November 2022 Issue of Connections Magazine

The November 2022 Issue of Connections Magazine, covering call centers and the teleservice industry

Feature Content:

CM November 2022

Knowledge Management: What You Need to Know, by Donna Fluss
The current generation of KM solutions are excellent and have proven benefits. The next generation of KM solutions will be even better. . . read more >>

From the Publisher: Going Beyond the Call by Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Turn negative interactions into positive outcomes: Three ways your call center can go beyond the call to better serve your callers and customers. . . read more >>

Guest Column: The Power of the Bot, by the SingleComm team
By using AI systems and solutions, you are not taking anything away from your human team members. Instead, you are empowering them. . . read more >>

Using Knowledge Management to Simplify Complex Customer Queries, by Trey Norman
Quick and efficient support is key to retain business and maintain happy customers. With the right tools in place save money and reduce stressful phone calls. . . read more >>

Ten Years Ago: How to Develop a Customer-Focused Culture, by Matt Rocco
Discover tips to form a call center culture that has a customer-first focus. . . read more >>

Twenty Years Ago: Managing A Small Call Center, by Tim Montgomery
Understanding a few key concepts of small call centers can significantly minimize the obstacles by helping you improve operating efficiencies. . . read more >>

Industry News

Send us your call center news for consideration in the next issue of Connections Magazine.

Classified Ads of opportunities for you.

Marketplace Directory of leading Contact Center Vendors.

Startel contact center software
Amtelco
Map Communications
CenturiSoft
CallCentre Hosting
Alliant: Professional Liability Insurance
Quality Contact Solutions
TBS: total billing solution; make it rain $
Ron Violante - Answering Service Broker
Skybridge Americas: helping America's most trusted brands
SingleComm: cloud-native omnichannel TAS solutions
On Call Software: API Integration, IVR Design, Virtual PBX

About Connections Magazine 

Connections Magazine is the premier publication for the call center industry, providing news and information for call centers, sent at no cost to qualified readers at call centers, contact centers, teleservice agencies, phone answering services, and telemessaging companies.

For more information, contact us.

Going Beyond the Call


Offer Call Backs and Customer Service Options

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

In thinking about going beyond the call, you may assume this is an article about offering web chat, text messaging, and email response in addition to handling phone calls. Though I’m an advocate of these options, thereby turning your call center into a contact center, these are not my focus this time.

Instead, I’m addressing what you can do with the telephone to go beyond the call. Here are some considerations:

Call Backs

Offering to call back the caller instead of having them wait on hold—in queue—is an option call centers can offer. Some callers like this flexibility and others don’t. Some are skeptical they’ll receive a call back, while a few have tried it and never got the promised call—or it came hours later instead of the few minutes they were led to believe. Yet many delight in this option.

The benefits of a call back for the customer is not having to wait on hold, being able to attend to other activities, and a feeling of greater control.

Benefits to the call center are fewer callers on hold, lower toll-free costs, and agents who have a chance to prepare to engage with the caller before placing the call. Even something as simple as bringing up the customer’s account in advance saves agent time and reduces customer angst.

Abandoned Calls

What do you do with callers who hang up in frustration while on hold? Hope they’ll call back? It might not happen. Be glad for one less call to handle? This is a short-sighted response that misses the reason for the call center in the first place.

What if you took the initiative and called the customer back? “We see that you called us earlier today, but we couldn’t get to your call in time. Is there anything we can help you with now?”

Yes, some customers will have given up, figured it out on their own, or decide to vent their frustrations. But many will be impressed you called to check with them and have heartfelt gratitude you made the effort. In doing so you can turn around a negative experience and correct it. As you do so, you’ll forge a stronger relationship between your organization and your customers.

Surveys

Some organizations do follow up surveys, either at the conclusion of a call or afterward. If you conduct surveys, what are your goals in doing so?

Is it merely to amass a statistical database of C-Sat (customer satisfaction) scores? There’s nothing wrong with this, but too often the end-of-call surveys try to learn about the effectiveness of the call before the caller knows if the advice they received is correct.

A better reason for follow up surveys is to determine customer service failures, providing a chance to correct your call center’s shortcoming. Then you can work to turn a negative customer experience into a positive one.

Going Beyond the Call

These are ways you can go beyond the call to better serve your customers. And that’s the reason your call center exists.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.  Read more of his articles at PeterDeHaanPublishing.com.

The Power of the Bot

Increasing Customer Satisfaction with a Human-AI Team

By the SingleComm team

Today’s customers have little patience for long waits, multiple handoffs, and unresolved issues. It only takes one unpleasant experience to send them headed for the hills–or another brand.

Adequate staffing has long been the go-to method for handling call volumes. But the days of readily available employees are gone as contact centers struggle to attract and retain talent.

The solution is a future-forward strategy that maximizes their teams’ capabilities, also known as AI (artificial intelligence).

According to Gartner’s 2021 Technology Roadmap Survey, more than 65 precent of customer service and support leaders are optimistic about the value that AI can provide, and they plan to increase their adoption of AI capabilities over the next two years.

Furthermore, new research conducted by The Harris Poll revealed that improved customer experience is now the most frequently cited driver of AI implementation decisions, above cost reduction and the ability to drive top-line revenue.

Advanced technology solutions are not new to the contact center industry: call-routing and interactive voice response (IVR) systems have been in use for decades. But today’s AI-powered options are taking the customer experience to new heights.

Myth versus Reality

When people hear the term artificial intelligence, scenes from the movie The Terminator often come to mind. But AI reality is quite different from AI myth. According to Seth Earley, author, founder, and CEO of Earley Information Science, here are five common myths about artificial intelligence followed by AI truths:

  • Myth 1: AI algorithms can magically make sense of all your messy data.
    Reality: AI is not “load and go,” and the quality of the data is more important than the algorithm.
    Translation: Regardless of any AI interaction, good data in means good data out.
  • Myth 2: You need data scientists, machine learning experts and huge budgets to use AI for the business.
    Reality: Many tools are increasingly available to business users and don’t require huge investments.
    Translation: There are AI solutions available to fit any business and any budget.
  • Myth 3: Cognitive AI technologies can understand and solve problems the way the human brain can.
    Reality: Cognitive technologies can’t solve problems they weren’t designed to solve. 
    Translation: AI technology performs according to design. 
  • Myth 4: Machine learning using neural nets means that computers can learn the way humans learn.
    Reality: Neural nets are powerful, but they are a long way from achieving the complexity of the human brain or mimicking human capabilities.
    Translation: You don’t have to worry about computers taking over your contact center.
  • Myth 5: AI will displace humans and make contact center jobs obsolete.
    Reality: AI is no different from other technological advances in that it helps humans become more effective and processes become more efficient.
    Translation: AI will not change the need for skilled and talented call center representatives. In fact, AI will enhance their superpowers while improving the performance of the contact center and increasing customer satisfaction.

Taking Your Contact Center to the Next Level

There are many ways that AI can strengthen your team’s performance and improve your processes.

  • Personalization: Tailoring the experience based on information that the platform has learned about the caller or user.
  • AI-Based Customer Routing: The ability to match customers with the best resource or agent.
  • Chatbots and Conversational Assistants: Interacting with customers, either by text or voice, taking care of simple and/or repetitive issues, and freeing up contact center representatives to focus on more complex assistance needs.
  • Workforce Management: Data analysis capabilities that help predict when agents and resources are needed.
  • Post Call Wrap-Up: AI assists representatives in entering call-action summaries and wrap-up codes.

By using AI systems and solutions, you are not taking anything away from your human team members. Instead, you are empowering them to raise the bar to meet and exceed customer expectations by streamlining processes and tasks, which allows them to spend more time on supplying the best service possible. Talk about a win-win.

Interested in learning what a human-AI team might look like in your organization? We have the information and solutions you need. Contact us today to schedule a demo.

Using Knowledge Management to Simplify Complex Customer Queries


By Trey Norman

More complex customer queries call for knowledge management to simplify tasks. Simplifying the steps taken for answer retrieval is beneficial not only for companies and their employees but also for customers.

In addition to reducing time and cost, more benefits arise. With knowledge management technology, call center agents have it easier with access to all company data right at their fingertips every time a customer picks up the phone. The request often requires more details than someone confirming their account number or product delivery date, and complex queries send agents on an endless hunt for information.

Knowledge management turns complex queries into a simple and productive phone call between brand and customer.

Call center agents can look up relevant data in no time to help customers get the information they want. This diminishes the need to transfer them because the first person on the phone has a 360-degree view of company knowledge, allowing them to quickly find the data and keep the lines open for the next caller.

The Value of Search and a 360-Degree View

Considering a company and its data, so much comes to mind with the breadth of technology and applications used today. From emails, sales documentation, contracts, support tickets, chats on internal collaboration platforms, and marketing analytics, there is way too large of a scope for customer service agents to find what they need and keep a customer happy in a timely manner. Eventually, they may resolve the issue, but at what cost?

High-level knowledge management with the help of artificial intelligence can slash through data silos and connect prominent information from all relevant sources. All a company needs to do is make it accessible to employees on the front lines.

While search is a significant function of these systems, proactive input and graphical displays can also be essential within call centers. From a search standpoint, representatives can search for keywords related to the specific customer or the issue needing resolution. Generated are search results, like on Google or Bing, of resources and content about the topic—precisely filtered the way the agent needs it. Query results could lead to a support ticket of a past customer who called with the same problem, or it may lead to a helpful whitepaper that discusses the topic in question.

But there is more to solutions than just searching and finding. We all know this is not always how it goes, as many of us have been on page ten of google results before. Machine learning techniques like Natural Language Processing (NLP), understand written and spoken language. That said, queries will lead to the exact sentence of a whitepaper or support document because intelligent systems understand what the employee needs just as a human would.

Not All Answers Have a Single Source

Search and search only may not be what the company and customer need. With complex queries, it may be unlikely the full answer lies in a single document. Connecting data sources allows graphical overviews to be created from all relevant sources. On one display, past customer tickets can appear to agents while specific data about the customer is highlighted on another, right next to each other in one central location.

Customer service agents don’t need one source opened on their primary monitor, another open on a second monitor, and a third source hiding behind another window. They can relay information back to the customer on the other end from one place that shows every source.

Auto-Generated Responses: Answering Questions for Agents

The last part is where technology really amazes. Another popular machine learning technique used in knowledge management is NLQA, Natural Language Question Answering. Not only does NLQA understand human language the way NLP does, but it can auto-generate answers based on sources of information within the company. Many companies have turned to chatbots to reap the benefits of Natural Language Question Answering and automated assistance.

But why should a chatbot get all the cool and innovative tools when people are still picking up the phones and relying on humans to support them? Taking advantage of this could lead to support agents receiving answers in real-time based on the spoken words of the caller or typing in the query. This practice saves many hours and dollars while making a difficult job more manageable.

Taking a hard look at company data sources and what is relevant to customer service and call center agents is especially important for businesses to move forward. Quick and efficient support is key in retaining business and maintaining happy, paying customers. With these tools and innovative knowledge management, many dollars and stressful phone calls can be saved.

Trey Norman is the COO at Mindbreeze.

Knowledge Management: What you Need to Know


By Donna Fluss

The knowledge management (KM) market is experiencing the most rapid adoption cycle in its history. Driven by customer expectations for a great experience, increased demand for self-service, the need to empower employees throughout the enterprise, and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), KM solutions are being purchased to meet a wide range of requirements.

The significantly increased demand is driving a large research and development (R&D) investment cycle, which is invigorating and greatly enhancing all aspects of these solutions, enabling vendors to convert them from searchable information repositories to highly contextual sources of intelligent content.

The KM vendors are applying AI to enhance many aspects of their solutions, including the creation, curation, and oversight of content. The “garbage in/garbage out” issue has long been one of the largest impediments to acceptance and adoption of KM solutions. Authoring and maintaining pertinent and up-to-date content will always be a critical element of these applications, and the vendors have started to introduce tools and best practices to help companies manage this essential aspect of the system (and process).

Artificial intelligence is being used to locate and prioritize the most relevant knowledge utilized by organizations, as well as to help administrators keep it current by identifying outdated, redundant, and missing information. Artificial intelligence and other enhanced features also enable companies to create one answer and automatically render it in a manner appropriate for each user and channel.

This is just the beginning of many practical and game-changing innovations that the KM vendors are delivering to the market, along with improved system usability, integrations, and much more coming during the next couple of years.

Process is as Important as the KM Solution

While technology makes a difference for any solution, including KM, how it is perceived and used are equally important. Contact centers and other enterprise departments that want to realize benefits from KM need to build a culture that prioritizes agents’ use of knowledge over productivity.

For years, contact center leaders asked their agents to use KM to standardize inquiry handling and then complained that it took them too long. The new generation of context-sensitive and highly responsive KM solutions can more rapidly serve up the information agents need to resolve customer issues, eliminating one of the biggest impediments to adoption.

However, it will still take training and encouragement to get agents on board and contact center leaders need to support these efforts by making KM usage one of the department’s core tenets for success.

Selecting the Right KM for your Contact Center

Prospects need to carefully assess the KM offerings in the market, as each one is in a different stage of its development, despite vendor claims. Adding complexity to the challenge, vendors in many IT sectors, including customer relationship management (CRM), contact-center-as-a-service (CCaaS), and even workforce management (WFM), are claiming to offer their own KM solutions.

In many cases, these are knowledge repositories designed to provide information, best practices, and tips to support the use of their own core solution and are not full-fledged KM offerings. (This doesn’t make them bad, but it limits their overall scope and contributions.)

Given the tremendous amount of innovation introduced into these solutions, it’s time to find a vendor whose product and plans align with the needs of your organization. And be sure to select one that listens and has a proven record of accomplishment of applying customer feedback to its roadmap.

Final Thoughts

The current generation of KM solutions are excellent and have proven benefits. The next generation of KM solutions that are expected to be delivered during the next two years will be even better, as significant improvements to the underlying technology should enable vendors to deliver on the benefits they have been promising for decades.

For an in-depth analysis of the knowledge management (KM) market and the solutions that are vital in supporting the needs of today’s digitally transformed and artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled enterprises, please see DMGs 2022 – 2023 Knowledge Management for the Enterprisereport.

Donna Fluss, founder and president of DMG Consulting LLC, provides a unique and unparalleled understanding of the people, processes and technology that drive the strategic direction of the dynamic and rapidly transforming contact center and back-office markets. Donna can be reached at donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com.

Rochester Telemessaging Center Receives Gold Call Center Certification for 5th Time

ATSI Recertifies Longstanding Provider on Their 50th Anniversary

The Association of Teleservices International (ATSI) announced that Rochester Telemessaging Center (RTC) has re-qualified for the Gold 24/7 Call Center Certification Award for the fifth consecutive time, originally qualifying in 2008 and operating as the only Gold 24/7 Call Center in Michigan.

Rochester Telemessaging Center was started by current owners Herb and Jan Chinoski in 1972 with continued operations and are celebrating their fiftieth anniversary in business this year.

The certification shows that RTC has met or exceeded high standards in the following areas: business practices, life safety, operations, including normal and emergency procedures, personnel hiring, training, and ongoing evaluations through a peer review program focusing on 99.9 percent annual run time.

“As Michigan’s only ATSI-24/7 Certified Call Center, Rochester Telemessaging Center demonstrates a continuing effort to bring the highest quality to the telephone answering service industry,” said Dan L’Heureux, certification examiner.

“The Telephone Answering Service industry is very competitive and one way we are able to differentiate ourselves is by third party testing,” RTC president Ryan Chinoski said. “We participate in the ATSI programs for site certification, agent certification, and are very proud to be the sole recipient of ATSI telephone answering service Award of Excellence for twenty-six consecutive years.”  

ATSI is an international trade association for the teleservices business. This includes telephone answering services, voicemail services, telemarketing services and any other business that provides enhanced communication services.

Research Shows that Consumers Judge Brands Based on their Customer Service Experience

90% of managers think they treat agents as brand guardians, yet only 33% of consumers agree.

Calabrio, workforce performance company, found a direct correlation between contact centers, brand loyalty, and brand revenue. The global research report, State of the Contact Center 2022: Empowering the Contact Center as a Brand Guardian, uncovered a surprising gap between the role contact center agents play in consumer brand perception and how much employers support and empower those same agents to be brand guardians.

Both consumers (97%) and contact center managers (98%) agree that customer service interactions have an impact on whether consumers stay loyal to a brand. And a vast majority (88%) of contact center managers also agree that brand perception directly affects overall company revenue. When positive customer experience (CX) interactions boost loyalty, revenue follows.

“We know that contact center interactions can make or break a customer relationship, leading to increases or decreases in revenue,” said Tom Goodmanson, president and CEO of Calabrio. “How smoothly those interactions go is a direct result of how agents are trained and how they are supported with the right tools and technology. It’s critical for brand loyalty that agents feel confident to make the right decisions at any given moment. And the most efficient way to improve the customer experience is to empower contact center agents as brand guardians.”

The jump to the cloud revolutionized how agents work and learn, opening opportunities to build stronger customer relationships. To accelerate this, agents now need a more flexible and more autonomous work experience, accessibility to best practices, and digital tools that help them shape the optimal customer journey across all interaction channels.

In short, agents need to be truly empowered as frontline brand guardians to protect revenue streams.

Voice Reigns Supreme

AI-powered chatbots have gained in popularity, but 80% of consumers still rank phone interactions as their preferred customer service channel. Yet contact center managers have a mismatched perception of how important voice channels are to brand image. Managers ranked voice channels third, behind email and web interactions.

This gap may be leading to a misplaced focus on newer channels, such as social media and apps. Instead, consumers overwhelmingly think contact centers should prioritize agent training (70%) and fill staffing gaps (58%), instead of adding more channels like chatbots or virtual assistants.

Loyalty is fleeting. Bad experiences have big impacts, with 60% of consumers saying they switched brands due to a negative contact center experience—most leaving after only two negative experiences. Even a single negative experience significantly damages consumers’ perceptions across future interactions. In fact, consumers with a recent negative experience were less than half as likely to say contact centers were doing a decent job in any category. In other words, recency bias is powerful—and it is hard to recover once consumer confidence is lost.

Other Critical Disconnects

The study shows significant gaps between consumer experience and the service contact center managers think they deliver:

  • Availability of human agents: 80% of managers think they meet or exceed customer expectations for access to live agents. But only 37% of consumers agree.
  • Quick response times: 79% of managers think they meet or exceed customer expectations for response, but only 45% of consumers agree.
  • Needing to feel heard and understood: 84% of managers think they meet or exceed customers’ needs to feel heard and understood by the brand, but only 45% of consumers agree.

“Consumer expectations continue to grow, demanding better and faster results. In the eyes of the consumer, contact centers are not doing enough to empower agents on the channels that have the most impact on brand perception,” says Blake Morgan, Calabrio customer experience futurist. “Managers acknowledge there is work to do, but the question is, how quickly can changes be made to protect both the brand image and revenue?”

September 2022 Issue of Connections Magazine

The September 2022 Issue of Connections Magazine, covering call centers and the teleservice industry

Feature Content:

CM-SEPTEMBER-2022.

Six Ways Attended Automation Can Transform Your Call Center, by Jeff Fettes
Attended automation in the contact center has the potential to deliver happier agents, happier customers, and a happier bottom line. . . read more >>

From the Publisher: Chat Availability by Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Offering customer service is key for business success, and chat is a popular choice. Just make sure that chat availability isn’t a problem. . . read more >>

What’s the Future of Virtual Reality Simulation in Call Center Training? by Jim Iyoob
Virtual reality (VR) simulation technologies may seem expensive, but VR can positively influence business results and make call center training more proficient. . . read more

How the Modern Contact Center Can Drive Better Results, by Rod Brownridge 
With advances in technology, we’re able to deliver more consistent results while focusing on managing relationships instead of managing problems. . . read more >>

AI and the Contact Center: An Interview with Talkdesk’s Ben Rigby
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology will continue to evolve and adapt to new business needs, and no-code solutions will ease the challenges of adoption. . . read more >>

Ten Years Ago: Disaster-Proofing Your Call Center, by Nicolas D’Alleva
Effective disaster response means ensuring the highest priority activities continue uninterrupted and reverting to normal operations as fast as possible. . . read more >>

Twenty Years Ago: Being a Better Manager, by Lisa Olson
Practical tips to become a better manager. This will result in increased company performance and enhanced employee improvement. . . read more >>

Industry News

Send us your call center news for consideration in the next issue of Connections Magazine.

Classified Ads of opportunities for you.

Marketplace Directory of leading Contact Center Vendors.

Startel contact center software
Amtelco
Map Communications
CenturiSoft
CallCentre Hosting
Alliant: Professional Liability Insurance
Quality Contact Solutions
TBS: total billing solution; make it rain $
Ron Violante - Answering Service Broker
Skybridge Americas: helping America's most trusted brands
SingleComm: cloud-native omnichannel TAS solutions
On Call Software: API Integration, IVR Design, Virtual PBX

About Connections Magazine 

Connections Magazine is the premier publication for the call center industry, providing news and information for call centers, sent at no cost to qualified readers at call centers, contact centers, teleservice agencies, phone answering services, and telemessaging companies.

For more information, contact us.

Chat Availability

Make Customer Service a Distinguishing Factor for Your Organization

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Companies are increasingly offering chat services as a way for their customers and prospects to reach them. Not only is this an option that more and more people want to use, but many businesses find it’s a cost-effective customer service solution. As such, you’d think that customer-focused enterprises would make chat availability a priority. Yet in my experience as a customer, too many do not.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections Magazine

Avoid Turning Chat On and Off

I’ve experienced multiple companies that turn their chat option on and off throughout the day. Though their posted schedule says they’re available during business hours, their practice runs counter to that.

One site indicated that their chat was online. Excited, I begin typing my message, but before I could press enter, the chat availability indication turned from online to offline. Hopeful it was a momentary glitch, I stared at the screen for the next several minutes, poised to press enter as soon as the chat availability changed back to online. I got tired of waiting and went on to my next project. This was most frustrating because I needed to reach them, and chat was their only option.

I’ve seen this occur on other websites as well, with chat toggling between online and offline throughout the day. This is no way to serve customers. But it is a way to frustrate them.

Have a Schedule and Follow It

A retail operation would never open and close throughout the day; no self-respecting business would ever do that. When a customer shows up during regular business hours, they expect to come in and make a purchase. The same mentality should apply to chat service.

Make a schedule and staff accordingly to meet that schedule. Yes, when it’s difficult to hire and keep staff, meeting a desired schedule is problematic. Yet it should be a priority for any company that cares about its customers. And every business that wants to stay in business must put their customers first.

If staffing levels drop too low to support chat in a reasonable time frame, don’t shut it down. Instead note what delay customers may encounter, apologize for the inconvenience, and offer an alternate solution.

One company I deal with boasted 24/7 chat availability. That didn’t last long. They soon scaled back to business hours availability. And a few months after that, they reconfigured their chat window to be a front end to email. You type in your question is normal, and they tell you they’ll get back with you in a couple of hours. The answer comes by email, even if you leave the chat window open.

Offer Alternatives

In addition to chat, other common customer service options include the telephone and email. Presumably if a company can’t staff their chat service, they can’t operate their call center either, which carries an even more time-critical expectation than chat. But many companies have cut their telephone support altogether.

That leaves email. Of the three communication options, it’s the most frustrating, with lengthy delays lasting days—or being ignored altogether. With email, back-and-forth interaction, which happens with ease on chat and phone interaction, is difficult and time consuming. Imagine waiting two days for an email response and receiving a message that says, “What is your account number?”

Yes, there are also self-service options, with many companies offering FAQs, blog posts, and customer forums where users help each other. FAQs and blog posts seldom address the more specific questions I have. And I try to avoid forums because I have no way of knowing if the help they’re offering is reliable or not. And too often no one ever responds to the questions I post.

Chat Solutions

Offering accessible and prompt customer service is even more critical today than ever before, where a business can lose a customer at the click of a button. Offering chat service is a common and cost-effective way to do this.

But to be successful, do it wisely. This means no turning on and off chat throughout the day, posting and adhering to a realistic schedule of chat availability, and offering customer service alternatives.

And if your staffing levels don’t allow for this to occur, look for a contact center you can outsource this to, either to back you up as needed, according to a set schedule, or around the clock. This is the perfect solution to providing consistent chat availability to your customers.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.  Read more of his articles at PeterDeHaanPublishing.com.

Contact Center AI: An Interview with Talkdesk’s Ben Rigby


Question: Ben, What Is the Current Sentiment Around AI and Automation in Contact Centers?

Answer: Today, contact centers have started to feel the concrete benefits of AI, from its ability to improve customer satisfaction to increasing agent productivity and upskilling employees.

While some companies still struggle to understand how automation can fit into their tech stack to transform how they operate as a business, many have started to experiment with AI technology to support specific processes or tasks in their contact centers.

Q: The Report Shows That Only 15 Percent of Organizations Are Taking Advantage of Emerging AI Technology, Such As Human-in-the-Loop. What Might Be Causing the Hesitation?

A: Our survey shows that contact center professionals are lacking confidence in their understanding of AI and the business results they should expect. As with implementing any new technology, AI comes with challenges, and our survey found that security and IT risks around legacy contact center equipment rank number one for concern.

Companies are also facing resistance from leaders and staff within their organization while grappling with labor shortages, all of which make it difficult to build, use, and maintain new automated systems. CX (customer experience) leaders need to be transparent with their workforce, emphasizing the core benefits and uses of AI and automation.

In addition to improving a business’s processes and bottom line, this technology also has the power to streamline employees’ day-to-day activities by filtering out the repetitive tasks. By openly communicating these direct benefits, companies can gain buy-in from their entire workforce, from entry level staff all the way up to managers and above.

Q: What Are the Security Risks That Come with AI Technology?

While security and IT risks of outdated contact center equipment are a main barrier to adoption, once deployed as part of a digital transformation initiative, AI actually makes contact centers more secure. Three in four CX professionals agree that AI tech will allow customer data to be more secure than a live agent, and four in five agree that AI will significantly help companies improve identity and authentication security in the next two years.

Q: How Can CX Leaders Address These Risks?

A: If AI has the potential to improve contact center security, the question then becomes, how can companies securely implement the technology? The answer is simple: businesses must put the strongest foundation in place to support AI. Specifically, they’ll need to invest in modern cloud architecture that will seamlessly and securely integrate AI technology.

Q: If a Company Has Not Yet Adopted This Technology, Are They Falling Behind?

A: Companies that continue to be resistant to AI adoption will undoubtedly fall behind in two areas: EX [employee experience] and CX. In today’s contact center workforce, AI technology helps reduce the repetitive tasks and transactional work for agents, alleviating stress, reducing workloads, and allowing teams to rebuild their contact center workforce.

AI provides the much-needed support during ongoing labor shortages and will be instrumental in upskilling workers to provide a more meaningful role in the contact center.

In terms of CX, conversational AI can help contact centers provide high-quality experiences by instantly responding to customer queries at any time of the day. AI can also equip agents with the contextual, personalized knowledge they need to accurately answer customer questions. This leaves customers highly satisfied and eases friction that comes with lengthy interactions.

Q: In Making the Decision to Implement More Advanced AI Technology, What Do CX Professionals Need to Consider?

A: There are three things CX professionals and leaders should consider:

First, do our agents have the right training and resources to leverage this technology effectively? Before launching new tech solutions, it’s important that the current agents have a strong skill set and understanding of how this will impact day-to-day operations, as well as best practices to work in tandem once the technology is in place.

Second, do we have the internal resources to make AI operations accessible? AI will continue to become more advanced and the only way for a company to reap the benefits of this technology is by making it accessible to everyone, even those who don’t have formal technical training or backgrounds.

Third, do we have a current system that can support a safe integration of advanced AI technology? Without the right foundation, you won’t be able to utilize AI to its full potential. Prior to deploying AI technology, take the time to consolidate redundant tech stacks.

Q: With 79 Percent of CX Leaders Planning to Increase Contact Center Investments, What Do You Think the State of AI and Automation in Contact Centers Will Look Like in 2023?

A: In 2023, the realization of AI’s capabilities and benefits will be more apparent than ever. While some companies may still be hesitant, there will be many more use cases and success stories to reference and tout the positive outcomes for contact centers.

We can all agree that AI technology will continue to evolve and adapt to new business needs within the next year. Along with that, the growth of no-code solutions will continue to shine a light on the true ease of adoption, putting a rest to concerns around the challenges of adoption.

Thank you, Ben, for taking time to share your insight.

It’s been my pleasure!

Ben Rigby is the SVP and Global Head of Product & Engineering at Talkdesk, an end-to-end contact center solutions provider.

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