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4 Uses of AI in the Contact Center

Artificial intelligence (AI) has multiple uses across the modern contact center. While some people mistakenly believe that robots are going to replace live support agents, the truth is that AI in the contact center actually helps customer service agents perform their job better. Here’s how.

  1. Data capturing during customer interaction.

There’s a lot of data to be captured during every interaction. AI can be used to capture this data and then feed it into the contact center’s analytics system. With features like sentiment analysis, AI can also be used to spot certain emotions, like anger or dissatisfaction, which can then escalate the issue to be handled by a live agent.

  1. Management of customer data.

Capturing all of that customer data is just the first step to actually understanding it. Data has to be analyzed and leveraged in order to actually improve the customer experience. AI can help with this by capturing and cross-referencing data, then sharing it across different channels and platforms. This way, the customer won’t have to repeat their details every single time they contact customer service, and they won’t receive offers or messages that don’t truly relate to them.

  1. Smart replacement of IVR processes.

A contact center’s IVR system will have a set of pre-defined rules to follow. These rules are generally simplistic – for example, the IVR system may transfer a sales call to the sales department. AI can take this several steps further by using natural language processing and machine learning to understand customer statements instead of just giving them a set menu of choices.

  1. Directing customers to different areas of the website.

Many customer requests can be handled simply by pointing the customer to a specific area of the website. For example, a customer may be able to get information about their account or recent payment by viewing their account information, eliminating the need to speak with a live agent. Customers can also engage in self-service by finding the answer to their FAQ. A virtual assistant can direct the customer to the right section of the website, freeing up live agents to handle more pressing issues.

There’s always going to be a need for live, human interaction. In order for contact center agents to deliver the best, most personalized support possible, AI tackles easier-to-handle customer queries, speeding up the process on both ends.

New Research Finds Only 12.5% of US Consumers Actually Hate Chatbots

A nationwide survey conducted in August finds that 94% of U.S. respondents considered their last customer experience positive – although they note there is still room for improvement on the margins. While high-profile customer service blunders by major companies gobble media attention, new research from Genesys challenges the notion that companies aren’t in touch with consumers and provides insight into how businesses can adapt their support options to meet evolving preferences.

Human Touch and Digital Channels Rank High

The survey bolsters conventional wisdom that consumers perceive the best and most effective customer service happens when a human is involved (75%). But almost equally, 76% of respondents want the option to access digital support channels when they choose.

When asked about the most irritating issue in customer service, only 12.5% of consumers cited speaking with a bot. A bigger frustration noted (for nearly 27%) is not being able to talk to a live agent when they want.

However, these were not the biggest customer service annoyances reported by consumers – out of the twelve options provided, the top three pain points selected by respondents are being put on hold (42%), being given incorrect information (37%), and being given too many automated options before reaching an agent OR resolving their issue (36%).

Automation, AI and Live Support Key to the Customers Desire for Fast, Frictionless Service

Genesys Chief Marketing Officer, Merijn te Booij said, “It’s straightforward – the results of the survey indicate consumers want a blended approach – they want the rapid access to a business that digital channels can provide combined with the human touch when they want it.”

Consumers put a timely response (64%) and knowledgeable agents (55%) at the top of their list for the type of customer experiences they value the most. Concurrently, 67% of respondents say it’s very important companies quickly route queries to a customer service agent who has background information and understands the customer’s needs.

“It’s clear from the research findings that businesses need to strike the right balance when deploying digital channels, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) in customer experience,” said te Booij. “We think it also means it’s safe to say that the role of humans in customer service isn’t going away anytime soon – unless a business is willing to sacrifice customer satisfaction. However, we do believe AI will continue to change the way humans work and how consumers get service for the better.”

He went on to explain, “Interestingly, businesses can use AI to alleviate consumers’ biggest pain points in service when applied strategically and in concert with human effort. AI really is the key for enabling consumers to have their cake and eat it too — in this case that means fast, efficient, knowledgeable service at the hand of a human or even a bot when they choose.”

Brand Reputation Matters

Today, brands cannot afford to ignore the importance of delivering the type of service consumers want. 72% of U.S. respondents say they have sometimes or always bought something from a business based solely on its reputation for customer service. Further, 89% of respondents have taken action as a direct result of poor customer service. A full 58% say they have switched providers as a result of poor customer service, and 49% say they have never done business with a brand again after a bad experience. Nearly 50% discussed their disappointment face-to-face with family and friends and 24% even spread the word via social media.

Additional Key Findings from the Survey:

  • Keep those phone lines open! While voice is no longer the only game in town, consumers still want the option to call when they need customer service. In fact, 91% of U.S. respondents say it’s important to engage with a business over the phone, with 54% considering it “very” important.
  • Despite an increasing use of social media by businesses as a customer support channel, only 4% of U.S. consumers are fond of interacting with companies that way. Respondents cite discomfort, impersonality, unlikelihood of success and lack of speedy response as barriers.
  • People value good service, with 44% of respondents saying they’re willing to pay more to ensure better service. And yet the main reason to tolerate bad service? 42% polled say it’s related to a low price

Survey Methodology

The nationwide poll includes responses from 1,000 U.S. adults over the age of 18 and was conducted online and by email or text to mobile phones. Two-thirds of respondents were women. Genesys also conducted the same survey of equal pool size in both Germany and the United Kingdom (U.K.).

What You Need to Know to Sell with Online Chat

Countless articles tout the benefits online chat brings to the sales process. The question for many organizations now centers on how to combine the customer service aspect of live chat with conversational selling.

Companies can get lost in the vast array of strategies and approaches for integrating online chat into the sales process. When implementing a chat initiative, keeping true to the basics is central to your success.

Here are the four steps you need to follow to sell with online chat.

  1. Pick the Right Metrics

Online chat that focuses on customer service often also opens the opportunity for software sales. However, without appropriate metrics in place, it’s difficult to know when success is being achieved.

KPIs for live chat sales conversations must include the following:

  • Engagement to lead
  • Lead to qualified lead
  • Pipeline amount (quantity and dollar amount)
  •  Sales (quantity and dollar amount)

Similarly, chat agents must strive to provide a great experience for everyone, be they customer or prospect. Therefore, customer service teams need to measure customer response during and after the conversion process.

Important online chat metrics regarding customer experience include:

  • Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT)
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Response time
  • Agent Availability measurements

Be aware that customer success metrics like Average Handle Time (AHT) might fall lower in the ranks of importance. Companies should not put much stock in the total length of chat discussions.

Customer service agents need to strive to make visitors happier when they leave than they were when they arrived. If customer success agents can do that in 30 seconds, great. However, if it takes eight hours, that’s fine too, as long as issues are solved, and the level of customer satisfaction opens the way to further transactions.

Train live chat agents not to dwell on non-business-related conversations but to spend all the time they need to solve the problem. That way, they will complete the chat session in a timely manner and to the visitors’ satisfaction.

  1. Extend Your Online Chat Agents’ Duties

Limiting live chat agents’ roles in directing visitors to the content they need can result in your business leaving money on the table. Customer success agents must seek out potential lead opportunities in addition to providing assistance.

Chat agents could offer to pass prospects to an inside sales person for more in-depth discussion. Alternatively, they could find a means to collect prospects’ contact information, for example by directing the customer to a video that requires registration.

 

Chat agents should be given the opportunity to train and partner the sales team to better understand the product and solutions they are supporting. Often, the first interaction a prospect will have with a company is with the customer support team, so it’s essential that they can effectively triage product related questions and recognize lead opportunities.

Empowering customer service agents with the metrics that focus more around empathy and customer satisfaction rather than chat length is the key to live chat lead generation. Again, it comes back to fostering directed dialogue rather than focusing on how quickly customer care agents complete an online chat session. From training to performance review to the behavior of leaders, organizations can nurture an environment that uses empathy and understanding to drive toward success.

  1. Demonstrate Commitment to Live Chat

Chat implementation can be relatively simple. Just a few lines of JavaScript and away you go. The key to success, though, is a commitment to the program and ongoing training, optimization, and monitoring.

The pitfalls to employing chat usually center on taking an uninspired approach to the medium where the code is thrown up but then not adequately staffed and aligned with appropriate goals.

For true success, implement personalized, interactive, data-driven training programs and provide updated education at regular intervals. Additionally, integrate the management structure into this initiative by having agents give themselves a quality score that they can share with coaches on a weekly basis. Self-evaluation can be a great way to create the opportunity for constructive critique and conversations about improvement.

  1. Don’t Rely on Chatbots To Be Your Brand Ambassador

Chatbots certainly have their place, especially when it comes to directing customers to content that can answer high-level, basic questions. At the same time, chatbots in no way replace the human touch once questions get a little deeper.

Converting visitors into loyal, high margin customers requires a host of conversational skills. A strong live chat agent needs to read between the lines, assess the bigger picture of the sales opportunity at hand, hold multiple parallel discussions at once, and respond to their conversation partner with timing, wit, and emotional intuition.

Moreover, people do business with people they know, like, and trust. The best way to get someone to connect with your customer support agents is for them to develop a relationship with one another.

When salespeople have rapport with clients, they create a mutual base from which to partner and support each other’s goals. Although IBM Watson has drafted ads for Toyota that helped them close some business, chatbots are often inadequate for complex sales applications. Unlike writing copy, customer care requires the dynamic art of two-way conversation.

Chat strategies that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) can serve customer service agents well, but only by augmenting human agents. Through deep learning, natural language processing, and multivariate analysis, organizations can analyze more variables and more extensive data sets than is humanly possible to help customer care agents perform better. Thus, the goal of these systems should focus on arming humans with information they can use to engage the customer more effectively.

Creating the Most Successful Online Chat Scenarios

The very best live chat agents aren’t the ones who are naturally gifted at charming the customer. They’re the ones who record metrics for constant improvement, possess superior situational awareness, and use AI to supplement their instincts and experience as needed. The combination of these traits will pave your way to successful customer care.

About the Authors:

Dean Shaw is the Global Chat Program Manager for SAS, Through innovative software and services, SAS empowers and inspires customers around the world to transform data into intelligence. Dean leads SAS’ Chat Program that focuses on enhancing the customer experience, drive leads, and generates robust Voice of Customer analytics.

Tony Medrano is CEO and Co-Founder of RapportBoost, the leader in applying artificial intelligence to optimize live chat conversations in order to drive dramatic and sustained improvements in conversion rate, order size, customer satisfaction, renewal rate, average handle time, first contact resolution rate, agent retention and happiness and other critical contact center metrics. He can be reached at tony (at) rapportboost.ai.

5 Trends in the Customer Service Industry

Every year sees new changes to the customer service industry, and 2018 has been no different. This year, the focus has been on improving customer service in order to meet growing expectations. Here are 5 trends that are influencing the industry right now, and they’ll likely continue – and be built upon – in 2019.

  1. Chatbots are providing customer care.

According to IBM, by the year 2020 as much as 85% of customer interactions will not be handled by a human. For the contact center, this means making sure chatbots are providing a great experience for the customer – poor technology or chatbots that are used incorrectly can seriously impact your bottom line.

  1. Cloud-based customer service software is the norm.

Contact centers that rely on cloud-based solutions can have remote agents located around the world. This means that different time zones and extended hours can be covered, offering customer service practically any time and from anywhere. This software can give a complete history of customer interaction, including past communication and notes that agents make about a customer.

  1. Success of the team has become a priority.

If individuals can provide great service, then teams of excellent agents can do even more. Teammate success is now a priority and contact centers are investing more in educating and training their teams. One way of making customer service teams more successful is by hiring agile agents who can handle more than one type of job.

  1. Increased reliance on self-service.

Self-service has been trending for a long time, but now companies are taking self-service to the next level by personalizing it. For example, customers may be shown only certain self-service options based on the products or services they have. This means that customers can get quicker access to the information they need without having to weed through an entire knowledge base.

  1. Software will seamlessly integrate.

Contact center technology systems are a big expense and they carry out integral jobs, like analyzing data and storing all sorts of customer information. Since software is so essential to the contact center, it’s important for different software and tools to integrate with one another. We’ll continue to see software that’s specifically designed to work seamlessly with complementary software so that you can piece together the best system for your contact center.

Have you noticed trends in the customer service world? Tell us about them in the comments.

Elevated CX Is Achieved by Empowering Agents Through Tools and Technology

According to Gallup, highly engaged customer service teams achieve, on average, a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales. So, it should come as no surprise that three out of five of our top tips for elevating the customer experience in enterprise contact centers are related to agent engagement and empowerment through tools and technology. The following are our five favorite ways to boost agent productivity:

  1. Declutter the agent desktop with an innovative UI.

Provide agents with innovative contact center technology that dynamically selects the most relevant data elements to be shown on the visible part of the desktop. Such technology increases agent efficiency by reducing the time it takes for agents to respond to customer inquiries. Findings in our 2017 trend report show that 40% of the respondents use three or more systems to handle channels in the contact center. Consolidating technologies and information is a great way to empower agents!

  1. Give agents easy-to-use technology for automatic customer recognition.

Having a contact center system that automatically looks up incoming interactions across both internal and external databases to identify customers allows agents to deliver a more personalized response to customers. When your omnichannel system can perform recognition across all channels and federate data from multiple CRMs and applications, agents are truly empowered to solve customer inquiries.

  1. Eliminate mundane transactions with AI and provide agents with AI Assist.

Most industry professionals see adding AI and bots to the contact center as a beneficial strategy for cutting costs and improving the customer experience. There is also evidence that agents feel more engaged when AI and bots are introduced because as bots handle easier transactions, agents are freed to handle the more advanced customer interactions. You can even take this one step further and use your AI to assist agents with intelligent agent reply suggestions.

  1. Automate workflows.

Enterprise process automations allow contact centers to play a larger role in the company. Such automations can be powered by incoming interactions, outbound contact lists, APIs, and a number of triggers, such as customer sentiment, across all channels.

  1. Limit downtime with active-active technology.

Enterprise contact centers can lose thousands in profits when their vendor experiences unexpected downtime. Unique disaster containment is a must in providing top-tier customer support. An active-active approach ensures that all sites of the overall geographically distributed system share the transaction load. If a site fails, the other parts of the system pick up the failed site’s portion of the transactions immediately.

The customer experience and agent empowerment are directly linked. In fact, customer experience leaders have 1.5 times as many engaged employees as do less motivated customer experience providers.

How do you empower your agents?

How Bots Help You Learn What Customers Want

There are many reasons why businesses increasingly turn to artificial intelligence (AI) to augment and enhance their customer communications. That everyone else is doing it too isn’t a good enough reason for you to jump on board any ship, so we’ll just tell you why your contact center should be utilizing AI and cognitive technologies: AI can learn exactly what your customers want.

In a typical call, a customer is greeted by an IVR menu that offers that all-too-familiar range of options (e.g., “Press or say 1 for billing… Press or say 2 for support… Press or say 0 to speak to a representative….”). Although efficient for routing callers to appropriate agents and service departments, automated phone menus do little when it comes to learning the true purpose of a call.

In stark contrast, an AI-enabled contact center can ask the customer a direct question (e.g., “How can I help?”) and the customer can blurt out a specific answer (e.g., “My laptop broke.”). There’s no need to offer options and divine why customers called based on their choices or levels of abandonment.

With just the customer’s answer, the AI-driven contact center can zoom in on keywords, gain information about products or services, detect emotional weight and sentiments, perceive subjects of conversation, use natural language understanding, and so forth—all while recording the conversation and storing data.

The same goes for chats and SMS conversations. Chatbots can skip past all the pleasantries and get to the heart of any issue by simply asking, “What do you want?”

The data gathered from that one question is gold. The next time your customers contact you, let them feed you the very information that empowers your business.

Learn more about how AI assistance and bots can transform your contact center practices.

5 Tips to Improve Your Contact Center’s Chat Services

Live chat is an important, useful customer service tool. Having live chat isn’t enough, though – you have to make sure it’s working intuitively and efficiently in order to solve disputes and answer questions as quickly as possible. Here are a few ways you can improve your contact center’s live chat services.

1. Use a pre-chat survey.

A pre-chat survey gathers initial details that will make it easier to help the customer. For example, you can ask for their name, account number, preferred callback number in case you get disconnected and a quick synopsis of their question or problem. Then when a live agent is ready to take the chat, they’ll have those preliminary details at their fingertips.

2. Use a scripted greeting.

Though you want to avoid using too many canned messages, it’s a good idea to have one as your greeting. Customers like to see a chat window pop up immediately. If your agent had to write each greeting personally, there would be too much lag time between when the customer visits the site and when they’re greeted.

3. Introduce yourself by name.

Most customers are going to be savvy enough to know that they’re speaking with computerized messages in the beginning, but once a live agent is on the chat, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself by name. This helps build rapport between the support agent and the customer.

4. Always be honest with the customer.

Even if you can’t tell the customer what they want to hear, you should never lie to them or promise something you can’t deliver. If you’re unsure of an answer or if you don’t have the ability to do something like offer the customer a discount, put them on hold and speak with a supervisor.

5. Remember that the typing indicator is on.

One main reason why people use live chat is because they want swift service. Always remember that the typing indicator is on and that your customer can see when you’re responding to them. While they may not mind if you take a minute or two to type out a full response, they will start to get impatient if they don’t see any response coming through at all.

It’s a good idea to periodically check in with your live chat agents to brainstorm creative ideas that can improve agent-customer interactions.

 

 

How to Improve Your Contact Center’s Live Chat Service

There are several different customer service channels available to customers, but the winner always seems to be the one that responds the fastest. Since web chat is both time-sensitive and personal, it’s often a customer’s preferred mode of contact. Here’s how to optimize customer satisfaction using live chat.

Make sure the chat is visible.

There’s a lot of information for visitors to look over when they’re on your website, but the live chat option should be obvious and easy to find. A pop-up window on the bottom of the page lets customers chat while still navigating around the website. Since the window is going to be small, make sure the font is large enough to read.

Only send an invitation if an agent is available.

Offering a live chat option at the right moment is key to engaging the customer at the best time. However, you should never invite the customer to a chat session if there isn’t actually a live agent available. Customers shouldn’t have to wait for help, especially if you reach out to them first.

Go off script.

Even though you want to maintain a certain level of professionalism, live chat conversations can lean toward the friendly and personal. The agent should introduce themselves and refer to the customer by name. Also, it’s okay to go off script if the customer asks detailed questions or if they’re upset and need the agent to show empathy.

Keep chat etiquette in mind.

Even though live chat is on the informal side, agents should still write in complete sentences; pay attention to spelling and grammar; and avoid slang. Paragraphs should be short and digestible, and technical speak should be avoided so that the customer can keep up with the conversation.

Make it quick.

Customers want their issue handled quickly on chat. Agents should make sure to respond swiftly whenever the customer sends a message. Conversation should be limited so that it doesn’t get in the way of solving the problem. Also, if the situation will take too long to troubleshoot on live chat, the customer should be given an alternate solution, like self-service or the number to the right department.

Live chat is helpful for customers who need to multi-task or want to get fast service. In order to deliver the service customers deserve, it’s necessary to know what they expect.

 

The Importance of Chatbots for Customer Service

Consumers are getting increasingly comfortable interacting online with artificial intelligence.  As a result, more and more brands are using chatbots and, furthermore, chatbot technology is evolving. According to Adweek, it’s possible that a majority of customer service queries will be answered by chatbots instead of humans by the end of the year.

Big companies see the value in chatbots: Facebook now allows for Messenger to work with third-party chatbots and Microsoft’s Bot Framework is a tool for building chatbots. Retailers, customer service departments and contact centers all recognize the importance of chatbots and must keep up with emerging technology to ensure their AI is as up-to-date as possible.

Chatbots seem to be most effective when combined with social messaging, where many of today’s consumers are spending their time, even more so than on social media itself. Additionally, young consumers prefer text and messaging for communication, which makes chatbots even more appealing. The key is to present them with interactive chat where they already are – on the social media or social messaging applications they’re already using. Customers are hesitant to download and learn new applications when they already have their preferred messaging apps.

What exactly do customers want from chatbots, other than accessibility? Chatbots Magazine published the results of a Bentley University study on the topic and found the following:

· Face or icon for the chatbot.
· Single search bar where all questions can be asked.
· Single chatbot instead of one for each department.
· Comprehension even if a question is asked in a “lazy” way.
· Simplistic speech that is still highly useful.
· Anticipation of what the customer’s next question will be.
· Patience no matter how complex the query is.

It’s expected that a growing number of brands will build their own chatbots to ease the burden of customer service on their live agents. Social messaging is expected to continue growing, too, which will make those new chatbots even more prevalent in daily customer-company communication.

4 Trends that Improve the Customer Experience

When customer service teams want to differentiate themselves from the rest, they focus on improving and optimizing the customer experience. Companies are more than willing to go above and beyond for the sake of meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Here are four trends that will help distinguish your contact center.

Relying on Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere, from video games to the automobile industry. Customer service has been impacted by the increase in AI, too. This technology can be used to chat with customers about easy-to-solve issues, which frees up live agents for more difficult and complex matters. Automation with AI can reduce customer wait time, interact with customers and collect important data for the contact center to later analyze.

Implementing an Omnichannel Strategy

One major gripe that customers have is repeating themselves to various customer support agents in order to get an answer or have a problem solved. Channel integration isn’t the same as omnichannel service. Today’s companies can’t just respond to a customer, they have to know as much as possible about the customer and their problem beforehand in order to provide customized, relevant support. Customer service requires empathy and a human touch in order to connect meaningfully to the customer.

Analyzing Big Data

While much of the customer experience is about interaction and communication, big data still has a pertinent place in understanding customer behavior. Big data can actually help the contact center connect on a more personal level with customers. There’s so much information that can be tracked now, from customer behavior at every point of the journey to customer preferences regarding any number of attributes. Data helps customer support do things like figure out what a customer is going to want before they even ask for it and determine the best way to reach a customer on the channel of their choice.

Providing Real-Time Communication

Using things like AI, which can automate several processes, and ominchannel strategies, which can cut down on the length of time it takes to solve a problem, gives customer support agents the extra time to handle some queries personally. Real-time communication, specifically via mobile and social media, is in demand, especially by younger generations who are used to communicating in these ways. Being able to provide immediate support improves the customer experience and builds trust in customers.