How Automation Will Drag Your Call Center Service Into 2020

The call center has always been quick to adopt new forms of automation. Now, the industry is spoilt for choice. 

But not all automation is created equal. There are innovations that’ll really boost your service as well as industry fads that are best avoided…

We’ll look at:

  • Machine Learning and AI
  • Robotic Process Automation
  • APIs
  • Automated Interaction

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Machine learning and AI

Machine learning is one of the most promising areas of automation. If just half of the predictions for AI come true, businesses could benefit in a big way. (80% of business and tech leaders say that AI already boosts productivity.)

First, our definitions:

  • Machine learning is an algorithmic process that allows a system to ‘learn’ from inputs – fresh experiences, historical data or instruction. The system observes patterns in inputs and adapts its decision making based on them.
  • AI is a broader term that covers several ideas, including machine learning. Essentially, AI is the group of technologies that attempt to simulate human-like intelligence in machines.

How is it Boosting Call Center Service?

Machine learning is a strategy resource. 

Think about a stable data set, like your call volumes and outcomes. There’s a good chance that machine learning in the call center will be able to identify and implement improvements to call routing, service provision and scheduling.

Businesses can also feed in data from their predictive dialer to understand the best times to attempt sales, surveys or debt collection, based on machine learning insight.

Some call centers are also using AI in live interaction analytics. For example, speech and emotion analytics may support human agents with additional, on-screen insights about customer disposition.

The upshot – in theory – is increased FCR and happier callers.

Benefits

  • There’s potential for continuous process refinement
  • Complex process can run with little-to-no human involvement
  • AI could have wide-reaching applications

What Are the Drawbacks?

Automation isn’t about to replace human agents. While highly repetitive tasks are *already* getting automated, agents will probably handle more demanding human interactions for some time yet.

  • The appetite for AI input may have been overstated
  • The ‘emotion’ data that feeds interaction analytics may be covered under future data protection law
  • Sophisticated AI will draw heavily on resources 

There are currently few call centers with the right staff to service complex machine learning tools. At this point, it seems that only the less ambitious prospects for machine learning are genuinely around the corner.

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Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

The word ‘robotic’ is still attention-grabbing – even when the robots are just computer programs.

RPA is already well established in some businesses. It involves the creation of an automated end-to-end task, like data entry. The task can involve multiple steps and cross different pieces of software.

How is it Boosting Call Center Service?

A ‘robot’ can perform a repetitive task at a far greater volume than a human. 

Call centers often use RPA for back-office processes, benefiting from (potentially) large cost savings. They can also automate elements of customer-facing interactions.

That could mean shorter calls with a greater focus on quality interactions. Only 25% of a typical 6 minute call is actual communication. The rest is devoted to manual processes the agent has to perform. 

Benefits

  • Processes that work 24/7
  • A high degree of accuracy
  • Availability for any business

What Are the Drawbacks?

One problem with RPA is that it can reinforce bad or poorly devised processes rather than evolving them. While their competitors are creating leaner processes, some RPA adopters are investing in the long-term survival of weak processes.

Return on investment is also a problem – it tends to be lower than businesses anticipate. Only 3% of RPA adopters have managed to scale their digital workforce because the promised efficiencies failed to materialize. 

This may be, in part, due to hidden costs – software licensing accounts for just 25-30% of an RPA deployment.

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Automation across APIs

APIs are interfaces that connect up different systems, acting as a kind of universal translator. The automations that call centers create across APIs are generally focused on new or improved processes.

Businesses often think of this as an integration benefit; systems can all access the same data and users don’t need multiple logins. That is a big advantage but in reality it’s the tip of the iceberg. APIs open up *huge* opportunities for automated call and process flows.


How is it Boosting Call Center Service?

Many call centers see APIs as the gold standard for integration and automation

This approach to integration can effectively break apart data siloes. (Which is good news – 83% of executives say data siloes plague their businesses.) 

But the addition of a good automation platform means that call centers can create very advanced automated processes. These range from personalized call routing to automated contact recycling to virtual queueing. 

Benefits:

  • Takes a hammer to siloes
  • Big scope for complex automated service
  • Creates a single customer view for agents

What Are the Drawbacks?

Vendors sometimes claim that API integration opens up limitless customization. That’s true… but only if you have *limitless* development time. 

The obstacle for most call centers is the high level of technical skill you’d need to create ideal call flows. (Think hardcore coding skills.)

That’s why the most valuable API deployment is across a no-code platform. With no coding required, any member of your call center team can create what you need. 

Automated Interactions

Automated interactions cover all kinds of automation that are directly customer-facing. You’ll encounter chatbots all the time, as well as automated IVR, SMS and email.

These technologies aim to handle all or part of a customer interaction, making inbound call center service faster for the customer and cheaper for you.

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How is it Boosting Call Center Service?

In a nutshell, agents are expensive. Any interaction that can go through a non-agent resource will be cheaper than one which goes through an agent.

It’s not a question of penny-pinching call centers though. Predicting call volume can be imprecise; automation makes a 24/7 service easier; many kinds of interactions move faster through an automated service.

The good news is that a lot of millennial customers – around three quarters – prefer to solve their own service issues without an agent. 

Benefits

  • More money in your pocket (if done right…)
  • Faster, easier interaction for customers
  • It may become to track call volumes

What Are the Drawbacks?

A few decades of low-quality implementations – especially for IVR – means that some customers don’t have much patience for automated systems.

More complex solutions, including chatbots, also take a fair amount of time and effort to install. And, they rarely do a good job of transferring interaction data when a contact is escalated to a human agent.

Cost is also an issue. We’ve discussed the savings of an automated interaction versus a live agent, but that kind of measurement can be superficial. If an automated service has poor FCR the number of calls it prevents can be lower than it appears.  

There’s no doubt that automation can do incredible things for call center service. But no business has a totally straightforward start to their automation journey. Wondering how to start yours? Read ‘Your Guide to Call Center Automation‘.