Contact Center Performance Can Improve with AI, NICE Interactions Day 2 Speakers Affirm

LAS VEGAS--Artificial intelligence and chatbots help contact center employees perform better, not only by taking over routine tasks, but also due to the feedback AI-infused contact center systems can provide, speakers said Wednesday at the NICE Interactions 2019 Conference.

Advanced AI can provide better efficiencies in handling customer contacts, but also can be used to do so much more in the contact center to boost performance, said Barry Cooper, NICE Enterprise Group president.

Among its uses, the technology can provide agents with feedback, he said, pointing out that contact center employees typically aren't very engaged. Sure, they go to regularly scheduled meetings, but they get very little feedback on their performance unless they are doing either very poorly or very well because human supervisors have only so much time.

Data collected by the system can give contact center employees information on their performance without the need to hear it from a supervisor, Cooper added. Employees will typically use the feedback to try to improve their own performance. As they do, they become more engaged and the company benefits. Of course, there will still be those employees who don't improve or follow protocols, and today's systems provide better concrete tracking of activity.

"You can't hold people accountable if you don't know the data," Cooper said.

AI can also be incorporated into workforce management, he added, noting that scheduling changes using traditional systems can lead to workforce shortages, overcapacity, and too much involvement from human resources in trying to fulfill scheduling requests. Advanced AI can handle these situations by empowering contact center employees to pick up shifts when available and to trade hours with other workers without involving human resources or a supervisor.

However, automation and AI in and of themselves don't provide a total solution, Cooper added. "Robots are a journey," he said, pointing out that companies are benefitting from attended, unattended, and hybrid chatbots.

Lori Brown, chief experience officer at The Results Companies, said her firm had used AI-infused workforce management and related tools to achieve 100 percent compliance for companies in the payment space, as well as a 15 percent increase in adherence to policies and other benefits. "They help agents get to the spot they are supposed to be," she stated.

The bots also help automate reports, Brown added.

Process automation is also where mid-sized audit and tax firm Baker Tilly has seen the most benefit. Bots handle the mundane processing of audits and tax preparation, enabling the firm's employees to work with reconciliation and customer advisory rather than filling out forms.

"Customer interactions are important," agreed Eric Burton, vice president of tools, technology, and quality at Comcast, adding that while bots are helping improve customer interactions, it's a process that requires "small steps every day" as the company tries to change its customer service culture.

Bots are useful in this endeavor by helping contact center agents work actively with customers and to be proactive in meeting their needs.

"The soft stuff matters," Burton said. "The agent has to understand that."

So Comcast recommends that contact center agents be warm and friendly, own their contact with the customer, and show appreciation for the customer's business, among other things.

Automated sentiment analysis feedback is also helping in coaching and in agents' performances, Burton said.