Artificial Intelligence (AI) has, over the past 12 months, raised its head above the parapet again, and we are all looking at it, waiting for the magic to help us. The problem is, do we really know what it is, or how we can use it.
“AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The term may also be applied to any machine that exhibits traits associated with a human mind such as learning and problem-solving.”
In Telephony and Contact Centre terms here’s what I believe AI could mean to you.
The simplest AI that can be deployed is the Music on Hold and Messaging feature that many solutions will offer as standard. Even the most basic solutions will give you some symphonised “Green Sleeves” music, and the odd “Sorry to keep you waiting” message. Its typically extremely basic and can be viewed as doing more harm than good, as customers soon tire of the same message and “horrible” music.
Better solutions will offer the choice of music, different messages, and a longer cycle before repeating things. This can placate your customers a little, but your choice of music is crucial. A slow piece of music gives the impression that your company is strolling around and not overly bothered about answering the call. It can also make the wait time seem exceptionally long when it isn’t. Faster music (“The flight of the Bumble Bee” for example) can have the opposite effect. Customers may believe that you are all running around like “headless chickens”, not the impression you want to give!
Good solutions will give you a choice of music for different calls. They will give you better announcements and they will give you the power to decide how your calls are answered and what your customers will experience when waiting. Choose wisely and the “on hold” experience can be quite pleasing.
The next step up in AI that can be easily deployed is self-service and may prove key to helping customers find information quickly.
There are many methods and channels that can be used to help your customers, the easiest of which is IVR (Interactive Voice Response). Simply put, asking your customers a question, and letting them respond by pressing the DTMF (Dual Tone Multi Frequency) buttons on their telephone. Press 1 for this, press 2 for that …. etc etc. Some people refer to it as “Touch Tone” direction.
IVR can also use DTMF or touch-tone technology to identify and route callers to the most qualified teams or agents, driving greater efficiency on both sides of the customer experience.
IVR systems provide many rich features that enhance the self-service experience. For example, visual IVR enables customers to tap their way through visual menus and reach agents quickly. The technology also allows customers to get into an agent queue when necessary, while supporting text-to-speech in multiple languages on both the inbound and outbound sides of a call. Customers are therefore given seamless experiences that are tailored to their needs.
Customers lose patience when they are forced to listen to long menu options. Fortunately, a great benefit of IVR is allowing customers to skip the options they don’t need. In addition, dropped calls occur less frequently when such a system is in place, and customers may be given the option of a call-back when their wait time is very long. Call backs can be automated and the customer called when their turn to be answered arrives. This saves the customer from holding the line and is also very useful if the customer is not going to be at the telephone they placed the call from. They can request a call to a mobile for example, which means if they are in the car, or out shopping, they won’t miss their turn.
Being routed to agents with the appropriate skills also ensures that customers get the answers they need every time.
There are many ways to use IVRs and these can be linked to CRMs within your solution, or even 3rd party CRMs that can also direct where the caller should be routed to.
Enhancing mobile customer experiences
As smartphone use continues to grow, it’s imperative for brands to offer mobile-optimised customer service. Visual IVRs are therefore ideal for customers on the go, allowing them to reach out for support even when they are in-store.
This can be via the telephony options available or via Chatbots on web pages
For this reason, IVR plays an important role in boosting sales, as potential customers are more likely to purchase when their questions are answered efficiently.
Chatting on the Web
As we all use the internet much more now than ever before, it makes sense to make use of WebChat to answer customer queries. Basically, they work the same as a telephone call, but use the written word instead of voice.
This allows you to Chat with multiple customers at the same time, while we expect WebChat to be answered promptly, we are not expecting a “one to one” relationship and are therefore more accepting of slight delays in responses. With WebChat you are able to send much more “preprepared information” as you may have FAQs already waiting to be sent. More customers are turning to WebChat as they don’t have to be “fully focused” on their discussion with you which allows even more flexibility.
The rise of the Chatbot
Just as WebChat has become more accepted, so have Chatbots. Automating the simple Q&A process can prove to save time and effort for both you and your customers. If frequently asked questions can be automated, then Chatbots can prove to be a very efficient method of communication.
Specific information on Balances, or Delivery Dates, can also be used via Chatbots. This use of AI is becoming the norm and customers not only accept it, but expect it, as they don’t always want to interact with real people. Sometimes quite complex enquiries are easily handled by Chatbots, and often the machine is quicker than a real person at finding out information and providing it to your customers.
Another great benefit of Chatbots is they don’t need a break or rest. They operate 24×7.
Taking Payments and PCI-DSS
With an Omni Channel solution you are able to process payments in a secure PCI-DSS manner using Email, WebChat, SMS and Social Media. Using AI to control the payments will mean they are no longer at risk of falling foul of any of the PCI-DSS rules and regulations.
Automated Outbound Dialling
When using an automated dialler you are able to increase the contact rate of your agents. More calls made, which equals more customers spoken to. But you can take that a step further with Robocaller, or Agentless Dialling.
The system will not only make the call, but “speak” to the customer who answers. Using an IVR or Speech Directed calling, the Robocaller can place the call to a real agent if required. Alternatively imagine where the customer presses a button, and the system speaks back the answer. This is easily achieved and with integration to a CRM, you can read back certain information such as balances on an account, or outstanding payments due.
A good use of this type of system might be to confirm delivery of a product to your customer and offer them the ability to change delivery dates if the selected day is not convenient.
Text to Speech
Advanced solutions will now allow you to turn text into speech. By creating messages, and then converting text, which can be obtained from a 3rd party solution if required, into voice, you are able to respond to your customers and remain fully automated.
An example of this might be as follows,
- A pre-recorded announcement saying “Your current balance is”
- Information obtained as text from another solution and converted into speech “£210.65”
- The final message read to the customer as “Your current balance is £210.65”.
Text to Speech can be used in a number of different scenarios where the outcome is “predictable”. AI can also now make a certain amount of “intelligent assumptions” which can allow for a conversation between Customer and Machine.
Taking AI to the next level
With an Omni Channel solution, AI can be utilised in many different Customer Contact scenarios. Using the telephone, you can easily see benefits when using IVR, messaging, and integrations to 3rd party solutions. It’s when you start to use the other methods of communication such as SMS, WebChat, Chatbot, Email, and various Social Platforms that AI really comes into its own. As new methods of communications are “invented” or become more popular, you will probably utilise AI more. Ten to Fifteen years ago had anyone heard of WhatsApp or Facebook? Both of these methods of communications have become popular, and via an Omni Channel solution you are able to not only answer queries from these platforms but automate many of the processes with AI.
“The future is here today” is a comment we seem to be hearing more and more, and its actually quite easy to design and implement a solution that provides AI as a viable option for your customers. As long as you base your solution on what your customers require, and what you want to supply, you will be able to automate many of your common processes.
Many people will say that AI takes jobs away, and de-personalises customer transactions and the quality of the service you provide may suffer. I would argue completely the opposite. By providing AI as an option for your customers you will be providing a much more efficient service and only involve your agents when they are needed. In this manner AI is adding to a more complete Customer Experience.
AI is, as stated earlier, automating some of your processes, saving on workload, and providing a service and customer experience that enhances, or sometimes replaces, your human agents, with automated system agents. This allows your most valuable assets, your staff, to do more interesting work, and provide a more personal service to your customers.
|Author: Roy Holmes | Operations Director Published by: Daktela UK ltd|