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Is Artificial Intelligence right for my Contact Center?
Thursday, October 31, 2019 1:49 PM

Is Artificial Intelligence right for my Contact Center?

Thursday, October 31, 2019 1:49 PM
Thursday, October 31, 2019 1:49 PM

Artificial Intelligence is an emerging technology that spans business, academia, and everyday life…And yet as prevalent as it now is, it is often mischaracterized, misunderstood, and overpromised.  So when we ask the question, “Is A.I. right for my Contact Center?” the answer is often … “It depends.”   

Understanding WHEN and WHY an A.I. technology is appropriate for your specific business helps us determine HOW we translate the “promise” of A.I. into “realized” business efficiency gains.

For an A.I. project to be successful you must define the specific goals you’re trying to achieve.  Are you trying to deflect customer engagements from live agents or make your agents more efficient in their everyday processes?  A common pitfall we’ve heard from customers in unsuccessful A.I. implementations is overgeneralization of A.I.’s capabilities. You wouldn’t use gardening shears to cut someone’s hair and you shouldn’t look for A.I. to solve every problem in your Contact Center.  Depending on the goal(s) of your project, a particular A.I. technology (Robotic Process Automation, Next Best Action, Conversational AI, etc.) will prove better suited than others. If you don’t start with a clear direction (1-2 specific goals) at the onset of your A.I. project, you’ll find your team spending more time speculating on the potential of A.I. than actually bringing results to your business.

Once you’ve defined the goal(s) of your project, you need to understand if your Contact Center environment exhibits the right attributes to provide a solid ROI.  For the purposes of this discussion we’ll look at an actual Simplify customer, DSW Shoes, whose Contact Center challenges aligned well to allow Conversational AI to make a significant impact. 

Conversational AI is a technology that exists at the very first touchpoint for your customers as they reach out to engage your business.  It can be deployed on a Voice channel (i.e. w-in your Natural Language IVR for Inbound calls) or a Digital Channel (Intelligent Bots on Chat, SMS, or E-mail channels).  Conversational AI facilitates immediate quality live interactions by generating responses and/or initiating actions that are personalized to a customer, based on not only what the customer says during that interaction, but also what we know about them by leveraging API integrations into your existing CRM database or other knowledge sources.  By analyzing conversations in real-time and seamlessly determining context to diagnose the most appropriate response, Conversational AI platforms are able to efficiently lead a customer through the engagement.

Now let’s look at what made DSW a great candidate for Conversational AI…

DSW went through a period of tremendous growth which consequently resulted in a marked increase in customer service demand.  As their volume of inbound calls grew into the millions annually, DSW’s shoephoria customer service center was grappling with how to maintain customer satisfaction without overrunning budgets. 

Tim Harpe- Director of Customer Operations at DSW engaged Simplify for assistance. 

“We realized a couple of years ago that we could no longer grow our contact center at the same rate in which we were growing our sales. When I started here eight years ago, we had 40 people that worked in the contact center.  Now, as we sit here today, we are close to 500. So, wow!  Every time we grow demand, we can’t grow people.”

After discussing with Tim the challenges facing DSW, we jointly put forth a clear primary goal we wanted to achieve for their business using A.I.: Create an environment that would allow DSW to address the increasing volume of customer engagements without the corresponding increase in labor/costs, while also not sacrificing their customer satisfaction (CSAT) or experience (CX).

Simplify worked with DSW and an A.I. partner (SmartAction) to develop an improved self-service strategy to augment DSW’s core Contact Center platform with Conversational A.I. in the IVR. 

We introduced a new Intelligent Virtual Agent (IVA) powered by SmartAction, which interacts with DSW’s customers in a similar manner to a live agent. IVA greets customers in natural language, extracts their intent, and identifies and authenticates the customer before determining the next appropriate steps. Some intents get transferred to live agents (with all previously captured information passed via a CTI screen pop) while a wide variety stay in automation to self-serve both simple and complex transactions from account management, order management, rewards and more.

“The hesitation that we had years ago when AI-assisted service was a new, hyped technology, was whether we wanted to hand over our customer experience to anyone other than our associates. As we evolved and learned, it became clear that we didn’t need to sacrifice customer experience for cost savings. We realized there were opportunities to introduce automation to work hand-in-hand with our live agents – to help the interaction, rather than completely take it over.” ~Tim Harpe

The results were game-changing.

“Since going live with the Conversational AI solution, roughly 85% of our customers that call in complete identification and authentication through IVA, which means our agents don’t have to even think about who that customer is when a call gets to them because they already know. That’s led to an overall 19% reduction in Agent Handle Time and 30% increase in CSAT.” ~ Tim Harpe

For many businesses, the potential gains from A.I. technologies are known and real…it is simply a risk and bandwidth issue. Most businesses struggle to find time to learn and navigate a new technology. Done well it can yield significant operational efficiencies, but done poorly it can feel like an endless money pit that fails to yield the anticipated results.  At Simplify, our business is serving the complex needs of large, multi-location companies and Contact Centers—providing a partnership where we are able to proactively bring a best-practices approach with new technologies to our clients. We are a vendor-neutral partner and work directly for I.T., business operations, and procurement departments with large contact center clients to help them get the most out of today’s technology.

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