Call centres unlock lockdowns with conversational service automation

By Ravi Saraogi, Co-founder and President of Asia Pacific, Uniphore

The global pandemic has resulted in businesses being forced to reckon with new challenges. Call centres, in particular, have traditionally been a centralised location offering a single point of contact for customers. However, the health crisis today has emptied contact centres and forced agents to work remotely – or not work at all – until the situation shifts for the better. Exacerbating the issue, businesses have seen a spike in customers’ enquiries over the last months and more are expected to come as national lockdowns start to ease across Asia.

The adoption of automation technology has been on the rise even before global lockdowns began early this year. However, to enable call centres to keep up with increased volumes of customer enquiries while adapting to the social distancing measures, there has been an accelerated shift towards the use of automation.

For example, it was reported that Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) has implemented its Special Working Arrangements where employees with critical functions are given the options of flexible working hours or split working teams. Meanwhile, employees of non-critical functions are encouraged to work from home utilising digital channels and online productivity tools available.

Besides that, more than 82 percent of Citi Malaysia employees are now working from home. Citi Malaysia’s focus on advocating Work From Home for employees and technology strengths have enabled close to 5,000 employees in Malaysia transition seamlessly from an office work environment to one of working from home.

In fact, these aren’t surprising statistics. According to an IDC research, conversational artificial intelligence (AI) solutions are being deployed by businesses in virtually every industry during the coronavirus pandemic. This is because it plays a critical role in disseminating health information and assist businesses in staying agile by providing service support. These benefits transform customer experience (CX), empower employees, and enrich business insights during such challenging times.

Setting new standards for contact centres

As Malaysia is now in its first phase of resuming the nation’s economy safely, the use of automation technology is likely to stay and become the new standards for contact centres of the future. It can enable businesses to get as many queries as possible answered by the virtual agents, before moving any calls over to human agents to handle.

While some may be leveraging AI to address high volumes of queries, businesses who are ahead of the recovery phase are already looking at ways to personalise interactions with customers. This is where Conversational Service Automation (CSA) comes in.

Functioning as an intelligent assistant to the human agent, CSA helps create an integrated knowledge bank and guided workflows for agents. They are equipped with customer interaction histories and detailed customer data on a single screen, when they speak to customers. This eliminates customer frustration, a common symptom of customers dealing with offshore agents due to language barriers and accents. More agents are finding that they no longer have to repeat themselves whenever their calls are being transferred to a new agent.

With the current environment, perhaps the greatest benefit of CSA is that it enables agents to work remotely, while allowing the company to monitor every interaction for compliance and quality – minimising business disruption. By providing an overview of the quality and content of the interaction for employers to assess, CSA ensures that the business does not suffer downtime due to lack of manpower. Moreover, CSA does not just augment the quality of the contact centre interactions, it also  blends the capabilities of humans and technology to provide the organisation with insights into customer and business needs, which were not accessible before.

Communicating with empathy

On the other end of the line, customers are also experiencing a new normal. Amid high levels of uncertainty, customers want to be heard, validated and understood. The pandemic has pressed the panic button for most, pushing them to connect increasingly with their banks or insurance providers, to access information and resolve their queries. However, they are reaching out to brands not only on different channels, but also via different means.

Infusing customer-centricity within an organisation’s support system is the first step towards achieving customer satisfaction. It is critical for brands to actively build trust, reassurance, and confidence through their agents’ responses, or putting it simply, to demonstrate empathy.

CSA can automate a large portion of the tasks that an agent would have had to manually deliver, such as automation of After-Call Work Summarisation activity which is done manually today by every agent after each call. By freeing up the human agent, they can concentrate their energy into providing the customer with a personalised, empathetic and effective interaction that leaves the customer satisfied.

Covid-19 has been an eye opener and organisations have realised that customer experience will be a huge determining factor for success. New technologies, like CSA, have emerged as a viable solution during this difficult time. Contact centres can clearly function at optimal levels even with tough working arrangements that were unheard of just a year ago. It’s time for organisations to rethink their CX strategies and the technology that enables that, in order to be future-ready no matter what the next challenge brings.

Ravi Saraogi, Co-Founder and President of Uniphore APAC


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