Rethink Contact Center Approaches to Leverage AI and Automation

Every company has its own unique way of delivering excellent customer experience (CX), which is key to differentiation, customer loyalty, and retention. Today they must deliver great customer experiences at scale and across multiple channels, especially given the proliferation of digital interactions.

The tech stacks to do this have become fairly thick, and in some cases, even bloated. But what is often missing is the bridge from the contact center to the organization's website, back office, branches, and stores, making companies unable to move from insights to action and to anticipate customer needs.

This is ushering in the need for a new approach to contact center architecture that leverages open systems, artificial intelligence (AI), and automation.

Historically, companies have built their contact centers on telephony infrastructure; in the recent past contact centers have moved from on-premises to cloud, ushering in age of the contact center-as-a-service, but this is only the tip of the spear for the change that needs to take place.

Previously, it was appropriate (even in vogue) to select an automatic call distributor and then supplement it with point solutions, positioning telephony at the core. Today, however, it's more vital to leverage AI and automation at the core to elevate CX across channels. This means organizations must reimagine their contact center architectures with an open systems approach to help in the following ways:

  • Make engagement data work 24/7;
  • Put AI at the fingertips of agents;
  • Maximize CX automation; and
  • Support best-in-class operations.

What's more, organizations need an open ecosystem approach to ensure business application continuity and visibility to any consumer touchpoint. What's needed is the freedom to leverage choice in telephony, CRM systems, AI and analytics, and the peace of mind that it all works seamlessly.

Keith Dawson, vice president and research director at Ventana Research, says: "Instead of starting with telephony and interaction routing, many organizations have adopted a more flexible, bring-your-own-telephony approach more aligned with advanced cloud communication offerings. When the core routing system is de-emphasized, an organization is freer to weigh the merits of different business application platforms as the first priority."

CCaaS was originally developed at a time when most interactions were via phone, chat, or email. Organizational infrastructure was much simpler then, and customer expectations regarding levels of service tended to be lower. The telephony-first, all-in-one, almost-good-enough closed approach offered minimal CX automation capabilities, limiting the ability to leverage the power of data and the ability to innovate. Organizations had yet to truly understand the importance of providing a seamless customer experience across multiple channels. But times have changed.

With an open CCaaS approach, organizations can move to the cloud and deliver CX automation without having to impact or upgrade their telephony infrastructure. Open CCaaS delivers freedom of choice and flexibility to future-proof the contact center. Today, telephony is still a vital component in the contact center, but it's just one of many factors that need to be considered when updating or expanding customer engagement infrastructure.

AI and Automation Are the Future for Contact Centers.

Companies employ 50 million CX workers globally at an annual cost of $2 trillion. It goes without saying that companies cannot sustain accelerated hiring to improve CX. In today's ultra-competitive marketplace, finding a way to deliver great CX at a lower cost has to be an essential factor. Increasing CX automation is a strategic objective and translates to millions of dollars of customer return on investment.

This means that instead of focusing on one specific method of communication, organizations need to focus on the customer experience itself and the role the entire suite of communication channels plays in determining whether it will be a positive one. The digital contact center requires a new approach to engagement data that brings all interaction data, including from external sources, together in one place and can harmonize the diverse data types into a cohesive whole. When all data is in one place, organizations can make truly data-driven decisions in the best interest of customer experience.

What's needed is a customer engagement platform with AI and automation at its core, that can orchestrate best-of-breed capabilities to manage, analyze, and improve customer engagements, and that is built on an open architecture to support both existing and future infrastructure decisions.

Customer experience expectations have changed. The approach to customer engagement infrastructure must change as well. Contact center solutions don't exist in a vacuum. Today, we recognize that every organization has a wide variety of applications that contribute to the customer experience equation. To scale better digital customer experiences, automation needs to be part of the experience, and organizations need a seamless way to make AI, automation, and bots part of the customer engagement with appropriate handover to a human when necessary.

This will equip organizations to address today's most critical contact center challenges. With channel automation, companies can add the digital channels their customers want and automate engagements using bots. Meanwhile, the workforce can be orchestrated across a blend of channels, provided with up-to-date knowledge needed for a consistency of response from both humans and bots. This is something that no telephony-first CCaaS alone can do.

A new day is dawning, ushering in a new approach to contact center architecture that leverages open systems, AI, and automation to provide the next-gen foundation for customer engagement.

David Singer is Verint's global vice president of go-to-market strategy.