We already know that the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed life as we know it. According to the results of a new survey commissioned by Uniphore, COVID-19 is also changing customer service in the contact center. Contact center traffic is surging, and many organizations are trying to rapidly pivot in response to increased contact volumes.
As we noted earlier this year in our previous survey, many contact centers are overwhelmed and unable to meet customer expectations. This is troubling for us since we provide Conversational Service Automation for contact centers. Customer experience (CX) should be the emphasis of every touchpoint customers have with contact center teams.
Our survey results highlight both the importance of the contact center and the need for organizations to “get it right” when leveraging conversational service automation.
COVID-19 and Its Impact on Contact Centers
Of course, contact centers didn’t deliberately reduce their emphasis on customer experience. COVID-19 closures, rising cases of the virus, unplanned outages and higher call volumes were largely to blame. As a quick recap, here are a few findings from our original survey:
- 40% of on-hold callers asking for pandemic response information said they were frustrated about the experience.
- Almost half (43%) of health helpline callers couldn’t reach an agent or provider.
- Over 60% said the information they received from the contact center was different from information they obtained from the news.
These statistics reflect the overwhelm and frustration contact center customers experienced in 2020. Unfortunately for these organizations, very little has changed. Contact centers are still largely playing defense.
2020 Contact Center CX Statistics
Now more than ever, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that help companies streamline contact center CX have a vital role to play in engaging with customers. Right now, however, many customers aren’t seeing all the benefits of contact center automation. Consider our latest findings to see why:
- 84% of customers say they expect the contact center to follow up with them after a call.
- Nearly half (49%), in fact, prefer to receive an email afterward.
- Although contact center automation is widely used in the industry today, only one-third (32%) of customers say they’re either somewhat or very comfortable with AI being used in the contact center.
When you account for the increased contact volumes this year and a greater desire for information and transparency from organizations, the result is a perfect storm of disappointed customers and frustrated contact center teams. Agents may find themselves overwhelmed with post-call work if they don’t have AI coworkers to delegate some of the workload to.
More can be done to address these issues and help customers become more comfortable with AI. Much more, I believe, can be done to bring a human touch to the work AI does every day in interacting with customers.
How Human Agents and AI Can Work Together
For automation to transform the contact center experience, human consumers must be able to trust automation. When implemented correctly, AI offers a lot of promise and potential for contact centers and for an improved customer experience.
As economies continue to reopen and rebuild from the damage of COVID-19, how well these contact centers are able to manage contact traffic and provide great CX will have an impact on the future of entire industries. Contact centers will be key to renewed growth in the travel, restaurant, and retail industries as customers embrace shopping and in-person experiences once again.
To these ends, here are three priorities I believe every contact center should have today:
Hear the Voice of the Customer on AI
In our survey, customers spoke and expressed their frustrations with AI and chatbots. I’m a strong believer in the power of AI, of course, but only if automation technologies are used the right way. Technology that makes your customer uncomfortable, isn’t providing relevant information and isn’t actually streamlining the customer experience is not accomplishing AI’s central goals for contact centers.
Automate After-Call Work
Agents who are continuously responding to incoming customer calls don’t always have the time for the after-call follow-up that customers really want. Automation can ensure that every caller receives an email afterward, providing another touchpoint to reinforce your communications with your customer.
Leverage Conversational Analytics
Continuous improvement as a philosophy should be part of every contact center’s strategy. Once you begin using AI, analytics can help you see where automation is helping your contact center and where you can improve. Real-time analytics show you where you need to act right now and are invaluable during times of crisis and increased demand. Sometimes, pivoting your operations is necessary—and analytics can guide you.
What 2021 Brings for Contact Centers
Contact centers that use conversation as a service are in a good position to preserve CX in the midst of continued uncertainty. These organizations can shorten wait times, reach more customers and present a stronger brand image by providing customers with the high-quality experiences they want.
Yes, many customers are making do with less-than-ideal CX from contact centers in the midst of 2020’s pandemic, but companies that offer positive CX will be memorable to their customers. They stand to benefit from greater customer loyalty, repeat business, and better engagement. The investment today in CX pays off tomorrow and is worthwhile for what AI offers your brand.
To learn more about the survey, click here or watch the below video highlights from our Outlook for CX in 2021 LinkedIn Live conversation:
To find out how Uniphore can transform your contact center, get in touch with one of our experts today.