Real-Time Guidance: Help for Agents and Customers

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DMG Consulting’s survey of contact center operational and technical goals and investment priorities for 2022 showed that executives are primed to make a series of technology investments to enhance the performance, productivity, and perception of their service organizations. This includes initiatives to reduce agent attrition and improve the employee experience. Many of these projects fall within the broader realm of digital transformation and involve the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies. One area that is attracting a lot of attention and investment is real-time guidance (RTG) because of its ability to help agents and improve productivity while enhancing the customer experience.

Real-time guidance applications leverage AI, including natural language understanding (NLU), to listen to and understand both sides of live conversations as they are occurring. It uses this information to deliver guidance to agents (and possibly supervisors) to enable them to address customers’ issues properly.

These AI-based assistants function as virtual coaches, providing agents with context-based guidance obtained from knowledge bases, FAQs, intranets, and other sources as needed to improve agent efficiency, accuracy, and quality. RTG solutions give agents the data they need, such as customers’ histories or the procedures to address or resolve inquiries, to spend their time actually assisting customers instead of searching for information. Real-time guidance solutions can also alert agents when they miss an essential step in a process, such as verifying a customer or checking to see if a promised payment has been made.

By helping agents get things right the first time, RTG solutions enable companies to increase their first-contact resolution rates substantially, reducing the need for customers to follow up, which is a primary cause of customer frustration and dissatisfaction. These solutions are also well received by agents, as they provide a positive and practical approach to coaching and training. They expedite the learning process and improve quality standards by giving agents access to the right information when they need it, in the moment.

Real-time guidance was important prior to the work-from-home (WFH) shift, but it is now essential for delivering guidance to agents working remotely, who might not have anyone else to ask for help.

As this is a new market, the offerings are substantially different from one another, despite vendor messaging that makes them all sound similar. There are essentially three core capabilities in these real-time solutions: RTG, real-time coaching, and analytics-enabled quality management (AQM). All three capabilities depend on the solution’s native ability to listen, assess, decide what needs to be done, and provide feedback in real time.

But the solutions can differ in the application setup process, specifically the number and type of resources required to implement and maintain the application. The more advanced of them use AI and predefined templates to help users get started. Another differentiator is the sophistication of the provided guidance. Is it basic, like pop-up alerts or notifications when agents do something wrong, or advanced, including assistance for any type of interaction and the ability to make recommendations to help agents enhance the customer experience? Some solutions are better at coaching agents, highlighting strengths and pointing out areas of opportunity, which can boost the employee experience and agent retention. And some integrate more easily with other contact center or enterprise solutions and are able to pull data from disparate systems and combine it with contextual information during an interaction.

RTG solutions deliver demonstrative and quantitative benefits to the companies that use them them consistently. These solutions improve the customer experience by increasing first-contact resolution. When in full production and able to address a broad range of customer issues, they are expected to reduce customer interaction volume by an estimated 20 percent. They also improve agent productivity by reducing the average handle time of customer interactions and inquiries by giving agents easy and real-time access to needed information. And they should improve the employee experience, as they enable agents to more easily help and satisfy customers, which is what they signed up to do.

There is a tremendous amount of RTG investment, and innovative vendors are delivering new capabilities and best practices to the market. These solutions have proven to be effective and are expected to become a core component of the contact center and customer service toolset within the next few years. 

Donna Fluss, founder and president of DMG Consulting, provides a unique and unparalleled understanding of the people, processes, and technology that drive the strategic direction of the dynamic and rapidly transforming contact center and back-office markets. Donna can be reached at donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com.

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