The Top Customer Service Trends: Contact Centers Grow Use of the Cloud, AI, and Other Technologies
Dan Miller, Opus’s founder and lead analyst, says AI adoption in the coming decade will be driven by business objectives, such as increasing sales, reducing costs, improving customer satisfaction, and increasing customer retention and loyalty.
Miller says companies are spending $60 million on conversational AI to drive “conversational commerce.” These conversations are replacing apps.
“The relationship between brands and customers is best captured through conversational AI,” Cleveland adds. “The first-person data that it provides is the best undiluted statement of intent.”
Therefore, conversational AI can help agents recognize when customers are going to churn, giving companies a chance to save the customer relationship.
Businesses are successfully leveraging their investments in speech and text analytics, natural language processing, and machine learning to extract meaning and recognize the intent of each individual, Miller adds.
Conversational AI rapidly recognizes and predicts intent, shortening the time it takes for individuals to accomplish their objectives, he says, which is more important than ever as contact centers operate at reduced capacities. During the pandemic, customers have frequently heard recorded warnings of reduced contact center personnel and directions to self-service via the website. A few companies even included recommendations to hold for an agent only for very specific issues.
AI also plays an important part in fraud prevention by enabling companies to take the originating phone number, device, location, past activity, and biometric data into account when validating and authenticating customer identities.
Companies are employing AI not only to provide more personalized service for customers but also to understand wider industry trends and to gain essential competitive intelligence about others in their respective industries, according to Sternquist. “They capture what competitors are saying, then they run it through an AI filter to disseminate the information into an intelligence report.”
Dovetailing with increased AI is increased use of chatbots to handle ever more complex customer service needs, freeing agents to focus only on the most complex queries and handle increased interactions coming in from other sources, including emails, text, social media, and phones.
Intelligent voice assistants and chatbots are being deployed as part of call deflection strategies to make the call load more manageable for human agents, Cisco’s research finds. Seventy percent of contact centers experience lower call volumes when chatbots are deployed.
MORE, SIMPLER APPS
As the focus on customer experience increases for companies, they have looked for faster ways to improve the depth and variety of their offerings for customers and make solutions easier to use for agents, according to Wettemann. This has led to the increased use of low-code and no-code applications.
“These enable business users to make changes without the need to get developers involved,” she explains. “This way, they can easily add a new process to deal with new customer needs and integrate data applications. They can start testing and using new applications in hours rather than in days or weeks.”
Similarly, contact centers have gone outside of their traditional developers, adding more apps from citizen developers and incorporating disposable apps, which can be added and then quickly jettisoned when no longer needed.
For agents, contact centers have focused on single, unified applications to provide agents with everything they need from one source, Wettemann also notes.
In-application training for agents has grown as well, a trend that became more of a necessity when agents were forced home by the pandemic.
The trend today is to have all collaborative functions integrated within the contact center, giving agents greater access to all the resources and intelligence within the company and enabling them to find and collaborate with people in real time so they can provide timely and accurate responses.
Screen pops, which have been around for decades, have also become more robust, to the point where they can provide far more than just basic customer information, according to Cleveland. In 2020, the agent-facing technology includes records of past conversations; speech analytics, including real-time prompts depending on the caller’s word usage and tone; and complete caller history.
“It’s screen pops on steroids,” Cleveland says.
THE SECURITY QUESTION
With the focus on technologies to meet pandemic-related customer service needs almost overnight, security issues might have taken a back seat, a point that is backed up by research. In the Cisco study, 70 percent of respondents cite security and privacy as their top challenge.
“The present circumstance is putting a sudden strain on IT and security teams who are being tasked with providing support for an unprecedented number of offsite workers and their devices,” writes Omar Tawakol, vice president and general manager of the Cisco contact center business unit, in a company blog post. “This reinforces the importance of keeping up with the latest security technologies that are designed to protect customer privacy and allow employees to stay connected to their teams and business operations from anywhere.”
But contact center vendors are responding with new security capabilities. One that shows great promise is ID R&D’s IDFraud Contact Center, which uses text-independent voice biometrics to compare the voices of new callers against a database of voiceprints from known fraudsters.
“By employing neural network-based technologies, it isolates speaker voices into separate audio files and then performs rapid comparison of the unique aspects of those voices to voiceprints of known fraudsters,” Opus Research’s Miller notes in a recent blog post.
Phillip Britt is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.