Amid the AI Fervor, a Case for Automating with a Human Touch
The hype around artificial intelligence is at an all-time high, with AI and related technologies now a solid topic of discussion across all markets, but especially in the realm of customer contact. In fact, in Dimension Data’s “2019 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report,” robotics and AI are two of the areas organizations in the Americas region say will grow most next year, with 88% of organizations (88.3% globally) projecting increases in these channels.
The report goes on to explain, “The impact of automation can have profound effects on productivity and customer experience (CX). We’ve noted how costs, cybersecurity, and potential negative customer feedback are big areas of concern for organizations when it comes to AI and robotics. Yet, if implemented and managed well, these technologies can help to address some of these risks and deliver the promised benefits of improved CX, customer analytics, and business intelligence.”
“Implemented and managed well” have always been concerns in the contact center market, particularly in the areas of self-service and automation. Poorly designed IVR speech user interfaces and menus; critical data not passed along to live agents; and overinvestment in persona design over usability are just a few of the issues that have plagued the market and driven down customer satisfaction (CSAT). With the more recent emergence of virtual assistants, robotic process automation (RPA) agents, and bots, the stakes have been raised even higher. Without best practices that include cross-organizational plans that address the above issues, plus the critical question of where humans fit in, we’re faced with the perpetuation of legacy system problems and customer dissatisfaction.
A solid automation strategy starts with understanding what, when, and why a process or task should be automated. A company needs to think about its end-to-end interconnected processes in the front and back office. Task-based automation is a good way for organizations to start, as it enables a company to test the waters and expand accordingly, gauging automation effectiveness and customer and employee acceptance.
With customer-facing automation, a strategy needs to go beyond that, taking into consideration the human aspects of automation. Does it make sense to automate an entire process or just a portion? When is it appropriate to bring a human into the equation? Would having bots and agents work side by side be a viable solution to customer service challenges?
In the age of AI hype, there is as much excitement over automation as there is pushback against it, with much fear mongering over the prospect of too much automation causing people to lose their jobs. Conversely, attended automation is a chance to return the human aspect to the workplace amid generalized fears of automation.
For instance, through the use of RPA agents working alongside live agents, Jacada helped a leading Fortune 100 insurance provider to dramatically improve client services. With automated billing inquiry analysis, insurance quote lookup, knowledge push, and automated documentation, the company was able to automate 72% of live agents’ manual processes and reduce average call handling time by 20%, increasing customer satisfaction.
Similarly, Asurion, a company that provides technical assistance to some of the world’s largest telecommunications and consumer electronics brands, partnered with NICE to improve customer care. It sought to better manage handling time on complex technical interactions, improve agent navigation through in-house and client systems, create more targeted upsell/cross-sell offers, and improve client reporting capabilities to enterprise clients.
Using NICE Desktop Automation and Desktop Analytics, Asurion reduced order handling time by 50% on one type of order, which equated to a 5% reduction across the contact center operation and cut the average handling time by 14 seconds overall. It was also able to consolidate complex document ?ling and issuing into a single-click process. Using RPA provided the added benefit of increased sales as well, by improving upsell rates by 25%. According to Asurion, agents who used real-time offer guidance sold 80% more than those who did not.
These companies laid out solid plans for what, when, why, and how to automate while capturing the human element in interactions—and reaping solid gains in CX and CSAT.
Nancy Jamison is a principal analyst in customer contact at Frost & Sullivan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter @NancyJami.
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