Real-Time Guidance Will Bring Out the Best in Contact Center Agents

DMG Consulting's 2023 survey of contact center operational and technical goals and investment priorities showed that executives are purchasing new technology and applications for these departments. But they expect measurable improvements in the performance, productivity, and perception of their service organizations from their investments. This includes initiatives to improve the customer and employee experience (CX and EX) and reduce agent attrition.

Customers expect to interact with knowledgeable brand representatives who can resolve their inquiries, ideally during the first contact. This is increasingly difficult because the volume of information the front-line staff is expected to master is extensive and still growing. Companies ask a great deal of their agents and need to support them with tools to help them succeed. This is where real-time guidance (RTG) solutions that listen/read and analyze customer conversations in the moment can make major contributions to improving the CX and EX.

RTG applications are designed to assist agents by providing them with the knowledge assets, procedures, sales recommendations, objection handling methods, scripts, etc., needed to drive positive outcomes. They leverage artificial intelligence, including natural language processing and understanding and generative AI, to listen to and understand both sides of live conversations. They use this information to deliver guidance to agents (and possibly supervisors) to enable them to properly address customers' issues and deliver a highly personalized experience instead of spending much of their time searching for the right information.

Real-time guidance solutions can also alert agents when they miss an essential step in a process, such as verifying a customer or checking to ensure a promised payment has been made. And in the case of sales and collections, it guides agents in handling objections—the most challenging aspect of both roles—by giving them the phrases, scripts, and best practices to effectively interact with prospects or customers who owe money.

Real-time guidance and next-best-action applications position agents to address customer issues without putting them on hold or transferring them to someone else. This enables companies to increase their first-contact resolution rates and reduce the need for customers to follow up, which is a primary cause of frustration, dissatisfaction, and incremental costs. When a contact center puts in the time and effort to properly set up their RTG solution to deliver optimal guidance, these applications are well received by agents, as they help them assist customers and achieve their personal performance goals.

RTG solutions also expedite learning processes and improve contact center quality by providing every agent with an always-available training resource. They provide links to appropriate articles, knowledgebases, internet/intranet sites, or other training material to shorten new hire onboarding and ramp-up time and enhance the efficiency, accuracy, and effectiveness of all agents. This is a major benefit for employees, particularly those who are remote and do not have immediate access to a supervisor or subject matter expert when they need assistance.

In addition, RTG applications deliver targeted coaching for agents; the more advanced solutions support the provision of personalized content for each employee. Even better, real-time coaching or guidance can be aligned with agent tenure, skill proficiency, or tied to specific key performance indicators (KPIs) to provide a range of suggestions, from high-level reminders to detailed step-by-step instructions.

Innovations in the science of AI are making a measurable difference in many aspects of both CX and EX, although RTG solutions are still in their early days. Much progress has been made with these applications in the past two years, but more innovation is on the way. In recent months, the addition of generative AI to many real-time guidance solutions has been rapidly expanding the number of intents they can address and the appropriateness of the recommendations they make. These applications are essential for contact centers as they empower agents with the right customer information and best practices to effectively deliver an outstanding CX, whether by resolving a customer service inquiry or selling a customer the optimal products to meet their needs.

Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, is an expert on contact centers, analytics, and back-office technology. She has 30 years of experience helping organizations build contact centers and back-office operating environments and assisting vendors to deliver competitive solutions. She can be reached at