Winning with AI: Empowering Agents to Improve the Customer Experience with CX Automation

Happy contact center agents are crucial to good customer service. Happy agents lead to happy customers. However, all is not well when it comes to the agent experience in today's contact centers. Contact center agents have tough jobs. On a daily basis, they must deal with high call volume, repetitive tasks, strict performance metrics, angry customers, and tightly controlled schedules and break times. They often feel unempowered to make an impact and ill-equipped to complete demanding work on the customer front lines. 

Customer service agents are charged with the task of answering customer inquiries in a timely manner while reducing their average handle time without sacrificing the customer experience. The challenging nature of their role often results in burnout. 

High agent turnover is one of the most significant costs to a contact center, impacting recruitment, training, team leader attrition, and customers who must rely on potentially less experienced and/or less qualified agents.

The National Association of Call Centers estimates the cost of agent replacement to be $6,500 when including sourcing, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and training. With annual contact center attrition rates ranging from 50 percent to 120 percent, it is critical to equip agents with advanced artificial intelligence technologies to help prevent burnout from the start.

AI is changing the game by improving the agent experience while supporting optimal productivity and customer satisfaction. Providing this support to agents also improves job satisfaction and retention, fostering an exceptional customer experience.

Giving agents the best tools for success while driving higher operational efficiency is more achievable than ever with the help of AI. These AI technologies include the following:

  • AI for self-service -- AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can book a flight, change a medical appointment, or sell a product to the customer right in the chat. Leveraging conversational AI, these bots enable the quick and efficient deployment of CX automation across all engagement channels. This delivers consistent and personalized self-service customer experiences while also improving contact center operations.
  • AI for agent and supervisor assistance -- When customer service interactions involve negative sentiments, escalations, long silences, or multiple interruptions, real-time agent assist tools provide AI-driven guidance. Suggestions are based on acoustic (nonverbal), linguistic (verbal), and desktop activity. Automated quality management (AQM) evaluates calls, identifies non-compliance, and assigns coaching for 100 percent of voice and text interactions. AI-powered scoring bots automatically and continuously evaluate all interactions against scoring rules. 
  • AI bots for tackling tasks independently -- The time agents spend between calls can cost companies millions in additional labor. Interaction wrap-up bots use deep learning to provide real-time transcription accuracy that is fed into generative AI algorithms, such as ChatGPT, for automatic interaction summarization.
  • Interaction transfer bots that can provide seamless transitions from self-service to assisted-service.

But the benefits of AI don't stop there. Empowering agents with the freedom and flexibility to take ownership of their own schedules is one of the most significant opportunities to improve job satisfaction and increase retention without business disruption.

Offering shift flexibility has been shown to reduce attrition by an average of 25 percent by helping employees achieve better work-life balance. For shift-based workers especially, flexibility is extremely important and needs to be accommodated. However, most contact center scheduling solutions cannot provide the required level of flexibility in a timely manner.  

With the Verint TimeFlex Bot, for example, agents can earn Flex Coins when they make changes that improve the forecast performance. Agents can spend those coins to make other changes that might be less beneficial to the business. The use of Flex Coins ensures that the sum of all agents' initiated changes is balanced and results in improved customer experience. This interactive and empowering scheduling experience not only enhances operational efficiency but also elevates agent engagement. 

Companies must factor scheduling changes into AI forecasting models to ensure they have the right staff to meet customer demand. AI-powered scheduling bots are empowering agents to manage schedule changes resulting in lower attrition and absenteeism and better employee experiences. 

AI-driven forecasting models can analyze historical absence patterns of agents during their shifts and determine the types of agents required for specific tasks, such as Tier 2 escalation support. Additionally, some issues might take longer to resolve, and it’s important for companies to identify which agents are best suited to handle them.

Subscription businesses, for example, might observe a surge in cancellations during the first week of every month, while the agents best skilled to handle these cases are consistently unavailable. By using forecast models, companies can identify agents who excel in addressing these issues and create more effective staffing plans.

Algorithms use forecast demand, staffing levels, and customer targets via workforce management solutions to balance employee flexibility with the needs of the business. A better schedule means lower customer wait times and improved customer experience.

Being a contact center agent is challenging: Working a demanding job, dealing with cognitive overload, ensuring accuracy of information, guiding customer conversations … the struggle is real. However, companies are increasingly investing in AI-powered tools and bots to assist and safeguard the sanity of their most valuable resource, their agents. AI is transforming the contact center by empowering agents, boosting operational efficiency, and improving the customer experience.

Jason Valdina is an accomplished customer experience professional and senior director of engagement channel strategy at Verint.