Virtual agents help contact centres deal with unreachable customers

By Ryan Falkenberg, 18 April 2023 – Originally published by IT Online.

Ask the average South African how load-shedding is affecting businesses, they’ll probably mention mining and industry or small businesses (such as hairdressers and restaurants) that rely on a consistent flow of energy.

But the impact of the power outages that have plagued the country for more than 15 years goes far beyond that. Take contact centres, for example. Even when they have enough backup power to keep operating during bouts of load-shedding, it can negatively impact their operating ability.

“There are a number of ways that load-shedding can impact contact centres, but the biggest difficulties can come in reaching customers,” says Ryan Falkenberg, CEO of CLEVVA. “People might be disinclined to answer their phones because of low battery. Alternatively, they might not want to use precious data when the WiFi is off. That’s to say nothing of dropped calls due to unsteady connections. All of these factors, and others, can make life incredibly difficult for outbound call centres.”

That comes at a significant cost, not just to individual contact centres but to the economy as a whole. One call centre owner says load-shedding has cost her a 30% loss in production daily. Extend those losses to an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people and which adds tens of billions of rands to the economy, and you have a potential recipe for disaster. Fortunately, virtual agents can help contact centres overcome many of those difficulties.

A virtual agent can have the same structured sales and service conversations that human agents have, only via digital channels. channels, including instant messaging, websites, apps, and email. They can ask you the right questions, offer the right answers and trigger the right actions. And unlike most chatbots, they can do this in a consistent, compliant and hyper-personalised way.

“It’s all too easy to think about automated technologies like virtual agents making things easier for the inbound functions of contact centres, but they can help with outbound functions too,” says Falkenberg. “Take the problem of customers not wanting, or being able, to pick up their phones. Virtual agents can overcome this by allowing customers to click on a message and schedule a call when it suits them. Or complete the full transaction through the virtual agent, with no human agent involved.”

Unlike traditional human agents, he adds, a virtual agent can interact with clients when it suits the client. It doesn’t even have to be when a call centre is operational and people are at work. In a period of prolonged and extensive load-shedding that can be incredibly important.

With 2023 already having seen more load-shedding days than the whole of 2021, the last thing most people want to deal with is a call they’re not prepared for trying to sell them something or chasing payment on a bill.

Improved customer experience

But virtual agents aren’t just beneficial from a load-shedding perspective. Even if more power comes onto the grid, they can also help the consumer have a better experience.

The mantra of reaching customers with the right message on the right platform at the right time applies just as much to contact centres as it does to other forms of customer communication, says Falkenberg. And if you’re using virtual agents to do so now, you’re going to have an edge over any competitors who haven’t adapted to this new reality.

“There is no doubt that load-shedding remains South Africa’s biggest business challenge, including for outbound contact centres,” the CLEVVA CEO concludes. “But organisations willing to embrace new technologies such as virtual agents aren’t just more likely to survive the current crisis, they’re also more likely to create the kind of customer experiences that will serve them very well once it passes.”

View original article here.