Over the past three decades, technology has catalyzed profound changes in the contact center space: from call centers to contact centers, from hardware on premises coupled with in-house IT, to cloud-based Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS), now we are heading towards the era of generative AI (GenAI). How can today’s contact centers leverage technology, keep costs down, and at the same time increase the quality of human-to-human customer experience?
Before we discuss these challenges, let’s first look at how technology has transformed contact centers and changed customer experience.
Before the arrival of computers, the internet, email, e-commerce, chat bots, social media and cell phones, there were call centers. In the “good old days” of analogue phones on landlines, any customer’s call was answered by a live person in call centers. People today still value the human-to-human contact center experience far more than human to chatbots encounters.
Call centers were then equipped with on-premises telephony switches, data storage, in-house IT developers, hardware and software. The primary function of call centers then as now remained the same: taking customer calls, answering questions, and providing customer support over the phone. Today there are still traditional call centers where agents work together in a call center facility to handle customer calls.
Over the last decade or so, the internet enabled, cloud-based Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) has gained market acceptance. Employing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), this digital transformation added the ability to support multiple channels, such as email and chat in addition to voice only phone calls.
CCaaS is an OpEx subscription model, with its tier-based, pay-as-you-go subscription plans. This is in contrast to the previous on-premises model which required significant capital expenditures. This change democratized the technology by eliminating the need for significant upfront CapEx investments. It also transformed what had been the Telecom department to a service supported by It department. ““CCaaS make[s] sure that you can access all of your communication channels from one cloud-based software.” https://vmblog.com/archive/2023/08/01/ai-in-contact-centers-how-ai-technology-is-improving-ccaas.aspx
“Gartner defines contact center as a service (CCaaS) as solutions offering SaaS-based applications that enable customer service departments to manage multichannel customer interactions holistically from both a customer-experience and employee-experience perspective. CCaaS solutions offer an adaptive, flexible delivery model with native capabilities across the four functional components of the technology reference model for customer service and support. CCaaS providers also offer productized integrations with partner solutions through application marketplaces”.
Contact centers can adopt needed features, such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR), automated call routing, voice biometrics, speech and text analytics, agent assist, chat bots, features for accommodating remote working, workflow management, virtual assistants, and other add-on features as a contact center expands or changes.
“Cloud Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) represents a modernized approach to customer service, harnessing cloud technology to provide seamless and scalable contact center solutions. Unlike traditional on-premises systems, CCaaS offers a flexible, subscription-based model that enables businesses to adapt swiftly to changing customer demands. It encompasses features like multi-channel support, automatic call distribution, and analytics tools, all hosted on secure cloud platforms.“ https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/transforming-customer-service-cloud-contact-center-tvm1f/?trk=article-ssr-frontend-pulse_more-articles_related-content-card
Referred to as a “power duo”, automation by CCaaS combined with AI-driven personalization can potentially further enhance customer interactions, customer experience, and customer satisfaction.
“The increase in cloud-based data has meant that AI-powered analytics are making it much easier to get sophisticated insights into any dataset,…
“These advances in AI have started to influence CCaaS providers. They’ve recently started to integrate AI technology into their software in the form of chatbots, enhanced analytics, and intelligent customer self-service, which has made CCaaS even more effective and easy to use.” https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/transforming-customer-service-cloud-contact-center-tvm1f/?trk=article-ssr-frontend-pulse_more-articles_related-content-card
“GenAI is a generative AI platform that can be used to create new content, such as text, code, or images, and other AI-powered applications. It can be used to automate tasks, answer customer questions, and provide personalized support” https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-leverage-ai-ccaas-improve-contact-center-mike-donnelly/
According to this article dated Sept. 1, 2023, contact centers can benefit from using GenAI and CCaaS together, in areas such as:
Improving efficiency and reduce costs: With 24/7 access to CCaaS support regardless of location, increase agent productivity, shorten wait time, create self-service knowledge bases to allow customers to find answers without having to contact an agent, reduce costs by automating tasks and free up agents for more complex issues;
Providing data insights and manage workforce: Feed GenAI with specific data collected by CCaaS to improve contact center operations and customer service, predict which customers are at risk of churning to enable proactively engagement, analyze customer data to identify trends and patterns in customer interactions, transcribe customer calls in real time to free up agents’ time and improve AHT, manage the workforce by scheduling agents, forecasting demand to ensure sufficient agents for customer inquiries, and tracking agents’ performance;
Enhancing customer experience: Route calls to the most appropriate agent based on the customer’s issue, and agents’ skills and availability, personalize customer experience by understanding their needs and preferences, create virtual agents that can provide personalized support to customers and manage campaigns.
In spite of the promise and potential of GenAI, leadership needs to base their decisions about developing and using AI on specific pain points, research and analysis, to avoid over- or under-investing.
As AI is changing the world, contact center leaders ought to remember the unchangeables and the things AI cannot do in the age of technology:
To juggle technology, people, systems, and processes in a fast changing competitive world is challenging but also exciting, because it gives us a greater opportunity for creativity, including the design of more human centered, even fun, customer experience. Never before has humanity had so many resources at its disposal, both technology and human creativity, to elevate customer experience to be more satisfying and human.
As we discussed in the last article about developing relationship intelligence, both in the CX workplace and in customer relationships, AI is the means to the end of a higher level of human-to-human interaction.
In the areas of contact centers, customer experience, and experience design, there are no better challenges and rewards than defining humanity with today’s technology, with our own vision, decisions, and shaped with our own hands.
ApexCX is a leader in the customer experience support services, helping customer-facing companies deliver human centered CX services with technology. To schedule an initial assessment of your company’s customer experience and customer support needs, please contact us.