The global Covid-19 pandemic is changing the way customer care businesses are operating. Consumers are on edge because many of them have lost their jobs and are faced with financial challenges. The unemployment rate in the United States rose to 14% in April, 2020 as 40 million Americans filed for unemployment. Faced with these and other pandemic- related issues, consumers are looking for ways to downsize and reduce costs. As a result, many contact centers are now bombarded with calls, emails and chat messages from upset customers who are looking for ways to reduce the costs of the goods and services they buy.
As consumer confidence and spending declines, many companies are seeking ways to reduce operating costs, including those associated with contact centers. A couple of potential ways to reduce costs in this area would be to reduce the contact center footprint or to reduce the agent population. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, companies have been forced to look at adopting mobile work models for the safety of their employees, causing a huge shift for moving agents from brick and mortar facilities to a home office workplace.
Despite these tectonic shifts, companies are still relying heavily on their call center agents to take on more work to keep up with the dramatically increased call volumes. This pressure is compounded by the fact that on average, consumers use 10 channels to communicate with the brand and expect personalized interaction and attention across all these channels. Agents are expected to interact across these ever-evolving number of channels and are charged with resolving the customer's problem despite many of these problems falling outside of the agent's control. In essence, agents are expected to be universal super agents, acting as a specialist and generalist; knowledgeable in a wide array of issues.
Challenges and demands on contact center agents
Another challenge call center agents face is the limitations of working with often decades-old technology and operating cultures that are preventing or limiting evolution. Organizations are using antiquated and disparate tools to provide service. Because they have accrued this technical deficiency over a long period of time, it is challenging to embrace change. But without change, it will become increasingly more difficult for them to provide a seamless customer experience. Call center agents are forced to juggle multiple screens and user interfaces from these complex and clunky systems while trying to provide an expeditious resolution to the customer's problem. This can lead to disgruntled agents, employee turnover, increased hiring and training costs, and reduced customer satisfaction. Furthermore, as illustrated in this HGS Digital blog post, the lack of integration across these disparate systems makes data consolidation difficult and makes it nearly impossible to get a 360-degree view of the customer. Without this comprehensive view of the customer, organizations miss out on a goldmine of insights that will help them target, personalize and improve their customers’ experience and increase revenues.
Happy agents translate to happy customers and increased revenues
HGS views these increased challenges as an opportunity to improve the agent experience since the agent experience drives all further actions. A surprising 92% of customers say that the agent’s mood impacts their experience.
Improving the agent experience translates to improved customer experience and improved customer experience translates to an increase in NPS® and a subsequent increase in revenue. As the Harvard Business Review pointed out back in 2003, a 10% improvement in NPS® correlates with a 6- to 7-percentage point increase in revenue growth.
Embracing change and better outcomes with automation and AI
Automation is the new favorite word of many C-level executives. CX executives are looking at ways to reduce the burden on internal employees, customers, and stakeholders. Automation is enabling customer service teams to handle larger volumes of queries more quickly. Routine and mundane tasks can be automated through Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and commonly asked questions can be addressed through Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Cloud-based contact centers are another huge advancement in this area as they provide technology that is seamless and can be easily integrated with a larger cloud ecosystem. For example, Amazon Connect has transformed the contact center space because it is embedded within the larger AWS ecosystem. Amazon Connect can be easily integrated with an AWS cloud data lake and can leverage AWS AI and Automation tools to transform the agent and customer experience.
How HGS is leveraging automation & AI to improve agent experience
Traditional contact center agents juggle multiple screens to get to the outcome required to solve the customer's problem. Agents are tasked with taking calls from the Telephony system (Twilio, Amazon Connect, Avaya, Cisco, Genesys etc.), getting the customer data from a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, and ultimately finding answers to customer's queries within a Knowledge Management system. The ability for agents to help the customer expeditiously is reduced as the agents spend time toggling between screens and tools; performing the same mundane, repetitive and manual tasks day in and out. This leads to agent burnout.
The QA team is only able to attend to less than 10% of interactions as a result of high call/email/chat volumes and a lack of adequate resources necessary to do more. The QA specialist reviews data from multiple systems (Call recording system, CRM etc.) and the outcomes are inserted into a spreadsheet or a disparate system, making it difficult to analyze the data to glean meaningful insights. HGS analysis indicates that automating this process alone using AI would save millions of dollars for contact center operations.
Today, many companies rely only on NPS® as the ultimate voice of the customer. The problem with NPS® as illustrated in this white paper is that, NPS® is calculated from survey results and fewer than 3% of customers take the survey. Out of that small population, most of them are either detractors or promoters, compounding the need for a better way to calculate NPS®. HGS Digital, the digital arm of HGS, recently partnered with AWS to explain a novel way to capture 100% of the interactions and a better way to measure customer satisfaction using AI & Natural Language Processing.
Below is the current day in the life of a contact center agent prior to using Automation & AI
A new day in the life of a traditional contact center agent with AI and automation
With a revised process leveraging a combination of bots and AI, companies are able to automate many of the mundane and repetitive tasks that contact center agents typically perform. In this approach, bots are used to pull data from disparate systems into a single consolidated screen so that the agent does not have to handle multiple screens. The process uses AI to execute straightforward tasks such as categorization and summary so that the agents can focus on solving the problems faced by the customer.
This solution also monitors 100% of the interactions and can provide valuable insights instead of focusing on limited interactions (roughly 3%) using NPS®. Due to the richness of the data, this solution is a much better way to measure customer satisfaction. These deeper insights (system related, people related and process related) can be used for internal quality management, agent coaching purposes, and for uncovering patterns and ways to improve CX and increase the revenue. An internal study during the last quarter of 2019 showed that there is a direct correlation between quality and customer satisfaction (CSAT). An improvement in quality showed a corresponding increase in NPS®, thus focusing on quality results in improved customer satisfaction and higher revenue growth.
The real-time nature of the interaction also allows organizations to check for any agent non-compliance issues or fraud in real time to prevent it. As the agents are working from home with the pandemic, this has become a real issue and companies can tackle it head on by leveraging AI and Automation solutions.
AWS cloud-based technology solution architecture
HGS Digital’s AI and Automation solutions are built on top of Amazon Connect and an AWS cloud-based data lake. The solution uses the AWS real-time streaming product (Kinesis) for getting live data from Amazon Connect and also uses AWS Transcribe for live transcription for converting speech to text. The solution also applies state-of-the art technologies such as serverless architecture and real-time alerting mechanisms.
Contact centers must let go of their antiquated technologies and processes and embrace call center modernization strategies to keep up with the ever-changing and increasing expectations of the modern customer in order to provide seamless customer experience in this omni-channel world. Amazon Connect along with the AWS ecosystem solutions allows companies to leverage Bots and Brains to automate many of the manual, repetitive and time-consuming tasks so that agents can focus on solving customers’ complex problems.
The Cognitive Contact Center optimizes the contact center processes by leveraging automation and AI to deliver frictionless customer experiences that enable the contact center agents to be problem solvers. Implementing a cognitive contact center solution can lead to greater growth opportunities for companies by generating rich business insights that lead to improved CX, higher contact center agent job satisfaction, employee retention and ultimately, increased revenues.
Yasim Kolathayil (Yas) is the VP of AI & Insights at HGS Digital. Yas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org