Contact center agent taking a call

Tips for choosing front-office process automation

Originally published in BiteSites on 29 January 2021

By ByteSites staff writer


As automation takes hold in operational divisions in business across the globe, business decision makers need to choose solutions that will meet their needs. CLEVVA co-CEO Ryan Falkenberg outlines what they should look for when choosing front office automation technology.


All over the world, companies are realising the benefits of automating processes. Implemented effectively, automation can improve productivity, reduce costs, and free up staff to provide the best possible experience to customers.


In most cases, automation efforts start in the back-office. This automation involves the processing of repetitive system-based processes using RPA digital workers. This frees staff up to focus more of their energy on the customer, in the front office.


Still, most staff struggle to get this right. Their conversations are shaped by prescribed product, policy and procedure rules. They can’t just talk freely. They are required to say and do very specific things at specific times, depending on the customer situation and context. To learn these rules, they are placed on extensive training programmes designed to code their brains in the specific sales and support formula of the business. And when they inevitably forget, they are given access to smart knowledge bases that offer up the information as required.


The reality is that no matter how well intentioned staff are, they tend to apply a different set of rules based on the information they can remember, the information they can find, and how they interpret this information given their client’s specific context. In many cases, they end up navigating customers through very different front-office engagement journeys.


It’s a bit like cab drivers who get trained on the same map of a city and are then let loose to drive customers. Within a few weeks, drivers will have varying recollections of the roads based on the routes they actually drive i.e. people remember the routes they actually take. The routes that are not taken are quickly forgotten.


The same applies to contact centre agents. They remember the details relating to the calls they actually receive. It’s the call types they seldom receive that they struggle with.


Cab companies have resolved this issue by providing drivers with a GPS. This effectively removes the need for the driver to memorise the roads, and allows them to focus their energy on driving safely and creating a favourable customer experience.


In the same way, contact centres are increasingly trying to offer agents a conversation GPS so they can focus on adding their humour, empathy and warmth to every prescribed journey. Historically these GPSs have been hard-coded or built using decision-tree logic. Recently some have been built using AI that tries to learn from live calls and existing knowledge bases.


Few have succeeded, until now. Over the last few years, a new form of digital expert technology has been developed – one that can guide agents through the right conversation pathways, every time. When reviewing your options, here are five criteria I would suggest you consider applying.


  1.     Consistency

Like human experts, digital experts need to be trusted to make the right decisions, every time. They should not randomly ‘self-learn’. They should stay true to your business rules, and give you the confidence that in the same situation, they will do and say exactly the same thing. So be careful not to get too excited by these amazing AI technologies that learn and adjust based on data you give them. Often you don’t have the data available for them to learn, and even if you did, the questions and answers are prescribed, not predicted.


  1. Compliance

Especially in regulated industries, you have to trust that your digital expert will get it right, every time. And not only get it right, but be able to prove it. This means giving you a clear record of every variable considered, every rule applied, every answer given and every action taken.


  1. Context relevance

A digital expert must be capable of choosing the right customer engagement pathway based on each customer’s context and situation. It can’t be trapped into decision-tree thinking, or bound by generic content held in knowledge bases. It needs to be able to diagnose each situation, and then adapt accordingly, just like a human expert would.


  1. Agility

If 2020 highlighted anything, it’s how quickly the business environment can change. Now, more than ever, processes need to be able to change with them. In choosing your digital expert technology, make sure that you are able to build its logic quickly and accurately, and that your team can maintain it when products, policies and procedures change.


  1. Works across systems and channels

Your digital expert can’t be limited in how it works in your ecosystem. It needs to work easily with your existing systems and digital workers, ensuring the decisions it makes and the pathways it takes considers the information you already have on the customer. It also needs to be able to engage with staff and customers via your existing system interfaces. So, make sure your digital expert is built to work in your reality, and does not force you to change before it can add meaningful value.


The effort will be worth it


Choosing the right digital expert technology is a critical decision. If you get it right, you will find you suddenly have all your front-office logic captured within a single digital expert. It won’t ever leave. And it will get it right, every time, in a consistent, compliant and context-relevant way irrespective of channel. Expect to see your staff having richer, more meaningful conversations with less anxiety and less need for training. Your customers should also experience a significant improvement in your service, whether they choose to engage via phone, your app or the website.


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