AI and intelligent virtual agents improve the customer experience and the agents’ mood, assures Sabine Winterkamp in a guest article.
Does working in a call center mean processing countless calls a day with often recurring inquiries in a kind of assembly line work? That is clearly not enough. A call center is a company’s flagship and an important component of customer service. So it’s about more phone calls. It is an important touchpoint in the customer experience and is therefore increasingly developing into a customer experience center. Companies now understand that a contact center is often one of the first direct touchpoints a customer has with a company. A good and continuing customer experience is therefore indispensable to increase customer loyalty.
Self-service tools and IVAs
In Germany, too, AI technologies and self-service options are increasingly being used in customer contact. Above all, intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) are central. IVAs can process simple and recurring customer inquiries in the shortest possible time and thus provide even faster customer service – whether as a chatbot or virtual assistant.
However, the use of these IVAs by no means means that agents will become superfluous as a result; on the contrary, their job description is changing and becoming even more important than ever before. When simple queries and redundant processes are taken over by IVAs, human agents can take care of more complex and demanding tasks. This automatically changes the job profile of contact center agents and they become even more specialists in multi-faceted problem solving.
Companies must take this change into account and ensure that the contact center is well integrated into the entire company and is in continuous exchange with other departments. In the long term, both sides benefit from this: agents can solve particularly difficult inquiries quickly because they already have a short line of communication with the relevant experts. The specialist departments receive valuable customer feedback to which they can respond promptly.
However, IVAs and human agents do not always have to be strictly separated in their scope of duties. A combination of the two can improve the customer experience in certain cases. For example, IVAs can analyze the customer’s mood and route complex or sensitive concerns to an appropriate human contact.
Artificial intelligence takes the burden off agents
Not only can companies use AI for their customers, but AI can also be used to support their agents. With instructions and checklists that agents can call up in real time during a customer interaction, they do not forget any important points and also receive valuable tips on how to conduct the conversation even better. Transcribing conversations in real time also adds great value to contact center employees. They don’t have to take notes during a call, but can concentrate fully on the customer and their concerns.
It also significantly speeds up the follow-up of a call. Obviously, these and similar tools increase agents’ work performance and quality, but their stress levels also drop significantly when they receive such work relief from AI. An agent who receives repetitive, monotonous requests, has to keep all the important questions in mind during a call, take notes at the same time, and laboriously transcribe them in post-processing has a higher stress level and greater dissatisfaction than an agent who is supported by AI and IVAs in all these respects and can focus on the essentials. A relaxed, satisfied agent transmits these emotions in their voice when talking to customers and deals differently with customers who are stressed or dissatisfied on their part to do so. Companies are therefore well advised to think about their own employees when implementing AI solutions.
Managing Director, Five9