27 Feb Contact Center Tech – From the Net to AI
The call center has evolved into the contact center through a variety of technological innovations that followed the trusty telephone. (I have mine right here, in case I’m hit by a food craving) The net, IoT, the cloud and AI have and will continue to disrupt contact center tech.
Enter the Net – The Internet Boom
The creation of the internet did more than raise the profile of cute cats. Ironically, the net was a form of coming full circle for customer service as people were writing letters to companies again, but electronic ones this time.
Email gave customers another avenue of contact outside of the telephone:
“The 90s, in fact, saw email become one of the most popular forms of communication amongst consumers. Businesses needed to follow suit. Email became a primary method of accessing support alongside the telephone, and found its place as a customer service channel within the slowly diversifying call centre.”
The famous dot-com boom of the late 90s caused an epic rise in internet interest and new companies trying to get a piece of the digital pie. (Damn. Now I want pie.)
What goes up must come down, and the dot-com crash fell hard with rapid financial loss. “Call it the $1.755 trillion dot.com investing lesson.”
It’s like the internet is a magical genie that made consumer wishes for alternate forms of communication with businesses come true.
(Hey internet. I want pie. Via a speedy food delivery app my pie can appear without me even leaving the house. So, I kind of have my wish.)
The internet survived it’s wild ride and inspired more waves of technological advances that have caused the call center to give way to the contact center. Consumer contact now includes email, online chat, social media outlets and even online video/audio support.
The Internet of Things – Contact Centers and IoT
With IoT we are on our way to a fully digitalized world. The interconnectedness of devices via the internet with the companies that create them and the customers that buy them provides new service solutions. These devices are information sponges able to provide customer service with data to help solve an issue.
Some are even designed to report issues to themselves: “For example, if the heart monitor for a patient gets over-heated, an automatic request for service can be transmitted to the appropriate team.”
(If I had an Alexa right now I would ask it to order me some pie!)
IoT raises interesting questions about complicating an already channel heavy sorting experience for customer service too. Then there is the job of parsing all that data, and storing it. That leads us to look upward.
Head in the Clouds – Cloud based Contact Centers
Outsourcing call centers and contact centers is common, but the cloud can eliminate the need for a physical center altogether:
“Cloud-based contact centres allow agents to work remotely with just an internet connection and headphones. With no hassles in hosting information on servers, enterprises can now have agents working from virtually anywhere with easy access to real-time information.”
(All this talk of the cloud makes me want cloud pie. If you’ve never heard of it you are missing out. Back to the digital cloud…)
Other benefits to a cloud based customer service model include the ability for 24/7 service and easier scalability. Plus having an integrated cloud system where the data is stored in one place, but is accessible by those who need it streamlines processes:
“In traditional systems, the same data is often stored in multiple locations and multiple systems and needs to be updated manually, or through error-prone processes. Unfortunately, quite often in such a case errors are common. An integrated system makes the same data available to all parties. It is stored and retrieved from the same location. If a call center agent updates a customer file, the billing department immediately has access to the new information, as do marketing, sales, and other departments that need that information.”
APIs – Application Programming Interfaces enable integration and can be customized:
“Application Programming Interfaces can assist organizations to automate customer service with the use of human-like interactions that can comprehend natural language with conversational automated assistants. APIs can be easily tailored to realize customer concerns, along with answering and resolving issues all in real time. This can help customer service representatives to focus on more complex problems and other value-adding activities.”
The Rise of AI – Artificial Intelligence
AI is already tackling multiple challenges. These tools sift through mountains of data quickly, including data from the multiple channels of communication used by customers and businesses. Additionally, AI can identify patterns in the data to act upon, thereby saving time and money.
APIs and AI have worked together too. Case in point, Google prediction:
“The Google Prediction API provides access to cloud-based machine learning capabilities including natural language processing, recommendation engine, pattern recognition, and prediction. Developers can use the API to build applications capable of performing sentiment analysis, spam detection, document classification, purchase prediction, and more.”
AI is customizable and able to learn independently, self-refining. This ability extends beyond basic data.
What if an automated system could detect customer mood?
(What if it knew what kind of pie you wanted? Predictive pie?)
Better yet, what if AI could understand if the agent was actually answering the customer’s questions? (Did I really get my pie?) The customer engages with a responsive agent who actually resolves their questions. That’s a great improvement in contact center tech.
An AI that recognizes customer and agent sentiment during an interaction and intervenes in real time with actionable information offers the opportunity to improve multiple KPIs including first call resolution.
That’s the cherry pie of service, on a plate not in the face.