As digital self service becomes a norm, customers are increasingly able to make a payment, change their package or solve a fairly straight forward technical issue via a chatbot. This results in call volumes dropping, and raises the level of service query complexity that then gets channeled to assisted service.
To deliver this level of service, contact centres are under pressure to provide improved levels of assisted service at increasingly lower costs. Yet all the traditional performance improvement strategies that have been applied for decades are no longer viable. These strategies include:
- Train more. The paradigm of migrating decision-making formula into agents’ heads via classroom and e-learning delivery is no longer sustainable. Agents simply use short term memory to learn and pass required tests, and then forget much of the detail within weeks. The reality is that the logic required to offer specialist levels of customer service is too complex to learn in class, and with high staff turnovers shortening tenure, few agents are ever in their roles long enough to develop the levels of expertise needed. And anyway, the lead times to competence are too long to make economic sense.
- Support more. Offering agents access to comprehensive knowledge bases continue to have limited impact on agent performance. This is because it is very difficult to search, find, read, and interpret a detailed document while on the phone. And it is even more difficult to keep all the knowledge objects up to date. Decision tree scripting or case-based reasoning tools have also been tried with limited success, largely because the coded logic explodes with increasing variables and becomes impossible to maintain.
- Pay more. Attracting experienced agents with higher salaries remains a short term strategy in an industry where experience is at a premium and agents are willing to move for fractional increases. Not only does this drive up the market rates, but it inflates the cost to serve and makes assisted service far too costly when compared to automated self-service alternatives.
- Specialise more. Narrowing the scope of calls that an agent has to field, and training them to be deep specialists in this narrow range, simply lowers your ability to respond to changing call volumes and turns your IVR into a frictional customer experience entry point.
So what then should contact centres do to offer higher levels of service expertise at lower costs?
The answer is Intelligence Augmentation (IA). This form of digital expertise, like Artificial Intelligence (AI), leverages off data-driven logic. However, where AI is largely used to replace human involvement, IA is designed to make people more powerful.
IA effectively acts as a call navigator for agents, guiding them through every call and ensuring they consider all the right factors, offer all the right answers, and take all the right actions, with a detailed record to prove it. As a result, agents can shift their focus away from the content of the call, and more towards the call experience.
The dynamic way in which IA responds to changing call directions ensures that no matter what the context, the agent is always guided to the right outcomes – much like a GPS responds to changing situations and re-routes you instantly to the next most optimal path. This removes the risk of an agent doing or saying the wrong thing, as agents are effectively offered an expert at their fingertips.
It also means that agents are freed from being trapped into specialist teams, allowing them to answer any inbound call with the confidence of an expert.
IA is transforming the assisted service landscape, and is delivering measurable impact in key areas that matter. These include:
- Dramatic reductions in agent time to competence.
- Significant improvements in agent performance (FCR, AHT, NPS)
- Significant reduction in post call QA effort
- Improved call reporting and analytics
IA requires a change in thinking. It involves shifting from the traditional recruitment, training, and support models that look to the agent as being the content expert, and rather onboarding conversational specialists who, in partnership with their Call Navigator, can consistently craft world class customer experiences that deliver high levels of expert support.