The Robotic Contact Center: Automated, but Not Impersonal
By Matt McConnell, Intradiem CEO
From driverless cars to computers that can review legal documents, a variety of jobs performed by humans today will likely be handled by robots tomorrow. Such automation can free humans up for more subjective, strategic activity, but it can also lead to the loss of jobs and the sense of control. When it comes to contact centers, the same factors are at play. There are tasks that can be automated, but companies that take a close look at customer expectations are recognizing the need for a customer-centric frontline workforce.
There is no question that automation plays an important role in the contact center. Given the inefficiencies of the traditional contact center, workforce leaders are seeking process and technology models to centralize and streamline operations. In the traditional contact center, workforce management teams spend a significant part of their day manually monitoring conditions and manually adjusting their frontline workforce. This process not only consumes significant resources, but also makes it impossible for the agents to address all problems and take advantage of every opportunity.
Self-service options are also growing and improving every day. These self-service platforms are giving customers faster and more individualized access that provide positive returns to customers and business. But, consumers and businesses alike are faced with a delicate balance of robotic self-service options and the value of human-to-human interactions.
The reality is that contact centers deal with people, not machines. When self-service falls short, people have an even greater need to interact directly with a living, breathing customer representative. Only a human can provide the compassion and delicate touch that is often necessary when dealing with customer problems.
The days of processing customer calls like a manufacturing line are long over. In fact, the customer-centric contact center is creating an entirely different customer experience. Forward-thinking businesses know that the length of the call isn’t as important as what happens on the call. Customers’ interactions with contact center agents directly and significantly impact brand reputation, revenue and profits. A recent Harvard Business Review study found a 240 percent annual revenue difference between customers that rated their experience as “great” compared to those who rated their experience as “poor.” Customers are satisfied when they are served well and their relationship with the company is built and nurtured.
The importance of live customer contact places even greater importance on how the contact center prepares and manages frontline staff. Emerging intraday management technology, or “intraday automation,” automates previously manual processes and enables frontline workforces to react in real-time to optimization opportunities, such as periods of lower or higher call volume, imbalance across interaction channels, overstaffing, understaffing, and adherence issues. Intraday automation software connects with automated call distribution and workforce management systems, allowing contact centers to build a scalable operating model that works for a center of 50 agents or 500.
A more agile frontline workforce is better able to adjust throughout the day to deliver a dramatically better and more consistent customer experience. Plus, workforce leaders can focus on more strategic tasks and eliminate much of the manual processing that limits customer service operations today. The resulting productivity improvements and increased agent engagement are the starting point for an improved customer experience, at a lower cost, without limiting customer service delivery to a robotic, impersonal response.
Matt McConnell is chairman, president and CEO of Intradiem. Matt co-founded Intradiem in 1995 with a vision of helping companies increase the level of customer service they deliver by improving the performance of their agents. Today, Intradiem is a leader in its market with more than 250,000 call center agents around the world using Intradiem every day. Matt is the author of the book Customer Service at a Crossroads and holds 11 software patents. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering.