At some point, nearly everyone has experienced the frustration of a long wait time when contacting a brand’s customer service line. Whether it’s elevator music or having to repeat their issue to multiple advisors, customers can be wary of contacting customer service. The numbers don’t lie: Salesforce surveyed 15,600 consumers and business buyers globally, and found that 76% of customers expect consistent interactions during the customer journey across departments.1 Unsurprisingly, about 73% of consumers will abandon a brand after three or fewer negative customer service experiences.2
Many of these issues can be solved by automation. Gartner® predicts 70% of organizations in North America, EMEA and APAC with at least $1 billion in revenue will implement infrastructure automation by 2025.3 Contact centers, which seek to solve customer issues quickly and effectively, are a perfect example of how automation can improve the customer experience during what can often be a frustrating or confusing touchpoint for the customer.
With that in mind, here are some key automation trends that will impact contact centers in 2023.
Chatbots and Virtual Assistants
Conversational AI, the technology that powers virtual assistants and most chatbots, uses machine learning to build conversational skills and communicate with users. Natural language process and understanding (NLP and NLU) allow the technology to understand speech patterns and improve upon that understanding. Conversational AI is valuable in a contact center since it enables the quick and easy resolution of simple issues, such as responding to FAQs and verifying the personal information of customers, without necessarily needing to transfer them to an advisor. In addition, organizations are increasingly transforming their IVR systems4 into intelligent voicebots to route customers to the right place.
Generative AI technology is beginning to be integrated into solutions to create more advanced chatbot and virtual assistants that can answer questions beyond pre-defined responses to FAQs. By scouring existing data sources, such as knowledge bases, CRM data, and previous interactions, generative AI chatbots can efficiently craft personalized responses based on each customer’s situation and prior conversations—and do this with the right human tone. However, there are associated risks to using Generative AI-powered chatbots, including hallucinated facts and cybersecurity issues. This requires them to have governance in place, as well as human oversight. Currently, its best use case is enabling intelligent advisor assistance, empowering advisors to further enhance the answers and guidance they provide to customers—in real time.
Asynchronous Messaging for Businesses
Asynchronous messaging allows for customers to skip a spoken conversation altogether and resolve their issues via SMS text messaging. Asynchronous messaging saves time for the organization and, most importantly, the customer. Similar to conversational AI, simpler inquiries can be handled through asynchronous messaging, which allows advisors to focus on more complex customer issues.
Asynchronous messaging can be used for:
- Checking the status of orders
- Looking up account information
- Billing or payment assistance
- Delivering quick information such as business location or hours
Lastly, enterprise organizations today have increasingly sought to adopt the automation fabric.
Automation fabric, the practice of linking projects across a company through automation, binds an organization together, solving the problem of isolated “islands” of automation for individual processes. Automation fabric’s real value lies in its ability to provide insights to employees in the moment from across the company’s technology stack. It can also enable more collaboration between employees, helping them to get more work done than they could have previously imagined. The tools that typically make up the automation fabric include RPA, low-code platforms, AI/ML, and chatbots.
Blending these technologies into an automation fabric can greatly improve the customer experience delivered by contact centers. The automation fabric enables the seamless transition from voice channels to text-based channels—empowering happier, more loyal customers. Bonus points if the fabric can be paired with many different major cloud providers so that organizations aren’t locked into a particular vendor and can leverage features from different platforms.
Humans Should Always Be at the Center
Of course, an organization’s success in automation hinges on how the technology is implemented, and for customer-centric solutions, organizations should strike a delicate balance between human and bot in their automation initiatives. Ultimately, organizations looking to implement these contact center automation trends will need a partner that understands the ripple effects of automation and how to holistically bring the company up to speed to take advantage of the technology. When leveraged correctly, automation can improve the contact center experience for both the customer and brand.
1 “What Are Customer Expectations, and How Have They Changed?,” salesforce.com.
2 “Report: Most Consumers Abandon a Brand After 3 Bad Experiences,” Maria Monteros, Retail Dive, March 4, 2021.
3 “Gartner Survey Finds 85% of Infrastructure and Operations Leaders Without Full Automation Expect to Increase Automation Within Three Years,” gartner.com, October 3, 2022. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.
4 “The Future of Contact Center Technology: 10 Key Trends,” CX Today, March 30, 2022.