Companies like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb have done more than transform their respective industries—they’ve completely changed customer experience demands for every business. And meeting these demands is especially important in your contact center.
Digital-native companies have jumped at the opportunity to bring personalized experiences to their contact centers. Whether their customers call in, use a chat service, send an email, or interact on social media, these companies can personalize service based on historical data.
If you’ve been operating a more traditional contact center, you can’t afford to fall behind the customer experience curve. Now, if you don’t provide service that meets modern expectations, customers will be more than happy to jump ship for a competitor that does.
The path to replacing old processes, technology, and integrations may seem daunting. However, with the right approach to artificial intelligence (AI), you can deliver a consistent level of real-time, personalized experiences that customers want.
The First Step—Defining Customer Experience
Back in 2015, Gartner found that 89% of companies believed customer experience was quickly becoming their primary basis of competition. And a few years later, every business leader is talking about how important it is to stay ahead of customer experience demands.
The only problem is that it’s hard to pin down a true definition of customer experience because it varies from person to person. What’s important to one customer might be less to another. And while we’re trying to put every customer into a single bucket so we can scale services, the reality is that each experience has to be unique.
That’s why it’s important not to limit the definition of customer experience to particular channels, tactics, and technologies. Instead, focus on finding your ability to provide a high level of service and support in easy, customer-friendly, and personalized ways. When customers feel comfortable doing business with you, they’ll keep coming back.
For traditional contact centers, this definition may seem too idealistic. Personalizing experiences for every customer is certainly difficult. However, the emergence of consumer-facing AI has left you no choice but to adapt.
Don't limit your definition of Customer Experience to particular channels, tactics, and technologies. Instead, focus on finding your ability to provide a high level of service and support in easy, customer-friendly, and personalized ways.Click To Tweet
How AI Puts Pressure on the Traditional Contact Center
Artificially intelligent assistants like Siri and Alexa have ruined the traditional contact center customer experience. Aging interactive voice response (IVR) systems and auto attendants can’t match the experience of AI-powered assistants.
But while your contact center maintains the status quo, consumers are growing used to free speech technology. Being able to carry out a conversation with AI-powered assistants to complete tasks has raised expectations for the customers who interact with your call center.
While the use case is clearest with inbound calls, AI-powered voice technology can be used for much more. Another example is to create blended contact center interactions. If a customer is on your website and starts an interaction with live chat, she should be able to transition to a phone call at any point, with any agent, without losing the context of the conversation. With artificial intelligence integrated into your backend systems, service agents can receive the specific information they need exactly when they need it to maintain this kind of free-flowing, blended interaction.
However, traditional contact centers can’t deliver these kinds of experiences just by purchasing a piece of software. There are so many disparate systems powering your contact center, making it difficult for artificial intelligence to pull together the necessary information for modern customer experiences.
This is why AI is putting so much pressure on contact center leaders. It’s not that you have to adopt the technology. It’s that you need to prepare your traditional environment to get the most out of growing AI investments. To enable experiences to flow between devices and channels, guided by voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, you need to solve the data problem in your contact center.
The Data Challenge in an AI-Powered Contact Center
It’s a common misconception that AI will save you money by replacing many of the people in your contact center. In reality, you can’t have true AI without people. Technology should be used to enhance your employees and enable them to deliver better customer experiences.
However, the only way for it to do that is by having access to good, clean data. That’s the biggest challenge for traditional contact centers to achieve modern customer experiences. Your database has become so complex over the years, which would derail the effectiveness of any customer-facing chatbot or AI-powered voice attendant.
Without the ability to dig deep into your databases, an AI attendant wouldn’t be any different than what you do today. Right now, caller ID helps auto attendants “personalize” phone greetings with customer names. But simply having a bot use a customer’s name doesn’t come close to the capabilities of true AI-powered experiences.
The issue is that organizing your information, cleaning out inaccuracies, and integrating customer data across contact center systems can prove overwhelming. We recently worked with a client to enable one-click dialing across its contact center by integrating Outlook contacts into their communications software. After pulling together contact information for over 15,000 employees, it only took a few days for the client to realize that 90% of contact data was inaccurate.
What should have been an invaluable, time-saving feature was quickly shut off due to data integrity problems. And this was just a simple ODBC connection to the company’s database. The problem becomes even worse as you try to implement artificial intelligence to transform contact center experiences.
The typical IT team doesn’t have the resources, experience, or expertise to overcome this data challenge and get the most out of artificial intelligence. But by finding the right outside partner, you can lock down a strong AI strategy and transform customer experiences.
Finding an IT Partner That Can Bridge the AI Gap
Implementing AI to power modern contact center experiences can be expensive. Just because you invest in IBM Watson or another AI system doesn’t mean you’ll unlock the benefits you’re hoping for.
Working with an IT consultant can help you bridge the gap from the traditional contact center to AI-powered experiences without exhausting your budget. But not all IT consultants are created equal. If you want to find the right partner to help transform your contact center, look for characteristics such as:
- Deep Experience with AI: It’s unreasonable to expect your in-house IT team to gain AI expertise overnight. A full soup-to-nuts consulting service will give you the experience necessary to build your unique path to AI success.
- Willingness to Learn About You: There’s no universal approach to contact center experiences. An outside partner should be willing to invest the time in looking at how you deal with emails, faxes, inbound calls, chat requests, web chat, and other workflows. That way, they’ll be able to personalize their services to find the best opportunities to implement AI in your contact center.
- Knowledge of a Wide Array of Solutions: Many consulting firms will try to sell you on a specific set of communications systems. That might work out for you, but it’s better to work with a partner that is willing to find the right solutions for your specific needs. Whether it’s Mitel, Genesys, Talkdesk, 8×8, or any other contact center vendor, you should feel that you’re getting the features and benefits that fit your environment.
- Transparency in Pricing and Analysis: You know that transforming contact center experiences with AI can get expensive. Working with an IT consultant will help with the budget, but that doesn’t mean you can operate on blind faith. The best partners will deliver transparent pricing matrices and build functional requirement documents that clearly outline what you’re implementing.
Above all, understand that improving customer experiences in your contact center is a process. You’re not looking for a partner that promises the fastest rollout. Rather, you need someone to guide you to a modern portfolio of contact center solutions.
Get Ahead of the AI Revolution in Your Contact Center
Think about how your customers feel about traditional contact center experiences. Expectations are higher than ever and if you don’t take steps to transform your contact center, you’ll fall behind competitors.
Now is the time to clean your data and prepare for AI in the contact center. The technology is still maturing. However, if you put yourself in a position to implement AI over an organized database, you’ll be able to unlock benefits for both customers and employees.
The key is to acknowledge the issues keeping you from leveraging AI and be open to making changes accordingly. But that doesn’t mean you have to make those changes alone. If you’re ready to modernize your contact center experiences, we’re here to help. Contact us today and we’ll help you find the right contact center solutions for your business.
Richard Klevit helps clients leverage technology to deliver remarkable customer experiences as the Managing Director for Contact Center Solutions at Packet Fusion. Leveraging 25+ years of industry experience, Richard is an expert at analyzing customer service operations, identifying challenges, and making strategic recommendations that account for technology and business processes while factoring in industry trends.