No horoscope or crystal ball could have predicted the magnitude of the events of 2020. The emergence of COVID-19 has changed the world for decades to come. Industries have been struggling to achieve business continuity because of the forced work-from-home (WFH) situation.
Among other issues, the physical restrictions and cancelled events have left contact centres bombarded with huge volumes of customer queries. Thankfully, many have been equipped with artificial intelligence and IVR systems (interactive voice response) to deal with large volumes of calls.
One can say that AI and IVR are to businesses what Maggi is to college students. But what exactly are these technologies?
Artificial intelligence refers to the branch of computer science that deals with developing machines to imitate the natural intelligence of humans and animals. Meanwhile, IVR (interactive voice response) is a technology that lets you add an automated and pre-recorded menu to your call that responds to inputs on the phone’s dial pad. You can use IVR service to direct your callers to the best-suited agent.
Both of these technologies are fairly new additions to the world of contact centres. Even so, they are rapidly gaining popularity, especially in the COVID-19 era, since they significantly ease work operations.
Your question is how? Our answer is this:
Inevitably, we’ve faced major challenges in this pandemic. We have witnessed fundamental changes in our lifestyle: self-isolation is now a necessity, masks and gloves are the new fashion accessories, and work-from-home is the new normal.
Businesses that have had a strong physical presence for decades, or even longer, have had to suddenly rearrange their operations to accommodate a remote work model.
Fret not though, you have the power of machine learning and auto attendants on your side. When it comes to customer service, these are the absolute must-haves. Here’s why:
You may recognise the presence of AI while communicating with an organisation through chatbots. According to a blog by Uberall, 80% of customers who have used chatbots have described it as a positive experience.
With the capabilities of machine learning, query resolution has been able to extend across multiple channels. This has given companies the ability to be omnipresent and an opportunity to connect with consumers of varied demographics.
Chatbots allow consumers to access self-service menus and solve queries without human interaction. Making payments, changing order details, cancelling orders, and other such tasks are accomplished simply with a few clicks.
These bots can also identify keywords and respond to a consumer instantly, reducing the wait times.
Let’s take an example here. A consumer says, “Hi, I have a problem with my recent order.” The AI-empowered service would pick up the last two words and present a list of orders from which a customer can select the specifics. This technology enables companies to entrust simple engagement onto machines and allow humans to focus on more complex requests.
As mentioned above, work from home has become a reality for most organisations. Not just for the duration of the pandemic, but possibly for months to come.
Companies need to recognise ways to migrate operations to remote locations. A cloud-based IVR system is holy grail technology for customer service agents. It categorises and routes consumer calls according to their needs. This way, a customer is not bounced from department to department, and instead, directly patched to an agent best equipped to resolve their concern. First-point conflict resolution is encouraged and, as a result, calls take up less time. This also means shorter wait times.
Most importantly, since the entire system uses the cloud to function, there are no geographic limitations. As long as the representatives own a compatible device and have a stable Internet connection, they can work in the customer service department using auto attendants.
Analytics and Employee Concerns
To serve consumers better, your personnel need to be comfortable with transformations in WFH operations. With the help of AI, you can employ virtual assistants to guide the employees through tasks that may not be of their specialisation (for example, IT). Additionally, you can have an attendant respond to their FAQs. This reduces redundant communication as it can quickly resolve staff queries.
As for analytics, cloud solutions usually provide easy-to-use admin dashboards. Call metrics such as duration, initiation time, number of calls, etc., are at your fingertips now. Using machine learning, you can analyse these statistics to refine your future customer service strategies.
Feedback is essential for the growth of any entity. Customer service, as a department, is a direct connection between the consumer and the organisation. This means it’s imperative to acknowledge and act on the positive or negative feedback received.
Oftentimes, an agent asks the caller to stay back after query resolution to rate the conversation. IVR is often used in these situations to receive the ratings of the consumer.
Additionally, it can be used for several surveys, including product research, sales experience, and feedback on your performance on other channels.
We have spoken of AI and IVR as separate technologies till now. However, they join forces as one super-solution, namely conversational IVR. It refers to a system that automatically responds to calls using Natural Language Understanding (NLU), machine learning, and voice recognition. Thus, it can serve a consumer with little-to-no human intervention. Agent time is freed up for other tasks, while customer queries are quickly answered.
Picture this: You call a business for a complaint about your recent purchase. The system recognises certain keywords you have spoken and answers accordingly. It would likely associate ‘complaint’ and ‘recent purchase’ and respond to you in typical human fashion. If things are a bit too complex for the attendant, it will instantly connect you with a representative who can serve you better. The process is overall smooth and efficient.
Conversational IVR will also triage your calls according to the importance and complexity. The best part, however, is that AI is constantly learning and improving. Keywords that were not inputted in the system earlier can be learned over the course of its conversations.
There are several applications of AI and IVR during a pandemic. Let’s look at some of the other benefits of employing these systems in 2020:
- They augment your customer support staff and ease their workload.
- They encourage first-point query resolution by connecting the caller to their ideal respondent.
- Thanks to various plans, you can scale up or down swiftly according to your requirements.
- Since the system is connected over the Internet, you incur minimal costs.
- You can encourage your employees to work from home and stay safe.
- The technologies are extremely easy to install and adapt to.
- Your consumers can access self-service menus that resolve their queries faster while freeing your agents simultaneously.
- You can analyse statistics instantly and in real-time. Constant improvement is the key to business continuity during a pandemic.
AI and IVR systems have been important introductions for the telecommunications industry. The introduction of these technologies in organisations has greatly helped in connecting customers and businesses.
AI and IVR systems have been important introductions for the telecommunications industry. The introduction of these technologies in organisations has greatly helped in connecting customers and businesses. #IVR #AI Click To Tweet
Face-to-face communication has become unlikely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore, call centres are receiving intense volumes of calls. Cancelled events and delivery restrictions have further accentuated the problem.
Hence, employing machine learning and auto attendants can allow your agents to focus on the complex issues while the former handle simpler queries. Consumers can also access self-service menus and be satisfied instantly. Overall, AI and IVR are required sidekicks for your work-from-home endeavours.
Vanita Arora is a marketing enthusiast. She is currently working with Servetel, a leading cloud telephony service provider. Reading novels, travelling, researching new online marketing trends are some of her interest areas that keep her rejuvenated.