4 Ways Emerging Technology Is Transforming Call Centers

Call centers have seen radical change in the past few years since the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a study by McKinsey, remote work adoption in call centers increased from 20 percent to 30 percent pre-pandemic to 70 percent to 80 percent during the pandemic. Aside from remote work, more call centers are now focusing on self-service tools like chatbots to assist customers. In a survey by Tidio, 62 percent of consumers said they would prefer using a chatbot over waiting to connect to a human customer service agent.

When we drill down into BT's 2023 Autonomous Customer Research with Cisco, we find that AI has already made a difference and will continue to do so in shaping the customer service experience. There's no doubt that AI is one of those transformative technologies. Right now, it's achieving mixed results, but it's here to stay.

Customer experiences with AI-driven chatbots haven't always gone smoothly so far, however this is most likely because they've not been applied at the right points or supported with the correct data.

There are several ways emerging technology is transforming how call centers work, but at the core of these changes remains the human experience of customer service. Let's explore some of the ways call centers are transforming and why.

Workflow Automation and Optimization

More call centers are working to optimize their workdays by automating repetitive and manual tasks, such as data entry and updating customer information, reducing agent workload and errors. This streamlines processes, enhances accuracy, and allows agents to focus on high-value customer interactions. One way call centers are doing this is with robotic process automation (RPA). Bots can perform tasks with or without agents. Attended RPA bots can help agents complete tasks, like pulling up customer information during calls or chats or automatically filling in customer information. Unattended RPA bots work behind the scenes to do things like processing information or importing data.

According to Deloitte, more than 90 percent of organizations say they've experienced improvements in quality and accuracy after implementing RPA. But other benefits include increased productivity and increased data security.

Practical AI

Call centers are increasingly leveraging AI technologies. According to a study by Deloitte, 53 percent of organizations are already using AI for customer service, and 72 percent plan to increase their AI investments.

AI-powered chatbots can handle routine customer inquiries, freeing up human agents for more complex issues. They provide instant responses and can handle multiple conversations simultaneously, enhancing efficiency and reducing wait times.

A Forbes article noted that AI technology in call centers "can access and process huge pools of data, identify relevant patterns, and predict the best solution to whatever problem is at hand" in a fraction of the time it would take a human agent. However, customers still prefer having the human-to-human interaction during a call, showing that call centers should continue to use AI to enhance the way that their agents work, but not replace agents altogether.

BT's and Cisco's findings revealed an increasing tension between what companies hope AI can accomplish and how much customers are willing to accept. Rapid, simple transactions are fine with consumers, but they want the option to escalate to an agent. Beyond chatbots, consumers welcome AI as a means of making their experiences easier. Video chat is also increasingly welcome as a service tool, and the metaverse is expected to be a more immersive version of that.

When it comes to call centers, data shows AI used in the right way expedites the interaction between agents and customers. According to a Wall Street Journal report, AI helps customers shorten the average call to a call center by 15 percent. This includes the implementation of chat bots, even better AI-powered voice recognition during calls, along with the AI programs that can assist agents during calls.

Omnichannel Integration

Call centers are adopting omnichannel solutions that integrate their communication channels, like voice, email, chat, social media, and SMS. Omnichannel support provides customers with service on their preferred channels.

Omnisend reported that customer retention rates are 90 percent higher with call centers that use omnichannel approaches vs. ones that use single channels. But, for call centers that also focus on sales, Omnisend reported that purchase frequency is 250 percent higher with omnichannel and the average order value is 13 percent higher. Finally, for every additional channel that a call center or business operates, Harvard Business Review reported that customers spend more money.

When call centers implement omnichannel, the focus needs to be consistency to provide a seamless experience for customers no matter which channel they choose.

Data Analytics and Reporting

As businesses expand the role of their omnichannel call centers, they are inclined to measure analytics from customer data and compare it to employee performance. The best analytics for call centers are measurable and easy to quantify, integrated into things like cloud solutions that offer built-in analytics, and manageable analytics that agents can control.

Analytics help call centers make sense of large volumes of customer data, and there are several types that can help. Customer analytics consist of customer-related data sources like the voice of the customer, behavior data, demographics, and purchase data. Speech analytics include insights to the voice of the customer, performance drivers, and other insights. Predictive analytics use big data, AI, advanced algorithms, and advanced machine learning to make predictions based on historical data.

All these emerging technologies can work together to improve and optimize call centers and provide enhanced customer service experiences. But ultimately, organizations must realize that emerging technologies like AI have yet to remove the need for human interaction, which means the customer desire for live agent support via a variety of channels remains strong. AI is a long way from replicating, let alone replacing, the human in customer service.

Richard Atherton is senior product manager for CRM at BT.