill-advised.

On the plus side…it’s a metrics-driven job.  AHT, CSAT, FCR, NPS, Conversion Rate, AOV…everything is captured, reviewed, tracked and ranked. Your aim is to incorporate the fundamentals of good customer service: Make it effortless, Be nice, Be quick…while completing as many conversations in a day as possible. Talented customer service reps aren’t cheap, so maximizing their productivity is key and has been my professional focus for the last 15 years. Agent chat was the first technology I witnessed dramatically increase agent productivity. Now a great “contact” center agent could have 80-100 quality conversations per day instead of 30. Learning how to translate the fundamental principles of customer service to work within a digital conversation was also a lot of fun to figure out. Chat provided some interesting learnings…including the fact that creepy people are even creepier in chat. Working alongside other talented individuals, we figured out a playbook for best-in-class chat agent training. And now we have chatbots. We’re now applying the same principles from the chat-agent training playbook to chat-bot training. And we’re also helping out agents with bots of their own and driving the next leap in productivity. Great chat agents with bot-assistance can now do 150+ chats per day. And the bots themselves are happy to do 100,000+ conversations per day…and haven’t showed up to work sporting a hangover just yet. Can’t wait to see where we go next.

Reach out to learn more about our AI experts and solutions.