Check These Five Boxes, Then See How AI Can Supercharge Your Contact Center
By Matthew Marion
As enterprises across the business landscape are discovering, artificial intelligence, as versatile a tool as it is, can elevate the contact center experience not only for customers but for agents and their managers, too.
From healthcare to higher education, retail to financial services, businesses are reshaping their contact center operations and experiences with AI. As more contact center solutions embedded with powerful plug-and-play AI capabilities become available, organizations are realizing that to harness the full potential of those capabilities, they first need to have the right IT and network infrastructure components and resources in place.
Before we touch on some of the most compelling uses for AI in a contact center context, let’s look at some of the critical prerequisites to leveraging intelligent technologies:
❑ Cloud-readiness. AI requires a lot of computing power, which is why most AI-driven contact center capabilities reside in the cloud, typically as part of a contact-center-as-a-service (CCaaS) offering. As a result, organizations seeking to explore AI tools in the context of their contact center operations first need to shift away from on-premise systems and hardware, to the cloud.
❑ A network platform capable of supporting powerful AI capabilities. A 2022 study by Playvox found that close to 60% of contact centers are using a hybrid work model, 68% of agents work remotely 31-40 hours a week, and 64% of contact center managers work remotely five or more days a week. Those figures underscore just how important is for an organization to have a strong, resilient, reliable and secure network, one that enables employees to readily access the apps, systems and information they need, in real time, to work efficiently and support customers, from anywhere.
❑ Robust security around your network, data and systems. As part of your IT infrastructure, AI-based apps and capabilities — and the data that feeds them — represent additional surfaces that need protection from cyberattack. Safeguarding them becomes more challenging when contact center employees are working remotely. To counter the growing sophistication and persistence of cyberattackers (who themselves are increasingly using AI), businesses are turning to advanced security solutions like Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), which combines multiple security layers into a single, cloud-native software stack, creating an enterprise-level security fabric that protects potentially vulnerable surfaces out to the edges of a network.
❑ A firm handle on your data. The insight that flows from the models that underpin AI capabilities is only as good as the data that feeds those models. So another prerequisite for maximizing the power of AI is to ensure the data that’s informing it is accessible, fresh, relevant and trustworthy.
❑ A strong in-house understanding of AI. The more your C-suite and internal IT teams know about how AI works and what your specific AI tools need to deliver maximum value to the organization, and the more informed they are about the latest developments with the technology, the likelier your organization will be to earn a strong return on its AI investments.
Once those boxes are checked, then your organization can begin to tap AI’s vast potential to improve multiple facets of a contact center operation. On the customer journey front, AI can provide customers with more nuanced, highly personalized support across multiple channels, preserving the context of each interaction across channels and delivering natural conversations and interactions that can jump between text, chat and email without a hiccup.
During their journey, customers get to interact with highly informed agents who know all about their preferences, past interactions and buying history with the company. AI capabilities embedded in the contact center platform are listening to customer interactions and in real time, feeding agents with relevant resources and information, along with recommendations for follow-up questions and best next actions, empowering agents to deliver the right information and resources in the moment to enable faster issue resolution. Ultimately this creates a positive experiential loop, where agents are more productive and feel more engaged in their work, which translates into a higher caseload capacity and resolution rate for the contact center, along with a better overall experience for customers. When agents are supported by AI tools that consistently arm them with the right information and resources, and the right questions to ask, at the right time, there’s a training benefit, too. The learning curve for new agents becomes significantly easier to climb.
Once a customer interaction concludes, a generative AI tool can save huge amounts of time for agents by stepping in to create a summary of the interaction and apply disposition codes. The agent then reviews what the genAI tool has produced, and if it’s on the mark, hits “submit.”
AI can also identify when interaction with an agent isn’t warranted, routing customers to an AI-driven chatbot for resolution to free your agents to focus on interactions that really add value, such as in triaging more complex cases and adding an extra human touch to delight a customer.
Quality management is another area where AI can bring value. It can route calls away from specific agents who are experiencing connectivity issues or who for whatever reason aren’t following prescribed processes, for example. For supervisors, it also can drastically cut the time and effort involved in evaluating agents, with the ability to review, analyze and deliver insights from high volumes of recorded customer interactions.
AI also can help organizations better manage their contact center workforce by analyzing historic data to make scheduling recommendations, helping alleviate labor shortages.
With use cases like these, AI is already proving it can elevate contact center productivity and the quality of the customer journey across multiple channels. And as fast as the technology is learning, the best is yet to come.
As senior principal, CCaaS + Contact Center Services, at Windstream Enterprise, Matthew Marion is responsible for the Windstream Enterprise XCaaS product suite, including development and lifecycle management. He has extensive experience managing various products and services, from SIP Trunking to Hosted VoIP. He joined Windstream in 2016 and held previous product and marketing management positions with CenturyLink and DISH Network. https://www.windstreamenterprise.com/