Artificial Intelligence: Powering Better Experiences And More Efficient Businesses

2021-01-25 |  Des O'Dell and Laurence Walker

The artificial intelligence (AI) era isn’t coming, it has arrived. The pandemic has highlighted just how critical it is to a huge number of businesses, as consumers hunker down and head online to shop for products, switch services and solve problems. 

Contact centre crunch

But this increase in demand is causing problems for many. Customer service call centres are facing a perfect storm. Home working operatives have less support and are therefore less productive. On the flip side demand for their help has gone up – since so many of us are unable to go out we’re using the time to find better deals for services, buy and return products, update details with suppliers and so on.

This is severely testing both the technologies and contact centres that are critical to customer experience. The graphic below shows the negative impact this can have.   

For businesses that rely on giving customers a great experience it is not a pretty picture. Those that already had rich artificial intelligence capabilities and good, accessible information have stood up to the challenge well. Others have been exposed.

You may have called a contact centre recently and heard messages warning of increased waiting times or been asked to call back later or search for answers online. You were probably left feeling frustrated and questioning whether to use that business again.

AI on the way

Online capabilities are critical to improving that critical customer experience. And like all disruptions, the pandemic is providing opportunities for those willing to embrace the future.

Recent research suggests that 85% of customer interactions will be automated this year. Many simple tasks will be done without human interaction, including changing personal details and answering questions such as:

Where is my order?

How much do I have invested?

Can I change my address or a direct debit?

These can take place when and where a customer chooses, so they aren’t limited by call centre opening times or left searching through confusing online FAQs to find an answer.

Putting the intelligence in AI

A virtual assistant with artificial intelligence capabilities can answer questions, such as the ones above, in a way that provides a satisfying experience for the customer and valuable insights for you. Here’s how:

  • By using natural language analysis they can show customers the most relevant response that satisfies customers most frequently.
  • Once trained, the assistant will recognise the different ways customers ask the same question and the words used to describe your product and service.
  • An assistant can break up information into smaller sections that help customers through complex content or scripts and disclaimers required for regulatory purposes.
  • It can quickly access complex information stored on other systems and retrieve personal information.
  • The assistant can capture information about your customers to help refine their experience and develop further content.

Virtual assistants are easily implemented into online journeys and are configurable, ‘low-code’ solutions. Also, most of their features can be maintained by operational teams who know customers best and can react quickly to market changes.

They’re eager to start too. Customer-facing virtual assistants can be live in a couple of weeks – ready to learn, improve your customers’ experience and reduce the burden on your contact staff.

Getting more from your (human) agents

Virtual assistants also provide invaluable support for your contact centre staff. Automating the answering of simple questions will give your agents more time to focus on tasks that require human skills such as empathy, creativity and professionalism.

Intuitive artificial intelligence is particularly useful for agents working remotely with little support. They can use it to quickly and independently find the right processes and information for a customer. For example, products can be complex and may need to be treated differently based on their specific features and how and when they were sold. A virtual assistant can guide an agent to the right answers quickly in the same way it would if it was interacting with a customer.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the agent-AI working relationship. Other benefits we’ve seen include:

  • Accelerated training times with an intuitive and familiar interface.
  • A single source of the truth displayed logically to improve consistency of service.
  • Less need for ‘floor-walkers’ in call centres and agent support, as information is displayed with rich video and image content.
  • Analysis of agents’ questions used to shape the content and functionality they need.
  • And AI that learns your organisation’s style and industry jargon so that it displays the right answer regardless of how the question is asked.

Take a look at the case study below to see some of the concrete benefits of AI:

Case Studies

On the money customer service for a large financial institution

A well-known financial services brand with 9.5 million customers and a range of products wanted to simplify their online journey for existing customers to get them to the right product information first time. They did this in several ways:

  • By analysing existing customer journeys and collaborating with contact centres to identify where they left them and introduce AI to understand why.
  • By designing and introducing an intuitive interface for all customer types and demographics to enable navigation to the right information.
  • By implementing guided AI assistance to help customers find specific product content or direct them to a live agent if needed.

And the results? Across all products, 120,000 customer queries were answered each month with an average of 90% of questions answered without agent intervention. What’s more the rich business intelligence captured was used to signpost the service and enhance the customer experience with dynamic forms and automation.

We think this is just the start. Not only will the number of organisations using virtual assistants skyrocket in the coming years, the technology will improve too. Given the fast-paced evolution of natural language processing technologies, the rise of voice search and more advanced cognitive technologies, assistants will increasingly be able to perform more complex, multi-step tasks.

The potential for those that grasp the opportunities is huge. If you’d like to discuss how we can help your organisation improve customer experience and tackle your specific challenges with AI, please get in touch.