Note: The topics and subjects covered in this article will be discussed in-depth during IPsoft’s second annual Digital Workforce Summit on June 7. See registration link below.

According to one study, by 2022 global businesses will spend more than $407.1 billion on contact centers to handle customer service issues, up from $310 billion in 2014. Despite this massive investment in tools designed to help improve customer experiences, customers generally remain frustrated by their call center interactions.

This is not a new trend, and businesses recognize the impact this customer frustration can have on their brands. Seven out of ten of consumers say their brand loyalty is influenced by their ability to get customer service at any time, according to Salesforce. To that end, 25% of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) technology across all engagement channels, according to Gartner.  Although this is a positive sign for customers, it still means many brands are still relying solely on human workers to solve customer issues. In this article, we’ll examine the main issues plaguing today’s contact centers, and the ways that cognitive AI such as IPsoft’s digital colleague Amelia can help resolve these issues.

Digital Colleagues Help Deliver a Better Service Experience

The Service Gap —Customers hate hopping back and forth between service calls and having to repeat information. This wastes time and it makes customers feel as if the brand isn’t making use of the information they provide. What’s the point of giving your name and address and stating your issue every time you’re passed from agent to agent?

Seventy-two percent of customers expect a support agent to know their contact information and service history without being asked, according to CFI Group. In a separate study, 86% of consumers say it’s absolutely critical or very important for customer service agents to know their service history so they don’t have to spend time explaining it to them.

Companies that take advantage of AI to improve and future-proof their contact centers will reap big rewards.

By hiring a digital colleague, you’re guaranteeing that customer information and interactions are stored in a system that makes this data easy to recall for future interactions. Platforms such as Amelia will pull up historical data to see how past issues were resolved, and to see if there are any clues hidden in previous interactions to help determine what can be done so that the issue never happens again. Additionally, Amelia can alert higher-ups that chronic issues are occurring so that the company can take a hard look at what needs to be done to end the problem once and for all.

Please Hold and Hold and Hold — US consumers report that being passed between agents is the most frustrating aspect of a customer service experience, a recent Microsoft survey revealed. Not only do these transfers usually take too long, but there’s no guarantee that the next representative will be able to resolve the issue either. So, after the customer has gone through the long process of verifying his or her identity and address, and restating the issue, he or she is told that a third agent will be required to solve the problem.

Digital colleagues like Amelia are connected to every aspect of your business, and they’re able to pull in data from any system to which you connect them. While humans are trained to handle specific aspects of your business, Amelia is programmed to resolve problems for anything you teach her. Perhaps most importantly, Amelia knows a company’s customers and is able to interact with them without forcing customers to restate past issues, or to verify their personal information. She’s able to accomplish this on any channel, on any device, and she’s able to switch between both without having to restart conversations from the beginning.

Ummm, I Think I Can Help? — When dealing with customer service, 83% of business buyers say it’s absolutely critical or very important to be immediately routed to the agent who is most knowledgeable about their company’s issue, according to the Salesforce study. Props to the go-getter customer service rep who is willing to try to resolve an issue, but if he or she makes a customer spend time verifying an account and stating an issue, then he or she better know the answer to the problem. Transferring this call will not only draw out the interaction, but it will frustrate the caller.

Amelia, on the other hand, is trained to immediately recognize and escalate calls that she’s not trained to handle. If a caller needs help with something she’s not authorized by law or programmed to resolve, she’ll ask a human colleague for help. As the human colleague resolves the issue, Amelia listens in the background and tries to find ways to do better in future calls.

Call Centers Can Automate Repetitive Tasks

Caller Verification — US contact centers spend $12.4 billion annually verifying callers. Only 3% of these calls are handled entirely through automated processes. This means that well-trained and intelligent call center reps are wasting valuable time doing nothing more than logging a person’s name, address, and account number. This is a tremendous waste of resources.

Digital colleagues such as Amelia are easily trained to handle this basic call center task. In fact, she’s done it for a number of clients, including an online gaming company and a global banking group. When it comes to contact center innovation and AI, account verification is the lowest hanging fruit.

High Turnover —Nothing beats collaboration between data-powered AI and the personal touch of a human worker. Unfortunately, most contact center workers don’t stay very long, especially younger ones — workers age 20-34 stay only about one year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employee churn for contact centers is an ongoing challenge – whether for companies that staff their own centers, or for outsourcers/BPO providers hired by companies to deliver customer service. Companies are spending valuable resources finding, hiring, and training employees knowing full well that most won’t ever fully master their systems, policies, or products.

Amelia helps relieve the burden placed on burned out call center reps. She’s able to take on the simple and repetitive tasks that human workers deal with most of the day (e.g. password resets, account verifications). She frees them to do fewer, but more complex tasks. She allows them to work with management to determine creative permanent solutions to problems rather than immediate temporary fixes. With digital colleagues at their side, human workers are powered with immediate access to important information and they’re free to take on more meaningful assignments. In other words, AI in contact centers is not designed to replace humans – contact centers need people, but AI can augment the humans there and take away some of the anxiety about constantly hiring and replacing workers.

As more contact centers hire digital colleagues such as Amelia customer experiences will improve, as will the experience of human workers. AI’s impact on contact centers is still in its early days. The massive impact AI will create is still to come. The writing is on the wall. Companies that take advantage of AI to improve and future-proof their contact centers will reap big rewards.

Please join us at the Digital Workforce Summit on June 7th, 2018. Complimentary registration here!