Digital transformation in a contact center is as much about people as it is about technology. By prioritizing the development and well-being of employees, companies can ensure that their contact center (CC) agents have the right skills and motivation to thrive in the digital age, while also creating more positive business outcomes. It may seem counterintuitive, but the emergence of generative AI-enabled tools has reinforced rather than debunked the idea that companies must integrate the human element into their AI initiatives to build a healthy, holistic employee experience (EX).
It hardly needs to be said: Excellence in customer experience (CX) starts with healthy EX, and organizations should build out their CX strategy accordingly. If agents don’t have the tools or management support to be efficient and productive, the CC will struggle to meet its current and future challenges. One of these challenges – providing personalized CX – has risen to the top of corporate priority lists. A 2022 survey of large companies found that 73% of respondents have increased their efforts to deliver more personalized CX since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020.
This makes sense: COVID-19 has hastened the digital transformation of CCs, especially by accelerating the transition to e-commerce. This in turn has increased CC traffic, potentially eroding EX as agents struggle with the sheer volume of customer queries. Attrition in customer-facing roles soared during the peak pandemic years as agents found themselves deluged with customer requests while struggling to navigate often outdated systems. Some companies reacted hastily by automating as many transactions as possible, which sometimes backfired, creating even more stress for agents.
Equipping Employees to Champion Your Brand
Agents make up the face of your brand, serving as gatekeepers who can make the difference between a rave review on Yelp…and a slam from a disgruntled customer. A recent study found that fewer than 10% of CC agents reach proficiency with less than two months of training – yet they’re often given the opportunity early on to influence your CX to a profound degree. If they can’t handle a particular situation or answer a critical question for a troubled customer, abandonment of your brand can happen. Few customers have time for an agent to research an answer or work up a solution.
It’s thus critical to empower agents quickly to deal with all kinds of customer issues by equipping them with agile, scalable technologies. With smart knowledge management capabilities, team leaders can distribute business-critical information among them to facilitate rapid onboarding. AI-enabled task automation, for instance, can boost their productivity right out of the gate, while analytics can monitor the customer’s sentiment during an interaction and predict their questions in real time.
A prime example, HGS Agent X, an AI-powered contact center platform, not only measures sentiment and predicts questions but also pulls and displays customer context data, giving agents a 360-degree view of the interaction on a single, unified dashboard. Agent X also leverages generative AI to triage customer support calls by routing them to the agent who’s best equipped to handle them, improving both individual EX and overall team morale. Agent X gleans customer context data as well to enable better future interactions and continuous improvement.
This step change requires digital transformation – and putting your agents’ EX at the center of it. You’ll need to migrate to the cloud, consolidate your systems, and use AI’s automation and analytics to reduce the manual work agents have traditionally done when serving customers. The latest generation of platforms, such as Agent X, combine a range of AI-enabled functionalities to automate tasks, analyze sentiment, and provide speech insights. These help agents deliver not only a higher quality but a greater quantity of customer care – while notably easing their stress level.
Digital transformation in a contact center is as much about people as it is about technology.
Generative AI Takes EX Into the Future
Generative AI refers to any kind of automated process that uses algorithms to produce, manipulate, or synthesize data, usually in the form of human-readable text or images. In CC use cases, generative AI reviews, summarizes, and categorizes customer interactions; pulls and recombines contextual data for use in future interactions; and applies predictive analytics to help agents anticipate solutions.
Generative AI also provides big data management capability, sorting and analyzing the massive quantities of data produced daily by the CC to provide the team leader with actionable insights that help them assure quality across every call. This frees them from spending enormous amounts of time listening to sample calls and evaluating or categorizing them manually. In addition, it enables predictive routing, which analyzes agents’ strengths and matches each call with the best-qualified agent. Not least, generative AI gives managers the metrics to report CX performance to clients quickly and accurately.
When encumbered with inadequate resources or inefficient processes, agents get frustrated in short order. Removing roadblocks and bottlenecks measurably improves EX by allowing agents to spend their time on higher-priority, more rewarding tasks. Having a generative AI-powered chatbot acting as their administrative assistant frees them from answering tediously simple questions. Again, generative AI pulls up customer profile data to help them offer better support to the callers routed to them.
It’s up to the team leaders and CC manager to find the best ways to apply each agent’s native talents and skill sets to enhance their EX, which in turn will optimize each CX outcome. Generative AI saves them vast amounts of time and effort by revealing the employee skills, knowledge, and tools that drive the best customer interactions. It also helps them identify the top performers in the CC and analyze what makes them successful. They can then leverage this info to fine-tune their training and coaching to nurture these skills in others.
Maintaining the Human Touch in Customer Care
While agents have expressed concern over generative AI potentially eliminating their jobs, the human touch will always be an essential ingredient of CX excellence. But generative AI can serve as an invaluable assistant to each agent in the contact center, reducing their stress by taking on repetitive manual tasks and optimizing their ability to resolve customer problems faster and more efficiently. Developing more responsive, empathetic chatbots that can sort out less complex customer issues will continue to enhance EX for human agents – but it will never replace them.
From the team leader’s perspective, generative AI enables proactive monitoring and management of agent interactions. It can accurately identify those interactions that result in a negative CX, so the issue can be rectified in real time and help agents to be more mindful during future interactions. At an organizational level, AI capabilities help analyze and predict customer sentiments so the business can quickly adjust its offerings to create more positive CX outcomes.
Providing the environment and technology that enable agents to do their best work is the most effective way to bolster retention – and will also be pivotal in meeting ever-increasing customer expectations. When employees see their value reflected in the support and tools provided them, it will not only motivate them but foster pride in their work as champions of your brand. Leveraging automation through generative AI will ultimately help empower employees while creating better experiences for customers.