Maximizing agent efficiency: how automation can benefit contact centers
April 21, 202310 min read
The modern contact center is a dynamic environment that requires a lot of resources, both human and technological, to manage effectively. The success of a contact center largely depends on the ability of its agents to deliver high-quality customer service while also meeting business goals. However, agents often find themselves bogged down by repetitive and time-consuming tasks that can negatively impact their productivity and job satisfaction. This is where automation comes in as a powerful tool to enhance contact center efficiency and boost agent productivity. By leveraging automation technologies, contact centers can optimize their operations and streamline customer interactions, freeing up agents to focus on more complex tasks that require their expertise.
According to Kearney, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) solutions can reduce the amount of time customer service agents spend on typical processes by up to 40 percent by 2027. This can help contact centers maximize their output and improve agent productivity by allowing them to focus on more value-adding activities.
In this blog, we will explore how you can leverage automation to optimize contact center operations and boost agent productivity.
What is automation in contact centers?
Automation in contact centers refers to the use of technology to streamline and automate repetitive or time-consuming tasks, allowing agents to focus on more complex and customer-facing activities. Examples of automation in contact centers include chatbots, voice recognition systems, automated email responses and self-service portals. By automating these tasks, agents can devote more time and attention to providing personalized customer service and resolving complex issues.
Why use contact center automation?
Contact center automation offers several benefits, including:
Efficient use of time and resources: Advanced algorithms can handle customer inquiries and complaints without the need for human intervention, allowing businesses to save time and energy.
Relief from repetitive tasks: Artificial intelligence, natural language processing, machine learning and big data can automate repetitive tasks, reducing the workload and improving retention rates among agents.
Improved Service Level Agreements (SLAs): By automating certain aspects of the contact center, businesses can handle more customer inquiries and complaints in a shorter amount of time, which can lead to an increase in SLAs.
Improved response time: Automation technology can enable faster and more detailed responses to customers, leading to improved first contact resolution and net promoter scores.
Elimination of back-office and after-call tasks: Automation tools like speech analytics can accurately analyze conversations, eliminating the need for agents to perform back-office and after-call tasks manually. This also provides insights for customer service improvement.
Enhanced employee retention and satisfaction: With AI taking care of monotonous tasks, agents can focus on more complex tasks, grow professionally and remain engaged in their work. This leads to higher employee retention and satisfaction rates.
Types of automation in contact centers
Contact center automation offers several technologies to enhance agent productivity.
Self-service portal: While only 13% of customers are fully able to resolve their issues through self-service as the only channel, implementing a self-service portal can be an effective way to reduce the volume of routine inquiries that agents handle. Customers can use the portal to find answers to common questions and resolve issues on their own, without the need for agent assistance. This not only reduces the volume of routine inquiries that agents have to handle, but also frees up their time to focus on more complex and high-value tasks.
Chatbots, Voice Bots and IVRs: Another effective method to boost agent productivity in contact centers is by leveraging chatbots, voice bots and interactive voice response (IVR) systems.
Chatbots and voice bots use artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate natural human conversation and respond to customer inquiries in real time. They can quickly provide customers with the information they need, reducing the time spent waiting for an agent to become available. Moreover, chatbots and voice bots can work around the clock, providing 24/7 customer support and improving the overall efficiency and productivity of contact centers.
IVR systems use pre-recorded voice prompts and menus to guide customers through a series of options to help them resolve their queries without needing to speak to an agent. This can be particularly helpful for handling high call volumes and reducing wait times for customers. Additionally, IVR systems can also assist agents by providing them with relevant customer information before they engage in a conversation with the customer.
Automated call distribution: Automated call distribution (ACD) uses algorithms to route incoming calls to the most appropriate agent based on factors such as their availability, skillset and language proficiency. By directing calls to agents with the relevant expertise and availability, ACD significantly reduces wait times for customers, improving service level agreements (SLAs) and increasing the first call resolution (FCR) rate.
In addition to reducing wait times for customers, ACD also helps to distribute call volume evenly across agents, preventing any individual agent from becoming overwhelmed with calls. By matching calls with agents who have the appropriate knowledge and skill set, agents can quickly and effectively handle customer inquiries, leading to higher productivity and faster call resolution.
Smart assist: Smart assist tools, such as guided workflows, knowledge base articles and similar case suggestions, can help improve the quality of support agents provide to customers. Guided workflows, for instance, provide agents with step-by-step guidance on how to handle various types of customer inquiries, ensuring consistency and minimizing the risk of errors. Knowledge base articles, on the other hand, furnish agents with relevant information and solutions to common issues, enabling them to resolve customer inquiries quickly and effectively. In addition, suggested similar cases based on past interactions can assist agents in identifying potential solutions and delivering personalized support to customers.
BCG reports that companies that have adopted AI-driven knowledge base tools have achieved significant improvements in their key performance indicators. They have seen an increase in first-contact resolution of 5-7%, a reduction in handling time of 20-30% and a reduction in new-hire training time of 25-40%. These results underscore the positive impact of implementing AI-powered smart assist tools in contact centers, as they enable agents to handle customer inquiries more efficiently and effectively.
Speech analytics: Speech analytics offers a unique approach to extracting insights from customer interactions in order to improve future conversations. This technology utilizes advanced algorithms to analyze audio interactions, whether in real time or through voice recordings, to identify contextual data such as customer sentiment, emotions and other key indicators.
By categorizing calls with precision, speech analytics can reveal hidden insights, detect patterns and relationships that may not be apparent to humans, and provide a detailed root cause analysis of customer issues without overburdening call center staff.
Predictive dialers: Predictive dialers are software tools that automate the process of dialing phone numbers from a list, connecting the call to an available agent when a person answers and eliminating the need for agents to manually dial each number.
By streamlining the dialing process, predictive dialers can significantly increase the number of calls that agents can handle in a given period of time. This can result in higher sales and revenue, as well as improved customer satisfaction.Moreover, predictive dialers can be configured to prioritize campaigns and ensure that high-value leads are contacted first. This can assist agents in focusing on the most important and valuable leads, optimizing their time and resources.
Unified view of customers: A unified view of customers is an effective way to improve agent productivity. With a real-time, 360-degree customer view, which includes a customer's past interactions, purchase history and preferences, agents can personalize their interactions with customers and provide more efficient and effective service.
For instance, agents can quickly retrieve a customer's order history and recommend complementary products or services. Additionally, real-time information can also help agents resolve issues more quickly and efficiently. If a customer has a problem with a recent purchase, agents can quickly access their account and resolve the issue without the need for the customer to provide extensive background information. This not only saves time but also enhances the customer experience, leading to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Agent nudges and supervisor alerts: Agent nudges and supervisor alerts can be powerful tools to help agents and supervisors stay on top of important events and provide better service to customers. These alerts can be triggered by various factors such as call volume, wait time or customer feedback, and can help agents prioritize their tasks and address issues more effectively.
For instance, if a customer has been waiting on hold for an extended period of time, an alert can notify the agent to prioritize the call and reduce the customer's wait time. Similarly, if a customer expresses frustration or dissatisfaction during a call, an agent nudge can provide real-time guidance to help the agent resolve the issue and improve the customer's experience.Supervisor alerts can also help managers identify and address issues as they arise. For example, if a high number of calls are being transferred to a particular department, a supervisor alert can notify the manager to investigate the issue and take appropriate action, such as providing additional training or resources to the team.
Live monitoring: Live monitoring is a valuable tool that enables supervisors to closely monitor ongoing customer interactions in real time. This allows them to quickly detect and address any issues that may arise and provide timely feedback to agents. By taking a proactive approach, supervisors can prevent small issues from escalating into larger problems that can negatively impact agent efficiency.
In addition to addressing issues as they arise, live monitoring can also be used to identify areas where agents may benefit from additional training or support. By analyzing customer interactions in real time, supervisors can identify opportunities for improvement and provide targeted coaching to agents to enhance their performance. This can help agents to develop new skills and knowledge, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction.
A balanced approach to contact center automation
As technology continues to advance, the possibilities for contact center automation are endless, providing businesses with a competitive edge in meeting customer needs and delivering exceptional customer experiences.
However, it's important to note that contact center automation should not be viewed as a replacement for human agents. Rather, automation should be seen as a tool to support and enhance the work of agents, freeing them up to focus on more complex and high-value tasks.
Furthermore, customers still place a high value on human interaction and seek the personal touch that only human agents can provide. In situations where customers have complex issues or emotional concerns, human agents are better equipped to provide the support and understanding needed to resolve the issue effectively and efficiently.
Therefore, a balanced approach that leverages both automation technologies and human expertise is crucial for achieving success in contact center operations.