1 April, 2021 | Written by: Sebastian Weir
Categorized: Artificial Intelligence
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Operational Resilience in the Contact Centre: Leveraging AI to deliver Service Excellence
The rapid adoption of digital AI-infused engagement channels to deliver service continuity in Contact Centres is well known, but less known is how these channels can actually deliver even more value for traditionally cost and time intensive operations, these additional outputs include:
A more flexible workforce: new channels deliver service consistency, while organisations are able to react rapidly to changing workplace requirements.
New sources of data offering predictive insights to help to address failure demand at source, as well as anticipate changes in customer behaviour as society returns to normal.
A powerful means of identifying and supporting vulnerable customers on first contact.
The need for “business resiliency” underpins any large-scale technology transformation, as well as in steady state running, meaning that all changes must undergo rigorous performance testing (including disaster recovery and failover planning). When Covid-19 hit, businesses were faced with the reality that a large proportion of the workforce could not carry out their roles in the same way. This was effectively process stress-testing en-masse. Based on this experience, it is now essential to ensure that business processes are able to meet future disruptions, since the most successful businesses were those already enabled to pivot swiftly when faced with the pandemic.
Contact Centres are an area of the business where the stress-testing effects prompted by the pandemic can be seen first-hand. Despite the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Automation as Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA), contact centre operations are predominantly based on Human-2-Human interactions for sales and service. Therefore, the inability of contact centre teams to operate from stores and branches, together with social distancing challenges, led to enterprises enabling remote working at a scale never before been seen. This pressure to react quickly to maintain services, has also generated new levels of unprecedented thinking and a heightened appetite for risk. Therefore, it is key that we don’t revert to old ways of thinking, as we consider life after Covid. Now is the time to redefine operating models required for outstanding customer service delivery, following processes that are primed to withstand levels of unprecedented change.
What’s more, other advantages include:
A More Flexible Workforce
The benefits of AI and Automation are often described in terms of creating capacity, however, the effects of the past 12 months have added another dimension; flexibility. Employing these technologies effectively enables an organisation to flexibly redeploy its workforce dynamically, as it flexes to meet the changing demands of customers and the environment. For instance, using branch staff to man telephones for customer service, or using Intelligent HR platforms to provide relevant and timely information, as working circumstances change.
New Sources of Data for Service Differentiation
The growing role that AI and Automation plays to augment customer experience goes a long way to mitigate the impacts of the last 12 months, as the pandemic has highlighted the role that personalised service delivers and how important human interaction is for mental wellbeing. These technologies can provide a 12% increase in Customer Satisfaction, coupled with an 18% reduction in Operating Costs., as well as valuable data on changing customer behaviours and demands. Clearly, Covid-19 has caused changes in customer behaviour, and some behaviours will have changed permanently. Since the lockdowns, closure of bank branches and non-essential retail, there has been a seismic acceleration in digital adoption, while use of financial apps and mobile banking services have seen a 72% increase. There is now a significant opportunity to provide an efficient, tailored service to a customer base who previously would have never considered themselves “digitally savvy”.
Tools to Support the Most Vulnerable Customers
As digital adoption accelerates, Regulators are increasing levels of scrutiny of consumer harm, for instance, a primary objective of the FCA, is to ensure “the fair treatment of Vulnerable Customers”. Artificial Intelligence offers a consistent method of detecting vulnerable customers using advanced Sentiment and linguistic analysis, which can be closely aligned to organisational risk appetite and interpretation of regulations. The consistency, transparency and auditability of this method delivers early detection of vulnerable customers, even at the first interaction with a service provider. Also, the ability to alert the contact centre staff lightens the cognitive burden on the operative, allowing them to focus on service delivery. Beyond real time call analysis, the technologies equip companies with tools able to review every interaction for vulnerability or compliance alerts, something previously deemed impractical and expensive to do. AI can transform customer service for the better, changing the focus of KPIs and delivering positive customer outcomes.
Artificial Intelligence in the form of NLU and NLP are not new, they are commoditised AI where the maturity of the technology outweighs cost of entry. IBM have demonstrated how quickly it deploys and scales this technology to both respond to heightened demand and deliver business value. Furthermore, the speed which technology can react to support customers, coupled with the security and flexibility of Cloud platforms today, means that organisations no longer need to be physically tethered to a network. The latest IBV Report highlights that 58% of Consumer product companies are focussed on reducing operating costs due to the Pandemic, with 61% turning their attention to accelerating automation to improve productivity, safety and resilience.
AI and Automation provides new levels of resiliency to people-heavy operations, whilst also retaining the personal experience. AI can effectively embody the brand, experience and personality of an organisation, without replacing the role of face-to-face interactions. Whilst many organisations are fighting for survival, once the new-normal ends, we should challenge ourselves not to return to the ‘old’ normal, but instead to redefine it intelligently.