Conversational AI is playing an increasing role in customer service contact centres.
It can greet customers, handle routine requests in a conversational manner, and more accurately route interactions to the service agents who can best assist. But when a customer reaches out to a contact centre, they are often frustrated because they have unsuccessfully tried to solve their problem online, and they expect their request to be met with empathy and urgency. Irritation can take over if the user reaches an AI bot when they need a human conversation; or if they have to wait for a human when an AI could resolve the issue more efficiently.
When seeking immediate answers and information, 36% of customers choose self-service chat or a virtual agent. However, when addressing a more complex or sensitive issue, people want to speak with a human agent.
When deploying AI, businesses should keep a customer-centric approach and lead with empathy. Striking the right balance between human and automated service in a customer’s journey is vital, as are honesty, visibility, and trust. Businesses should adopt the following practices when deploying AI, to maintain authentic service and retain customer loyalty.
Lack of transparency results in a lack of trust
Breaking customer trust costs money. In fact, 53% of consumers said that they have stopped purchasing from a brand after a loss of trust and 44% of global consumers will spend at least $500 or more each year with the brands they trust most.
Attempting to pass an automated voice off as human and anthropomorphizing chatbots can be a recipe for poor customer experience in high-emotion scenarios, and many can feel misled once they discover they have been communicating with AI. 76% state the importance of brands showing empathy, understanding their frustrations and valuing what is really important to them – in essence, providing an authentic human connection and not being tricked into a conversation with AI.
Creating authenticity through connecting AI and human intelligence
Pulling together the right balance of human empathy and judgment, with the speed and scale of artificial intelligence (AI), is crucial to handle the increasing volume of sensitive contacts. This new shift to humans and AI working together in a collaborative and intelligent way empowers agents rather than replacing them.
Collaborative intelligence offers the best of both worlds for customer service. The initial contact is handled by an IVA, able to autonomously deal with the quick, listen-search-retrieve activities, such as order updates or opening hours. The IVA can also identify the most urgent cases, detect caller sentiment, verify a customer’s identity, and gather contextual details to feed through to a human agent in real-time. Once the customer has connected to a human agent, the AI changes its role. Instead of helping the customer directly, it helps the agent to help the customer. This is done with agent assistance technologies. Agent assistance provides the agent with instant context, information needed to deal with complex cases, customer history, and guidance.
As a result, contact centres can continue to provide authentic, personalized human connections when it matters most. This collaborative intelligence gives service agents deeper satisfaction in their roles (making them happier), reduces costs (making the business owner happier), and speeds up customer service (making them happier too).
The evolving role of human agents
With collaborative intelligence, the role of human agents will continue to evolve. 73% of call centres have noted an increase in agent turnover rates according to a study released this year. However, weaving in the role of IVAs and collaborative intelligence to support human agents offers a vital solution to combat this attrition.
Put simply, AI helps agents to do their jobs better. It gives them consistent guidance so that they don’t need to memorize playbooks, takes notes for agents so that they can give customers their undivided attention, and allows new staff to come up to speed faster, acting as dedicated supervisors. All of these are laborious things that AI removes from agent workloads, allowing them to focus on empathy, listening, and complex tasks that require real skill, are higher value and less repetitive.
Moving forward, it’s evident that the right combination of automated and human service can facilitate interactions that earn customer trust and loyalty. Human empathy should remain at the centre of customer service, but it can be greatly enhanced by the efficiency and scale that AI brings to resolving routine issues. From reducing wait times to automating FAQs, thoughtful deployment of AI will become essential for brands looking to stand out in 2023.
About the Author
Jonathan Rosenberg is CTO at Five9. Five9 is an industry-leading provider of cloud contact center solutions, bringing the power of cloud innovation to more than 2,000 customers worldwide and facilitating billions of customer engagements annually. The Five9 Intelligent Cloud Contact Center provides digital engagement, analytics, workflow automation, workforce optimization, and practical AI to help customers reimagine their customer experience. Designed to be reliable, secure, compliant, and scalable, the Five9 platform helps increase agent and supervisor productivity, connects the contact center to the business, and ultimately deliver tangible business results including increased revenue and enhanced customer trust and loyalty.
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