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When Artificial Intelligence Disrupts the Call Center

Call centers have been around since the 1960s, gaining mainstream attention when employees were seen wearing telephone headsets on televised NASA Mission Control Center events. Since then, customer service centers have been typically regarded as a necessary evil, where customers have encountered their fair share of unhelpful calls.

Despite many companies’ attempts to nudge customers toward unassisted channels, consumers still pick up the phone when they need service—especially in the finance and insurance industries, where people are dealing with complex issues such as loan refinancing, health requests and insurance claims. Forrester confirms that the phone is still the most widely used customer-service channel, with 73 percent of consumers phoning in for live interactions.

Call center interactions influence brand perception and loyalty. They serve as a critical moment of truth in a customer relationship with a lasting impact on the decision to purchase or abandon ship.

New technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and voice analytics are paving the way for brands to increase employee engagement and improve the customer experience. They can improve rapport between customers and agents and provide supervisors with reliable, comprehensive and real-time insight into the voice of the customer.

The Power of AI

AI powered voice technology is being deployed today in call centers to augment the intelligence of agents and improve their performance. The latest voice capabilities have enabled organizations to provide in-call guidance for agents, helping them adjust their communication style to be more confident, empathetic and responsive. AI within voice applications is disrupting sales and service operations and improving the interaction between brands and customers.

Increasing Emotional Intelligence

In the call center, there is no replacement for human compassion, empathy and understanding. Traditional call center technology, best practices and training techniques have helped agents become proficient in following policies and capturing data, but the current tools and techniques are not enough to keep pace with customers demanding a high touch and personalized experience. Call centers are still not keeping pace with customer expectations and employees continue to churn despite massive corporate investment.

This is because companies have not found a way to measure and improve empathy and rapport at scale, or to train agents how to deal more effectively with challenging emotional situations. Existing investments have yet to deliver a real-time and actionable view into the customer’s perception, resulting in delayed insight and generic treatments.

Leveraging AI to understand and improve phone calls can result in enhanced customer loyalty.

Emotional intelligence is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Now, technology can sense behavioral signals and emotions, provide live guidance, measure impact and provide feedback into the system to fuel continuous machine learning. If a customer is nervous, tense or in need of empathy, the system nudges the agent with simple informative notifications. If an agent speaks too quickly, responds slowly, appears as if they have low energy, talks over the customer or introduces awkward pauses into a conversation, the software guides the agent to adjust their behavior.

Improving Performance with Analytics

Analyzing behavioral signals through voice offers a real-time way to improve agent soft skills and instantly measure the impact of their behavior on customers. Prior to these analytics, it was nearly impossible to improve how an agent engaged a customer, and it was unclear how to link the agent’s behavior to the impact it had on the customer’s perception of a business.

The Net Promoter Score is an example of a traditional measurement that provides a broad view of the performance of a company and customer service as a whole. The Humana health care company has implemented AI to better understand and improve their customer service delivery. By deploying technology, they have seen a 14 percent improvement in NPS, a 5 percent improvement in issue resolution and a significant reduction in call handling time. Comprehensive and timely metrics on interaction success and customer experience directly lead to increased customer loyalty and a healthier bottom line.

Conversations between customers and call center agents are at the heart of every customer-brand relationship. Good conversations forge a bond, establish trust, and result in increased loyalty, while bad conversations tarnish brand perception and lead to customer churn.

Leveraging AI to understand and improve phone calls can result in enhanced customer loyalty, increased employee engagement and improved operational effectiveness.

Josh Feast

Founder and CEO of Cogito

Josh Feast is founder and CEO of Cogito. He has more than 15 years of experience delivering novel solutions to the world’s leading organizations.

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