AI is being integrated into as many aspects of work these days. Then, why not try it out at contact centers? Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

We live in times of instant service. Whether our bank, telecom provider or food delivery, qualified support is never more than just a few clicks or taps away. Keeping up with this emphasis on convenience, organizations are focused on making customer engagements as intuitive as possible.

This trend has unsurprisingly earned itself a place in many digital transformation journeys as businesses look to reinvent customer experience (CX), which is a pivotal factor in long-term business success.

Intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) were already proving their worth to contact centers serving financial services, telecoms, business-process outsourcing (BPO) and e-commerce before the pandemic. Now, the technology we call ‘conversational AI’ is on the cusp of transforming CX in a range of exceptional ways.

With its mixture of voice, video and emotion awareness, conversational AI has the potential to supercharge employee-to-employee and employee-to-customer interactions to build unparalleled effectiveness among teams and build meaningful relationships between businesses and their clientele.

An exciting future comes into focus for contact centers, their agents and businesses that rely on the industry to build customer rapport. Here are four trends that will play a major role in advancing and elevating CX.

Emotion AI

Research shows emotion intelligence to be responsible for 58 per cent of professional success. Humans with higher emotional quotients (EQ) can communicate more effectively and resolve conflicts more quickly. They also tend to build deeper relationships. In customer service, such abilities can translate to faster resolution times.

Until recently, emotional intelligence has largely been determined by the personality and training of individual agents. Recent advancements in conversational AI have meant these solutions can augment agent capabilities, thereby enabling improved empathy and outcomes.

Emotion AI uses real-time video and audio analytics to mimic the ability of savvier humans to read facial cues and fluctuations in the tone of voice and attentiveness. Variants of such technology have grabbed headlines in the past, such as when SoftBank’s ‘Pepper’ robot prototype.

The ability to assess how a consumer feels in real-time, through the unfailing observations of an AI engine, will be very alluring to business stakeholders.

Trust as a factor

When businesses saw no significant drops in productivity during lockdowns, it was accepted that remote work was a viable operational model. This approach is especially relevant to contact centers, where they can yield significant cost reductions and happier agents.

However, agent verification in a remote setting must be consciously addressed, especially in light of the increasing emphasis on regulatory compliance in the Middle East. As with agents who work from physical contact centers, this verification needs to be accurate. Given the emerging allure of conversational AI, voice biometric authentication will emerge as an attractive option to businesses keen to reap the benefits of a remote agent workforce while adhering to the highest level of regulatory compliance and agent authentication.

Better promise management

Commitments to customers are a fundamental part of call center operations. Whether it is a pledge to issue a billing credit or perform a site visit in a specific time window, promises live in customer minds as contracts.

The current promise management approach relies on agents extensive post-call work and includes logging requests, tracking progress, and closing the loop with customers on fulfillment. The manual, time-consuming, and error-prone nature of every step in this process leaves room for slips in between the cracks. This, in turn, fails to meet customer expectations.

Promise management, therefore, presents an attractive starting point for contact center automation. Research from 2020 revealed that 97 per cent of call center agents favor automating the fulfillment of customer expectations by capturing and registering commitments and managing them with workflow automation.

Integration challenges

The pandemic heightened the need for businesses of all scales to automate operations to keep up with consumer demands. In an increasingly competitive digital economy, the time to market new experiences needs to be as rapid as possible for customers and employees. Businesses need to look for solutions that increase their agility in solution development without compromising quality.

Low-code development platforms (LCDPs) present an especially effective answer to this urgent requirement. They enable solutions to be developed quickly, with minimal technical resources. With their scores of workflows and inter-dependent systems, and the need to constantly enhance customer experiences, contact centers are ripe for low-code optimization.

Because low code dramatically reduces costs, time, and complexity of application development, it allows organizations to create, test, and fine-tune new features and functionality with minimal risk. Leveraging this, contact center teams could plug operational gaps and rapidly integrate new solutions to proceed where they would otherwise have stalled. They can streamline workflows, harmonize silos and thereby elevate agent and customer experiences.

Customer service

AI, remote agents, low code, and other advancements are now within reach of even the more modest budgets. In 2022, we will see regional businesses use these technologies to elevate CX and EX (employee experience) while reducing operating costs. Conversational AI will be the key to a contact center’s evolution, and consequently, customer service will never be the same again.