Cost Avoidance with Artificial Intelligence

Contact center and digital customer experience leaders are often tasked with doing the impossible—improve service productivity and the customer experience while reducing costs. It sounds like a tough task, but when done with proven technology and a solutions partner with domain expertise, they can do just that with artificial intelligence and win acclaim for achieving the impossible!

Modern AI can help reduce costs is the following areas:

Call Avoidance/Call Deflection

It is no secret that phone customer service is the most expensive form of service in the contact center, costing 10 to 20 times as much as self-service, according to industry analysts. While digital interaction volumes are expected to increase (by up to three times through 2020, according to McKinsey), call volumes are stable or declining only a bit, depending on whose stats you believe, adding significantly to service costs. The good news is that AI-guided self-service can help here in a big way.

Call deflection falls into two groups:

Deflection from the interactive voice response (IVR) system - As we have all experienced, being put on hold for a long time is extremely frustrating or frustrating for 84 percent of consumers, according to Accenture. But consumers need to fret no more, thanks to AI-infused knowledge. Customers on hold in an IVR-fronted queue can now get an SMS link to the right answer or to an AI-enabled online interaction that will guide them to the answer or through the resolution process. Importantly, they don't lose their place in the queue, just in case they still need to talk to an agent. It's rich self-service with a safety net! Who wouldn't want it but for rabid fans of IVR music?

Deflection prior to the call - This is even better for the customer and the business. AI reasoning with or without a natural language/virtual assistant front end can take digital self-service to the next level, handling questions and problems of higher complexity than simple search. This can also help deflect requests for other forms of human-assisted service, such as chat, email, etc.

eGain's clients report being able to deflect up to 60 percent of such requests.

Repeat Call and Transfer Avoidance

Repeat calls and transfers are proven detractors to the customer and agent experience. When customers are forced to make repeat calls because of unresolved issues or get bounced from one agent to another, where they must not only endure call re-initiation or transfer but also additional wait times and then repeat context for the next agent, they get frustrated even more. Perhaps this is what has led to the phenomenon of tech support rage, described eloquently by The New York Times. This is not good for the business or agents that handle repeat or transferred calls. Again, a robust AI knowledge system can help agents handle a broader and deeper set of customer queries, reducing or eliminating the need for repeat calls and transfers.

A leading mobile operator and eGain client achieved a 37 percent improvement in first-contact resolution with AI-infused knowledge used by more than 10,000 service associates in its contact center and more than 500 retail stores. The agent desktop was designed to focus on common customer problems and quick access to contextual knowledge and AI-enabled guided resolution rather than lots of customer data, which, albeit valid, might or might not be useful for resolving the problem at hand.

Training Avoidance

Contact centers typically spend $4,000 to $8,000 for initial training and onboarding and thousands more in ongoing training for agents. However, the retention rate following training is only 21 percent, and digitally-savvy next-gen agents like to look up answers rather than absorb and retain training material. Contextual knowledge or AI-enabled process guidance served at the time of interacting with the customer proactively or on demand by the agent can help reduce the need for agent training and speed up time to competency.

A global banking client slashed training time in half while ensuring compliance across its agent pool in more than 11 countries with AI-enabled search and process guidance. A leading business process outsourcing client cut training time by 30 percent in its contact center, which served customers of multiple financial institutions with its advisors using AI-enabled search.

Churn Avoidance

With a churn rate of 35 percent to 40 percent (trending upwards since next-gen agents tend to stay less than older agents), U.S. contact centers alone bleed upwards of $10 billion a year in agent attrition costs, a lose-lose-lose for the contact center, the business, and end customers. Consumers are stuck with an agent pool that has a significant number of novice reps, who have to drink knowledge from the proverbial fire hose while keeping up with frequent changes in information, policy, and procedures. The solution to this problem is not the Draconian Tayloristic methods used on agents by many contact centers. Rather, it is empowering them with knowledge and AI.

The aforementioned bank was able to expand to 11 countries while reducing agent churn to a minuscule percentage by leveraging AI knowledge.

Returns Avoidance

When products are returned by consumers for apparently being faulty, companies eat the costs of replacing the product or inspecting it again for defects, no questions asked. Called No Fault Found, this expensive phenomenon is often the result of contact center agents not being able to resolve customers' problems when they call for assistance in setting up or using the product. Here's the good news: AI knowledge can be leveraged to remotely troubleshoot and guide the customer to a resolution, reducing unwarranted returns in the process.

A leading telecom client reduced handset exchanges and returns by 38 percent through effective problem resolution in its contact center.

Field Service Avoidance

Dispatching service technicians to field locations to fix problems is expensive. Called truck rolls, these visits cost $150 on average and are often initiated after the contact center failed to solve customer problems. Again, smart knowledge can help.

A white goods manufacturing client saved $50 million per year by reducing unnecessary truck rolls through effective problem resolution in the contact center with AI knowledge.

Anand Subramaniam is senior vice president of worldwide marketing at eGain.

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Posted January 12, 2018