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4 Steps to Customer Experience Success with Intelligent Agents

Posted by Kathy Sobus on Oct 9, 2018 10:00:00 AM

Conversations abound with talk of the BOT (a web robot that automates tasks) takeover in our customer care practices, but how will the human element evolve? If in just a few short years, 85% of interactions will be handled by BOTs, where does that leave the other 15%? In this post, I will focus on the 15%, its importance within our customer care ecosystem, and how you can ready yourself for the impact this will have on your organization.

There is no doubt that through automation, many of the mundane tasks, questions, and answers that are already housed in databases (account balances, order status, locations, appointment reminders, and so on) will be handled by some form of self-service. These will take place through mobile, web, and voice-IVR channels that have been automated to mimic human characteristics during their conversations. Some will be fully assisted, while others will need human intervention.

The 15% of those that need human intervention are going to require movement between systems, authorization, and a higher cognition than a BOT today can provide. Readying your organization for this transition will be key. Talk times will be higher to help these customers; therefore, the same number of talk minutes will more than likely occur. In other words, you will have the same staff (in numbers) as you do today, but you will require talent with the capability to perform within these types of complex situations. The bottom line is that customers expect more from agent interactions.

What will you need to ensure successful agent interactions?

  • Understand your customers and their expectations. You can do journey mapping exercises or focus groups to gain insight, but more than anything, you should put yourself in your customers’ shoes. They want you to know who they are, what they are doing, and why they are doing it. If you can recognize and fix issues for them ahead of time—all the better. That is part of the 85%, not the 15%. Be well-connected (technically) and anticipate their issues. There are a variety of options available to enable agents with tracing information on mobile and web devices.

  • Create automated applications and coax your customers into using these new technologies instead of calling for routine issues. Market the new technologies to show their value—lead your customers to them, and incentivize these customers to use them. Minimize the frustration of using the other options (it may be time to retool). Accessibility, convenience, and ease of use are key attributes. Conversely, you could hide or remove the “voice” option or add cost to speak to an agent.
  • Begin to recruit, hire, and train differently than today. Think of your organization as the most important part of the company. A transformation may need to occur within some companies to allow the contact center to be a place to “grow into” rather than “grow out of.” Many times today, the center is the first stop on the employee’s career path. Perhaps it should be stop 2 or 3 instead.
  • Hire great leaders. Hire people to lead the organization through this massive transformation, which includes the co-existence of “man” and “machine.” Manage the expectations appropriately, gather necessary input, and continue to evolve. Remember the adage: “Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and frequently die from moving too slowly.” Skill sets can include strong problem-solving skills, multi-disciplinary knowledge, technical savviness, ongoing training, and the assurance of employee and job satisfaction.

I encourage you to measure differently. Think about the contribution of the resolution of a call, CSAT, NPS, customer churn rates, and cost or revenue per call instead of AHT, number of calls, abandon rates, etc.

As we move through this incredible transformation, contact centers will increasingly use technologies that mimic human interactions. Some customers will be served exclusively by these chatbots. Customers who cannot be satisfied through artificial intelligence and machine learning will still require human intervention.

Today’s representatives will require more complex skills than entry-level positions provide. The new skill sets will be more technical, with deeper product understanding and higher problem-solving abilities. As customers increasingly require these representatives’ assistance, they will have lower tolerance levels for a long time to resolution. More than ever, agents will be influencing CSAT, NPS, and Customer Loyalty scores. It is important to begin planning so that our companies are not left behind.

In a land of BOTs, an understanding of humanity remains essential: Keep customers feeling happy and valued, or they will look for greener pastures (or, at the very least, a more convincing simulation of greener pastures).


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Topics: Contact Center, Customer Experience, Intelligent Agents