The pandemic of 2020 had contact centers scrambling to get agents safe and fully functional from home or other remote locations. Many companies quickly started to explore agent-assisted technologies with Artificial Intelligence to help plug the holes in the proverbial dam. But the goal was not and is not to replace physical agents- in fact, most often these new AI implementations are designed to make agents more effective at their jobs. So fear not consumers, the “army of bots” isn’t here to impede real, human interactions.

AI is at its best in the contact center when it helps transform employee and customer experiences. What does that look like from an implementation standpoint? How can Artificial Intelligence help keep at-home agents connected, performing well and improving customer experience?  Let’s take a closer look!

First, we should agree that the accelerated transition to work-from-home was pressure tested thoroughly over the last twelve months, and a remote or semi-remote model is here to stay. Zoom Video partnered with Survey Monkey and discovered that 65% of respondents thought a hybrid home/office work environment was ideal for them. Another recent study from NICE inContact showed that 70% of businesses plan to continue to allow agents to work from home in the future.

If your Company is looking for a long term technology play to support and engage remote agents, what should you be looking for?

Real-time guidance: Utilizing AI to assist each interaction and drive customer satisfaction

Performance feedback for agents is critical- but what if you could deliver that feedback in the time of need, and not several hour or days later? The good news is… you can! Imagine having an AI coach at the proverbial 50,000 foot view. This coach can see things developing that the agent cannot. That coach’s instruction could mean the difference between a successful interaction or not.

The software uses historical data to guide agents in the present through their “soft skills” such as questioning techniques, gaining the customer’s trust, the agent’s product knowledge and more. The signals for when to put that guidance into play come in part from sentiment analysis. For example, if an interaction becomes tense and the agent begins interrupting the caller or the software flags keywords that are often signs of trouble, the interaction guidance will alert the agent to the customer’s probable state of mind and recommend a next-best-action to keep the engagement on track.

Workforce Management: Nurturing happier, engaged agents on smarter schedules

Artificial intelligence can forecast/produce agent schedules that consider expected business volumes and the specific types of skills necessary to handle said business, along with the number of qualified agents required to address the volume. All that leads to more effective customer interactions. AI in forecasting quickly works to juggle agent preferences, time off requests, and other scheduling hurdles such as ongoing training that can chew up hours of management time.

Whether it’s picking up kids from school, continuing education classes or just scheduling a day off, allowing agents the ability to easily manage their scheduling needs greatly reduces the impact on agent turnover. Agent training and turnover is still very impactful on costs; overall agent costs can run upwards of 70% of overall contact center costs. Turnover tops 40% annually in many call centers. Aside from the benefit of happier agents, we can see there are real economic and operational reasons to reduce agent churn.

Place agents in interactions where they bring the most value

Sometimes working along can make you feel like you’re live without a net. Minimizing the possibilities of these troublesome interactions can be addressed through smarter routing. Predictive behavioral routing can help align agents to customer personalities to create an optimal outcome, or to agents with the skillsets to meet that customer’s needs.

A small example: Let’s say our system has identified our customer as someone who has positive interactions delivered by empathetic agents- agents who not only like to help solve issues, but are sympathetic listeners. (As opposed to a Controller who might just like to “take charge” of the interaction.) The system will look at the pool of agents that are qualified to handle the customer’s issue and route the call to the next available Empathetic agent. Our customer is now matched with someone he or she is likely to engage with. A win/win for the company and the customer.

As you can see, there’s so much more to contact center AI than bots and soul-less transactions. Properly executed engagements with the assistance of Artificial Intelligence are quickly becoming “table stakes” for savvy Contact centers.

Now that you’ve seen some examples of how artificial intelligence is transforming contact centers, you may want to learn even more. Contact your Carousel representative for specific collateral or to set up a discussion about your ideas and needs. You too can learn how to apply AI like an expert!