Wrap it Up: How Speech Technology Helps Contact Centers Crush Holiday Challenges

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The holiday season isn’t always “the most wonderful time of the year” for contact centers. It’s difficult keeping spirits bright as organizations grapple with handling heavy customer support volumes in the short 25 days from Black Friday through Christmas Eve, while being responsive to agent holiday time-off requests.

To solve for this holiday customer interaction supply and demand equation, many organizations hire temporary/seasonal workers – but this can come with its own set of challenges. Fortunately, speech-enabled technologies are playing a vital role in helping customer support organizations not only survive but thrive over the holidays, by improving the performance of agents old and new while simultaneously delighting customers. Here’s how: 

Making Every Agent Your Best Agent

Newly minted seasonal hires don’t have the benefit of years of “tribal” knowledge that experienced full-time agents have at their disposal. All the more reason, then, for systems to serve up—quickly and accurately—the information agents need to respond to customer issues and questions. Real-Time Speech Analytics integrated with Knowledge Management, can surface “next steps” and/or knowledgebase articles right to the agent’s desktop. This assists the agent in efficiently handling the call – whether it’s navigating to the correct screens or bringing up an appropriate trouble-shooting tree for the agent to follow. 

Agents can now be effective on Day 1, without having to understand everything about a company’s products and processes. What’s more, with the right information at their fingertips, the average handle time is significantly reduced. Employees are empowered with the automated and seamless surfacing of knowledge without the hassle of searching for information. 

Surfacing the Good, the Bad and the Competitive 

Speech Analytics can help contact centers during the holiday season by surfacing conversational trends and topics. Keywords such as “cancel” or “poor” in customer-agent interactions can be flagged to warn managers quickly when and where such negative trends are occurring. They can also make sure agents are saying all the things they need to say for compliance purposes when speaking with customers, even down to how clearly these vital words and phrases are being pronounced and comprehended by customers.

Speech Analytics can also play a role in supporting holiday sales strategies. For example, if a competitor is targeting your customers with a specific holiday offer that customers are referencing, Speech Analytics can surface this in hours (vs. days or weeks it would take through word-of-mouth or traditional call monitoring). Product and promotional groups can be consulted to develop a compelling counter-offer, and a competitive response can be crafted for agents to address the challenge immediately. 

Being Strategic with Seasonal Workers

Savvy organizations take a broader perspective with their seasonal workforces that goes beyond getting through the holiday season to focus on longer-term plans for staffing. The temporary/seasonal work period can be an excellent opportunity to ascertain which interim hires may make solid full-time workers. 

Speech analytics used with automated quality management, which can automatically review call transcripts and score 100% of agent calls, can analyze interactions to understand whether agents expressed the proper greeting, asked the requisite questions to understand needs and make an appropriate sales pitch, or asked customers if they could put them on hold before doing so. This helps managers quickly discern how agents—particularly those who are new to the job—are performing.  

In dealing with a temporary seasonal workforce, organizations can’t afford to spend weeks training them to get up to speed. Speech analytics together with automated quality management can drive coaching and automated delivery of e-learning modules to guide skills development and overall performance improvement so organizations can gain peak performance from their seasonal workforce. It can also help improve decision-making about which temporary holiday hires may be good candidates to retain for full-time positions. Agents who show improvement following coaching could show the greatest promise for post-holiday permanent hiring.

Getting an Assist from Automation

Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVAs) can step in to assist contact center agents by offloading interactions during the busy holiday season. Where’s my package? How do I return this item? Does the retail outlet near me accept returns of items ordered online? IVAs and self-service voice and chatbots powered by conversational AI can answer these types of routine and oft-repeated customer questions. 

Use of natural language processing (NLP) can anticipate what customers are intending to ask a chatbot to offer up the correct response quickly, even if there are spelling errors or key details are omitted. IVAs can even tailor their conversations through context by accounting for the customer’s identity, history with the organization, preferences and engagement channel. Companies are using IVAs to achieve deflection in live chat volume as high as +80 percent with dramatic reductions in contact center staffing costs. IVAs are also being used to assist with employee onboarding – again, one other way to get seasonal agents “up to speed,” quickly.

Getting a Jump Start on the 2020 Holiday Season

Speech Analytics can also provide a clear view of which processes and which customer issues are top candidates for automation, and/or which processes are broken or the greatest source of customer frustration. This can help organizations prioritize fixes and process improvements to keep customers merry all the way, and deflect calls, which may reduce overall contact center volumes by the time the 2020 holiday season comes around. This is proof positive that for contact centers, speech technology is the gift that keeps on giving – at the holidays and all year long.

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