How Chat Bots Will Change Contact Center Agents' Jobs
The contact center, like every other business process, is not immune to trends. Business trends, of course, are generally driven by customer trends, and today’s customers like a lot of personalized options available to them. They’re also mobile (as in, “continually connected to their phones”), and they generally like to speak to a live agent only as a last resort.
So what technology can be mobile, personalized and automated, thanks to the addition of artificial intelligence (AI) and speech technology? Meet the new bots, or virtual assistants. According to Nicolina Savelli writing for Customer Think, AI-driven “bots” will go mainstream this year.
“In 2017, a new wave of enterprise applications that harness intelligent virtual assistants are poised for proliferation (Siri, Alexa, and Google (News - Alert) Now),” she wrote. “For example, Amazon Echo will allow guests of the Wynn Hotel to query Alexa for room and hotel information. Additionally, Domino’s Pizza has introduced customers to ‘Dom’ their virtual ordering assistant.”
Once reserved for personal consumer relationships only (think Siri in her earliest days), bots are now finding business applications for a very good reason: they can offload routine customer questions from live agents, who are often overworked and over-scheduled. Better yet, bots can operate not only via chat, but via natural language processing, allowing customers to speak their questions naturally.
So what happens when a bot can’t answer a customer’s question or solve an issue? It’s easy: there’s a human to back it up. In the realm of customer support, bots are intended to work as a frontline for live agents. Bots can be deployed to handle simple (but common) queries, and route more complex issues to live agents (while bringing the customer’s information to the live agent to save time).
“For a company to provide consistent, timely support, chatbots are a useful alternative to satisfy customer expectations (while preventing agent burnout),” wrote Savelli. “Chatbots work alongside human agents to provide a top-notch, optimized, cost-effective customer engagement strategy that can skyrocket an organization to the forefront of today’s customer experience world. As companies begin to harness this technology, learn from past mistakes, and improve capabilities through AI and speech recognition, chatbots will begin to earn the respect of users.”
It's also likely that chatbots will earn the respect of contact center agents, too, as they will be able to offload the queries that make contact center work boring and repetitive. Companies preparing to deploy chatbots should, however, make an effort to understand what their use may do to agent scheduling (they won’t necessarily mean you need to schedule fewer agents with shorter hours, since agents will now need to spend their time handling more complex issues). They can, however, help personalize and improve the customer relationship and boost employee engagement, which should be the goal of any customer-facing organization.
Edited by Alicia Young