Conversational AI Continues to Evolve
The conversational AI applications that brands have available today are a far cry from the simple chatbots and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems of the past. Steve Kezirian, CEO of Waterfield Tech, a contact center solution provider, told CMSWire that the adoption curve for conversational AI will accelerate in the year ahead as end users increasingly expect — and demand — this more human type of interaction with the businesses that serve them.
Today’s conversational AI has evolved to the point where customers are more comfortable using it, especially if it offers to solve their problems without having to speak with a live agent. “Think about conversational AI versus interactive voice response (IVR). Conversational AI is like an iPhone, with the myriad of functions it can provide. IVR is an outdated cell phone. Yes, it can make a call, but it’s otherwise limited.”
Kezirian believes that because of the experience many of us are having in our homes with digital assistants like Siri and Alexa, conversational AI will soon be table stakes for a company’s contact center. “It will allow for greater levels of customer self-service,” said Kezirian. “And in addition to providing a better experience for an organization’s customers, conversational AI can deliver richer and more relevant customer insights than what companies get today from other contact center technologies — helping to drive costs out of the business.”
The Call Center Becomes Omnichannel
The customer experience is omnichannel, and customers expect to be able to use their preferred medium to interact with a brand, whether they are purchasing products, browsing a catalog, researching a product or contacting customer service. For the call center to be omnichannel, customer support data must be accessible to agents across all of a brand’s channels.
“When most people think about a digital contact center experience, they immediately think about replacing the phone,” said Kezirian. “That’s part of it, but what it really entails is the introduction of omnichannel customer engagement, helping to drive a consistent experience for a consumer regardless of channel.” Kezirian explained that the modern contact center often consists of a combination of phone, email and chat — but the value is in how a brand brings it all together to meet the customer where they want to be met across different channels. In this way, Kezirian believes that they “have that impact on the way an organization engages in other channels or in upstream marketing to create more effective communication.”
“We predict creating this omnichannel customer experience will increasingly be top of mind for decision-makers, all the way up to boards of directors asking their senior executives what they’re doing to drive it in their organizations,” said Kezirian, who suggested that although digital transformation was initially about getting rid of voice costs, now it has become a fundamental expectation as organizations are under the gun to be more competitive and meet the needs of their customers.
Chris Mina, head of Cybersecurity as a Service (CCaaS) products at Vonage, a cloud-based VOIP services provider, told CMSWire that customer experience teams have the incredibly difficult responsibility of keeping up with the pace of innovation that consumers demand — driven by new technologies and channels from device manufacturers, social media vendors and a vast array of consumer-based communication solutions and applications.
Like Kezirian, Mina reiterated that businesses that strive to offer great customer experiences have recognized they must meet their customers wherever they are, across all devices, channels and even locations and times.
The Human Touch Remains Vital in the Call Center
Because we interact with both businesses and individuals through a digital format via many different channels, we are often left feeling a need for human connection. Combined with the ways the pandemic reinforced the need for personal connections and interactions with one another, digital interactions often make us feel a void that must be filled.
Brian Steele, vice president of product management at gryphon.ai, a conversational intelligence platform provider for call centers, told CMSWire that over the past year, businesses have realized that the key to successful digital experiences for consumers is through the value of human touch. “In 2023, I anticipate this focus to gain more traction as technologies are becoming more sophisticated in their ability to provide human workers with answers and insights,” said Steele.
“Businesses should prioritize utilizing these new technologies to reinforce human connection during every step of the customer journey.” Steele believes that brands will also use tools like sentiment analysis and emotional queues to bring a valuable empathetic touch to the customer experience and meet consumer needs in real-time.
Customer Conversations in the Call Center Are Gold
Call centers provide brands with an often unrealized opportunity to determine the pain points in the customer journey, as well as to gain a deeper understanding of their customers. Leslie Pagel, chief customer officer at Authenticx, a conversational intelligence platform provider for the healthcare industry, told CMSWire that businesses are beginning to realize that they are ignoring the most valuable source of customer insights — the interactions they have with customers every day.
“They’re ignoring customer conversations because they believe their NPS scores and survey data represent the voice of the customer. But some haven’t realized that the literal voice of the customer is already in their walls and the technology exists to harness this data.” Pagel said that those who have ventured down the path of harnessing their customer interaction data recognize a value that is exponentially greater than the survey data they have relied on in the past.
Final Thoughts on 2023 Call Center Trends
Customer service has taken on greater importance in the past two years, and will continue to do so in 2023. Conversational AI continues to evolve and be adopted by brands looking to enhance the human connections that customers have when interacting with a brand.
The call center has become omnichannel, as customers expect to interact with a brand on their preferred channels, and while brands are beginning to recognize that the conversations they have with customers are CX gold, as fears of a recession grow they are also learning to do more with less.
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