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Would You Rather Call Customer Support or Clean a Toilet?

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

42% of Americans would rather clean a toilet and 46% would rather go to the dentist than call customer support.

These stats, just two of many in the 2022 Achieving Customer Amazement Study, likely have you nodding in agreement thinking about your own painful customer service experiences. Long wait times, disengaged agents, multiple call transfers, repeating yourself over and over – calling customer support has a bad reputation for a reason.

Having to call customer support is perhaps even more frustrating now than 20 or 30 years ago because we know that there are better and easier ways for businesses to provide customer service. Many of us would rather self-serve on the website, send an email, or chat with an agent online for most of our support needs, particularly when we are dealing with large companies. When we do need or prefer to make a phone call to speak with someone, a bad experience is made worse by the knowledge that there are ways to make support calls less painful which many contact centers aren’t utilizing.

Poor customer support experiences create unhappy customers, bad reviews, and lost revenue. Here are a few questions to ask about your customer service to help make it more pleasant than cleaning a toilet:

Do you make it easy for customers to reach your contact center?

Self-service options like chatbots and virtual agents are increasingly preferred by customers, but they can’t – and shouldn’t! – completely replace human contact center agents. Instead, they should be integrated with human-assisted options such as live chat and call-back so users can reach a human when needed without starting a whole separate engagement. When escalating customers from self-service to a live agent, the experience should be as seamless as possible. The agent should have full visibility of the customer’s conversation with the chatbot so they can pick it up right where the self-service experience ended.

Also, don’t make it difficult for customers to find your contact details. Companies that hide their support phone number and email address aren’t keeping customers from contacting them with issues. They are just making customers who are already annoyed about needing to contact the support team more frustrated. They have started the support experience negatively and made the job of their contact center agents even more difficult.

Do you intelligently route customers to the right agent?

Customers reaching out to your customer support channels want the ability to reach the right person to solve their issue. They don’t want to repeat their problem to multiple agents or waste more time on hold as they are transferred from department to department. Having agents specialized in specific areas is a great way to improve customer service, but only when customers are being connected with the right expert from the start.

Forward-thinking companies are using conversational AI to intelligently route customers to the right agent the first time. This technology can be used with IVR (interactive voice response) solutions for customers calling the contact center. It can also be used when handing users over from an automated chatbot to a live chat agent or call-back option. This improves the experience for both customers and agents, as well as helping to reduce the time it takes customers to have their issue resolved.

Do you provide agents with the best training and tools?

Customers want your contact center agents to be both knowledgeable about your products and services and able to convey that information in a kind and helpful way. That only happens when you provide your agents with the proper training and contact center tools. These two elements go hand-in-hand as the agent tools you have in place greatly impacts agent training.

Easy-to-use desktop conversational AI solutions improve agent performance, reduce training time, and cut average call handling times (AHT) by enabling quicker resolutions. A virtual agent designed specifically to support the agents in your contact center gives all staff members easy access to the same level of knowledge regardless of their experience. Agents can quickly find step-by-step guidance for even the most complicated procedures, processes, and applications. When agents have instant, reliable access to all the information they need in one place, they can focus on creating positive, efficient, and empathetic engagements with your customers.

Would customers rather clean a toilet or go to the dentist than call your customer support?

If the answer to this question is yes, then it’s time to make some changes to your customer support strategy. Start with simple changes, like making sure contact information for your support channels is easy to find. If you aren’t already leveraging conversational AI for self-service and in your contact center, now is the perfect time to explore those options. Recent developments in this technology make it a great choice for improving some of the most common customer frustration points.

Want to learn more? The whitepaper by Insurance Thought Leadership, The Virtual Insurance Agent, provides insights on improving customer experience with conversational AI that are applicable for all industries. Also check out the Guide to Selecting a Virtual Agent or Chatbot Vendor for tips from industry experts on how to implement and maintain successful solutions.

Conversational AI in the Contact Centre

This post originally appeared on AI Time Journal as part of their Conversational AI Initiative.

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Contact centres require a great deal of investment for organisations – from recruiting and training staff to putting the right tools in place for agents – and yet still often deliver a poor customer experience. Plagued by long wait times, agents dealing with inadequate or incomplete access to information and a disconnect from digital channels, contact centres are struggling to meet customer service expectations. With industry experts predicting the year 2020 as the point when customer experience (CX) will overtake product and price as the number one way companies will differentiate themselves from the competition, organisations can’t risk ignoring these common contact centre issues.

Smart companies are working hard to better their CX. Organisations everywhere are embarking on digital CX initiatives in an effort to improve their experience, build loyalty and increase sales. Conversational AI is increasingly an important piece of these initiatives with chatbots and virtual agents becoming essential tools for providing 24/7 self-service to digital customers. Available on websites, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WeChat, and smart speakers like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, chatbots are helping organisations deal with the growing number of customer touch points.

Yet, all too often these digital initiatives and conversational AI strategies ignore the contact centre. This creates expensive silos that damage the customer’s experience. A truly successful strategy goes beyond what customers are experiencing online to include what’s happening in your contact centre.

Chatbots are more than customer self-service tools

Many organisations are utilising conversational AI to create a self-service experience for customers but are overlooking the added benefits of using this technology in the contact centre. Chatbots and virtual agents help maximise on contact centre investments by instantly providing agents with information to assist callers, reducing average call handling times and increasing first contact resolution. Training time for live agents is drastically reduced, and organisations build confidence with customers by assuring consistent communication from all agents. When agents know they always have the information they need at their fingertips, their focus moves from trying to retain knowledge to building better relationships with customers.

The tool understands questions asked in natural language, as well as common abbreviations used by agents, 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, anyone from support teams to trainers and coaches can step in to answer customer questions with confidence at peak or busy times. Chatbots also lend themselves well to gamification around content awareness, skills training and performance improvements.

Not all chatbots are designed for the contact centre

There’s a record number of chatbot options on the market today, but not all of them have been designed for the contact centre. In fact, many of them are channel-specific solutions that create a disjointed experience for customers. Enterprises serious about creating a seamless CX – and aligning the contact centre directly with the digital function – should avoid those solutions. Here are four tips to help with selecting a conversational AI platform for contact centre agents:

  1. Centralise knowledge management control: To reap the benefits of using conversational AI within the contact centre – and for customer self-service – you must have a solid foundation in knowledge management. Chatbots and virtual agents can only give accurate responses if they are backed by a knowledgebase with accurate content. Using a single knowledge control centre for both customer-facing and contact centre chatbots creates consistency across channels. It also allows organisations to more easily keep content up-to-date and create a single point of truth.
  2. Integrate chatbots and live agents: The future of customer engagement lies in humans and machines working together in harmony. By bringing together automated and human support, organisations can create the seamless, omnichannel experience customers want. They can also take advantage of the contact centre becoming the centre of excellence for the knowledge used across customer support channels. Providing a chatbot that works for the specific needs and requirements of the contact centre is key for properly supporting agents and getting the most from this integrated solution. There should be choices to personalise the agent console as well as options for agents to use voice and for the tool to also be deployed on the IVR (interactive voice response) channel.
  3. Combine artificial intelligence and human input: The foundations of successful chatbots lie in the control of the response given. A hybrid approach of machine learning and human curation of content allows the chatbot to continually improve based on the way it is being used while also enabling companies to maintain control over the reliability of responses. Combining human learnings with AI creates dependable self-service solutions and gives organisations the control they need to comply with industry standards and regulations.
  4. Work with an experienced vendor: An often-cited barrier to deploying a chatbot by company executives is a lack of internal expertise. So, while selecting a conversational platform that offers the right features and functionality is essential for success, it’s just as important to select a vendor that can provide that experience and knowhow. When an organisation is working with the right provider, they don’t need to have existing internal experience to make the solution successful. The right vendor will be a partner throughout the process, collaborating on a customised chatbot and providing guidance on industry best practices and new innovations.

Be realistic but plan for the future

Before starting to evaluate chatbot offerings for the contact centre, an organisation needs to first determine how the solution will fit into their overall customer experience plan. Just as digital CX initiatives that ignore the contact centre create damaging silos, selecting a tool for the contact centre that ignores other customer channels can create similar issues. It’s crucial for companies to be ambitious, and at the same time realistic, about the role the contact centre currently plays – and the role it should be playing – in their overall CX strategy.

For a more in-depth look at these four tips along with 12 essential questions to ask when selecting chatbot technology for the contact centre, download the whitepaper A Chatbot for Your Contact Centre. With the right conversational AI technology and partner, organisations can maximise on contact centre investments, provide seamless omnichannel customer support and incorporate the contact centre into their digital CX strategy.