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AI key to customer service, but performance overrated

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Sixty-three per cent of contact centre leaders agree that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved.

That’s according to findings of the second annual NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark, a global research study that gauges the changing attitudes of both industry professionals and consumers.

NICE inContact polled contact centre leaders in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. The report compares global findings to the 2018 consumer wave of the study, and includes year-over-year findings for the US.

NICE inContact says results reveal that businesses are confident in artificial intelligence’s (AI’s) role in delivering exceptional customer service experiences, but they overrate their own CX performance.

Compared to consumers, businesses overreach when estimating their own net promoter scores (NPS), overrate their own CX success, and underperform when it comes to delivering seamless omnichannel experiences.    

Key findings:

·       Businesses express confidence in AI. The CX Transformation Benchmark found that 63 percent of contact center leaders agree that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved, and 68 percent of those surveyed agree that consumers want to use virtual assistants to interact with them. Findings show that significantly more US businesses now offer automated assistants / chatbots online, at 54 percent compared to 44 percent the prior year.

·       Business overreach in self-assigned Net Promoter Score (NPS). Compared to consumers, businesses give themselves higher net promoter scores for every method of communication tested. Businesses overestimate most channel-specific NPS by broad margins. For example:

o   Automated Assistant / Chatbot: While consumers award automated assistants an NPS of -8, businesses estimate they earn an NPS of 25, for a gap of 33 points.

o   Email: The consumer NPS for email is -9 while the business NPS is 19, for a gap of 28 points.

o   Text: Consumers give text a -2 NPS while businesses estimate 25, for a gap of 27 points.

·       Businesses overrate their CX success. Businesses are 15 percent more likely than consumers to agree that they make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved in their preferred channels, and that they provide a consistent customer service experience across the purchase journey.

·       Businesses understand the value of omnichannel experiences, but underperform. While 93 percent of businesses agree that consumers expect companies to provide a seamless experience when moving between channels, only 24% of businesses globally give themselves an excellent rating on allowing consumers to switch seamlessly between methods of communication.

Paul Jarman, CEO at NICE inContact, said: “We are at an inflection point for AI in the contact center. AI innovations are at their best when paired with the human touch and deployed to address targeted customer and agent experience opportunities. AI in the contact center has the potential to add significant value to customer experience outcomes and operational performance.

“The CX Transformation Benchmark shows contact center leader confidence in AI, and we join them in delivering end-to-end AI capabilities that span the entire customer and agent experience, to empower organizations of all sizes to stay one step ahead of customer expectations.”

NICE inContact surveyed more than 900 contact center decision makers in the US, UK, and Australia. The report presents global findings from the business wave of the research and provides comparative results to the consumer study published in 2018.

For more information and to download the full research report, please click here.

Befriending The Robot: How To Build Meaningful Relationships Using AI

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It goes without saying that implementing automation in the contact centre improves customer service efficiency, but how does it affect the quality of your company’s customer relationships?

The depersonalising experience of being funnelled down an automated IVR can leave customers feeling undervalued, especially if they have to repeat information given in the queue when their call is finally connected to an agent.

Eliminating Frustration

By implementing AI within your contact centre, the often frustrating routing process can be transformed into a streamlined system that enhances the level of personalisation that your customers receive.

With Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities integrated into your IVR, customers’ answers to automated questions within the queue can be transcribed using speech-to-text functionality, recorded, and presented to agents before the call is taken. This enables a smoother process, through reducing repetition, and allowing agents to focus on providing exceptional customer service, without having to spend time looking up customer data.

Immediate Satisfaction

We live in a digital world, where information is instantly and readily available online, with most everyday problems being solved with a quick internet search. So, when it comes to answering simple enquiries, it pays to be able to provide a service that can give your customers immediate satisfaction.

Chatbots, NLP and Image Recognition technologies can all be employed to automate requests for information, resolving non-complex issues without the need for an agent, and satisfying customer queries as soon as they are received.

Building Relationships

Automatically resolving simple enquiries through AI frees up your agents to provide a more supported and specialised service to those who need it most. Whether it be priority customers, vulnerable callers or those with more difficult or complex queries, employing AI gives your agents the time to craft meaningful, human relationships that lead to loyalty.

Empowering agents by providing them with more time to focus on the quality of each interaction, and to develop their soft skills, helps to transform complaint-resolution scenarios into positive, relationship-building experiences.

Content Guru’s cutting-edge AI package, brain®, offers NLP, Chatbot and Image Recognition capabilities to help revolutionize your contact centre, and build meaningful customer relationships with every interaction.

Find out more about how Content Guru’s AI offering can enhance your customer experience here: https://bit.ly/2HpT4eF

Find out more about Content Guru here: https://www.contentguru.com/

8×8 integrates with Google’s Contact Centre AI

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8×8 has announced its integration of 8×8 Content Centre with Google Cloud’s new Contact Centre AI

The Google platform combines multiple AI products to improve the customer service experience, as well as the productivity of contact centres.

“Contact Centre AI empowers enterprises to use AI to augment and improve their contact centres,” said Rajen Sheth, Director of Product Management at Google. 

“Google Cloud’s goal is to make the contact centre experience easy and efficient. By partnering with 8×8, we are able to deliver on that goal, as well as allow enterprises to maintain happy customers with faster call resolution. We look forward to our continued partnership with 8×8 to enhance contact centre capabilities as technology and customer expectations evolve.”

8×8 Contact Centreenables organisations to differentiate their customer experience in real-time with advanced analytics, reporting and predictive dialler.

Contact Centre AI (CCAI) allows enterprises with limited machine learning expertise to deploy AI in their contact centres. Key features of 8×8 Contact Centre integration with CCAI include:

  • 8×8 Virtual Agent – using a combination of 8×8 AI technology and Google CCAI, incoming voice calls on simple and routine questions (such as “what time will the repair technician arrive?” or “is part #7542 in stock?”) can be answered with a virtual, automated agent without the need for a live agent. This call deflection technology increases the efficiency of the call centre, often enabling 24/7 support, while reducing costs. For end customers, the 8×8 Virtual Agent improves the customer experience, increasing first call resolution and reducing call wait times
  • The virtual agent can also hand calls to a live agent, and with the Agent Assist feature, automatically supply the agent with articles and knowledge documents based on the conversation. This reduces call length and enhances the customer experience, ensuring customers don’t have to repeat their requests

“Improving efficiency and reducing call times are some of the most common contact centre pain points. Google AI together with 8×8 Contact Centre enables our customers to leverage the latest AI technologies to enhance the overall experience of their end customers,” said Dejan Deklich, Chief Product Officer at 8×8. 

“As a leader in contact centre and unified communications as a service, we are partnering with Google to put resources behind such an advanced solution. Other vendors in our space are focused on chat, not on a unified approach. Google has the expertise and underlying technology and 8×8 brings telephony and contact centre expertise for a perfectly integrated solution.”

8×8 Contact Centre with Google Contact Centre AI integration capabilities are in testing now.

NICE unveils global ‘Robotic Automation Community’

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A new educational platform from NICE aims to provide resources and best practice sharing for customers, partners, system integrators and domain professionals across various industries.

With over 550 deployments, 500,000 robots in production and 16 years of RPA experience, NICE says its automation community members now have access to insights on RPA and NEVA (NICE Employee Virtual Attendant), as well as the latest innovations and trends in the industry.

By joining the NICE Robotic Automation Community, entry level employees as well as experts can learn how to harness the growth the industry is experiencing and cultivate their skills and careers.

Open to customers, partners, system integrators, as well as domain professionals, materials include short articles, how to videos, white papers, in-depth e-learning content for technical employees and consultants, as well as certification programs.

The community includes a forum that encourages discussions among peers and with NICE experts, enabling the sharing of best practices, guidelines and experiences that members can learn from and adopt in their own implementations.

NICE’s community is integrated with NICE Dojo, one of the largest global learning networks which enables users to easily access training assets and choose flexible learning paths to suit their individual and professional needs.

Barry Cooper, President, NICE Enterprise Group, said: “As the most established and experienced RPA vendor in the enterprise market, NICE is delighted to launch a comprehensive and engaging global community to drive collaboration and innovation among RPA professionals. The NICE Robotic Automation Community is the ideal platform to share in-depth experience and industry knowledge. Our innovative RPA technology is built to support the most complex process scenarios facing enterprises today. The RPA market is vibrant and dynamic, and we are excited to be contributing towards and shaping the industry on a global scale.”

Top mistakes businesses make with AI in the Contact Centre – And how to avoid them

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By Enghouse Interactive

There is a great deal of discussion in the marketplace regarding robots and artificial intelligence (AI) and their future role in the contact centre. Much of this is hype.

A lot of people are talking hypothetically about what robots might do in a customer service context. Fewer are using a truly AI-driven approach to engage with customers today.

There is no one-size fits all answer here. Some organisations will continue to use human service as a key part of their value proposition and differentiation, but most are bringing in a growing element of AI and automation as they move to a more self-service-based approach.

As early as 2011, analyst, Gartner was predicting that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.

But, as they implement chatbots and other types of AI, there are a range of pitfalls businesses need to watch out for. Here, we outline some of the biggest and how businesses can best avoid them.

Click here to download our resources to help you on your journey with ChatBots and AI strategy into the contact centre.

5 Minutes With… Frank Sherlock, VP International, CallMiner

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As part of our ongoing customer care executive interview series, we sat down with Frank Sherlock, VP International at CallMiner, to talk about its latest solutions, Brexit, AI, industry trends and what we can expect from 2019 and beyond…

Tell us about your company, products and services.

CallMiner empowers organisations of any size to extract and act on intelligence from customer interactions for improving customer experience, sales, marketing, and compliance, as well as agent and customer engagement centre performance. We have been honoured with multiple customer achievement awards, including Call Centre Helper’s Top 10 Contact Centre Technology and Credit Collection and Risk Best Use of Technology. CallMiner was also recently named a leader in the industry analyst report Forrester New Wave: AI-Fueled Speech Analytics Solutions, Q2 2018.

What have been the biggest challenges the Contact Centre/Customer Services industry has faced over the past 12 months?

Uncertainty of investments as Brexit rolled on (and on), confusion on AI, machine learning and the new tech jargon and hype, and explaining that data is needed to do any analysis with AI.  The challenge from the Exec level to both CX and Call Centre to deliver aligned reporting on the true engagement experience. The hunger for ‘The Business’ to understand the complete Customer Journey whilst feedback apathy continues to increase

And what have been the biggest opportunities?

WFM, WFO, knowledge management and speech analytics systems to improve and focus coaching and performance to the people who really make a CX difference – the contact centre supervisors and agents. Those that can effectively capture and use data in a quick and efficient manner will win – others will get left behind.

What is the biggest priority for the Contact Centre/Customer Services industry in 2019?

Meeting the omni-channel challenge and the shift in consumer contact points and managing and improving the CX.

What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2019?

More adoption of analytics, data is a key battleground and source of knowledge on CX, analysing data at scale on all touchpoints will be needed. AI will become more commonplace – it’s already happening with Speech Analytics, Knowledge Management, Biometrics and chatbots, so I expect we will see some integration or at least AI collaboration, analytics helping inform KM systems, Biometrics managing intelligent call steering and speech analytics training chatbots!

What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this year?

Omni-channel analytics – speech, web, email, social – and more adoption of real-time conversational analytics. The other area that I think will really take off is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as the transformation of the front office extends to the back office of contact centres.

In 2021 we’ll all be talking about…?

When is AI arriving?! Seriously though, we will be talking about the volume of transactions with organisations continuing to grow, the successful automation of transactional touch points and the demands placed on our human agents with ever more complex interactions.

Which person in, or associated with, the Contact Centre/Customer Services industry would you most like to meet?

Probably any of the leaders of organisations that supply me with services from broadband, to financial services, to energy – we have so much to improve and I am not sure the leaders always relate to the actual experience a user has when there is a problem or a complaint. I recently had issues with broadband, train and energy and I found the experiences so depressing and frustrating.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Contact Centre/Customer Services sector?

The constant changes of people, processes, regulations, products and technology that the industry faces. It is probably the most dynamic sector of any in the economy.

You go to the bar at the Call Centre Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?

Good day, vodka and Coke. Bad day, several beers!

What’s the most exciting thing about your job?

Change – every day is different.

And what’s the most challenging?

Also change!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

You can only ever give your best, it is the maximum you can give. It may not be enough, but if you look in the mirror and say you gave it your best, win, lose or draw, you could not have given more.

Peaky Blinders or The Crown?

Peaky Blinders, of course.

UK insurance contact centres ‘battle 60% rise in call duration’

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UK insurance companies expect to make significant investments in AI-enabled web chat, automated customer identification and interaction analytics technology within the next two years.

A survey of over 200 UK contact centres undertaken by ContactBabel shows that insurance operations expect their use of web chat to grow from 44% today to 94% by the beginning of 2020.

The use of interaction analytics is expected to rise to 43%, as is automated speech recognition, with much of the latter being used to reduce fraud and the time required to take phone customers through security.

In 2012, only 7% of inbound interactions with insurers were through email, but this has risen sharply to over 15% today.

Due in part to increased automation, the sector will see a drop in contact centre employment of around 5,500 jobs by 2020.

The report’s author, Steve Morrell, Principal Analyst, ContactBabel, said: “With average call lengths in UK insurance contact centres having risen by over 60% since 2010, the industry has embraced the opportunities that digital channels can bring, especially in terms of automating simpler interactions.

“AI-enabled web chat can handle a large proportion of straightforward customer requests, while automating the customer identity process will shorten call times and reduces fraud. The insurance sector has also seen very significant rises in the average time taken to answer calls, as well as the length of calls. The significant growth in digital activity, particularly email, shows that insurers are understanding how their customers wish to contact them, while managing the cost of service.”

The report is downloadable free of charge from www.contactbabel.com/reports.cfm.

Digital channel use gaining ground – and it’s not because of AI Chatbots

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Use of digital channels by consumers to contact brands is gaining ground on more traditional methods, with email doubling and chat tripling among US consumers in 2018, according to a new study.

However, the research by NICE inContact also found that use of “automated assistants” or chatbots by consumers for recent service interactions is still limited at only 8 per cent globally.

The second annual NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark includes consumers from three countries – United States, United Kingdom and Australia – with year-over-year results for US (2018 vs 2017), and new benchmark data for UK and Australia.

Key findings include:

  • Agent-assisted Digital Channels Gain Ground, Chat Reigns for Satisfaction

The CX Transformation Benchmark year-over-year results among US consumers show growth of digital channels for service – use of email doubled and chat tripled. Consumers in all regions are most satisfied with online chat with a live agent, compared to ten other channels evaluated. At 56 percent, more than half of US consumers surveyed are highly satisfied with chat interactions; 47 and 44 percent of UK and Australia consumers, respectively, report being highly satisfied with their most recent chat experience.

  • Consumers Want True Omnichannel Customer Service

Consumers want true omnichannel customer service, and service that’s seamless, convenient and quick. If a conversation needs to move from chat to a phone call, nine out of 10 consumers say they expect a seamless transition when moving from one communication method to another. Chat and phone are each viewed as convenient and quick, requiring a minimal amount of effort.

  • Consumers Reward Companies Who Deliver Exceptional Customers Service

Today’s consumers are vocal about the brands they love, and aren’t afraid to share negative experiences through their network. The study found that, overwhelmingly, customers who have exceptional experiences are more willing to: recommend that company on social media (83 percent), buy more products and services from that company (89 percent), and go out of their way to purchase from that brand (82 percent). But, one-time exceptional service is not enough to cement loyalty as 81 percent of consumers reported that they are very likely to switch to another company if they’ve had a bad customer service experience.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) Has Room for Improvement, Consumers Skeptical

While businesses continue to experiment with AI applications within customer experience channels, only eight percent of global consumers interviewed had used an AI enabled service channel like chatbots or a home electronic virtual assistant for their most recent customer service interaction. The study found that nine out of 10 consumers prefer to talk to a live agent rather than a chatbot or virtual assistant. And, consumer satisfaction with automated assistants is low, with only 27 percent of users giving a 9 or 10 rating out of 10. AI has yet to mature, and consumers agree. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said chatbots and virtual assistants need to get smarter before they are willing to use them regularly, and 66 percent disagree that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier to get issues resolved.

“Businesses are no longer just being measured against their direct competitors – they are being measured against every positive customer experience a consumer has ever had,” said Paul Jarman, CEO of NICE inContact. “The global CX Transformation Benchmark Study findings highlight that to deliver exceptional customer experiences that drive growth, businesses must continue their digital transformations to power smart and seamless omnichannel interactions. Despite widespread interest in AI, the research shows that its application is still finding its way in delivering exceptional customer experiences. Investing in an open, native cloud contact center platform can help businesses meet evolving and demanding customer expectations highlighted in the study.”

NICE inContact surveyed more than 2,400 consumers across the globe on their most recent customer service experience across 11 different channels – both agent-assisted and self-service – on over 4,600 total interactions.

To download the full research report, click here.

AI customer service specialist Afiniti raises $130m, is valued at $1.6bn

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AI in customer service is hot right now, as illustrated by the fact that Washington DC-based Afiniti just raised $130 million in Series D funding, valuing the company at a whopping $1.6 billion.

Privately-held companies with a valuation of more than $1 billion are extremely rare, and it’s expected that the firm will complete an IPO within the next 12 months, with profitability imminent.

Afiniti now has an impressive roster of backers, who are all making a serious collective bet that AI will be very much be at the forefront of customer service in years to come.

Participants in the latest round of funding include Washington Post CEO Fred Ryan, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, Global Asset Management, The Resource Group and Zeke Capital, with previous backers including McKinsey, Elisabeth Murdoch, former Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer and former BP CEO John Browne.

The company has some big clients too – T-Mobile USA, Virgin Media, Caesar’s Entertainment and Sky – plus some big hitting employees, including none other than Princess Beatrice as its Vice President of Partnerships.

Led by CEO Zia Chishti the firm doesn’t sell its platform as a service but instead takes a cut of any sales its clients secure via its systems.

UK customers now contact brands nearly half a billion times every month

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Research has highlighted the growing volume of consumer queries that UK brands now need to handle, and the increasing cost this imposes on companies – estimated at £1.227 billion.

The average UK consumer now contacts organisations nine times per month, according to research undertaken as part of the 2018 Eptica Customer Experience Automation Study.

Across the adult population this means brands need to respond to 463.5 million contacts every month, and the figure is rising.

88% of those surveyed said they now contact companies more or the same number of times as five years ago – with 16% getting in touch more than twice as often.

Increasingly, consumers are happy to embrace self-service channels where they can find their own answers, without needing to contact brands through email, the telephone, chat or social media.

83% already use or are willing to use web self-service systems, which analyse queries and deliver automatic instant answers on a company website, while over half (54%) would use intelligent voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Siri from Apple to gain information. 64% also want to use automated, artificial intelligence-powered chatbots.

Using industry average figures from analysts Contact Babel[1], answering these queries costs the UK economy £1.227 billion across the telephone, web, email, social media and chat channels. This is made up of £440.44m (email), £236.98m (social media), £211.99m (chat) and £338.31m (telephone).

In contrast automated channels such as self-service, chatbots and voice assistants have a negligible cost per interaction once they are in place.

“Delivering an excellent customer experience is crucial to every organisation today. However, our research shows the scale of the challenge brands face, with consumers getting in contact nearly half a billion times every month in the UK,” said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-Founder, Eptica. “Clearly many of these conversations are complex and require the human touch, but others could be automated, speeding up the process for consumers and increasing efficiency for brands.”

Demonstrating the multichannel nature of today’s customer experience, on average each UK consumer used email for 27% of their interactions by brands, followed by web self-service, telephone and social media (17%) each, with 11% of contacts through chat and chatbots respectively.

“Reducing the number of contacts by 10% would save over £122 million – enabling companies to focus resources where they are needed most. Our research shows that consumers are open to embracing new AI-powered technologies such as voice assistants and chatbots, providing an opportunity to improve the experience and reduce costs at the same time,” added Olivier Njamfa.

For the research 1,000 UK consumers were surveyed online in Q3 2018.

The full report, including the study results, graphics and best practice recommendations for brands is available here.

An infographic on the results is available here.

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