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Trends in Contact Center Automation


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The contact center industry is grappling with the best way to use automation to address the volume issues prompted by increased demands from consumers and businesses. Contact center executives have learned to understand how automation works, but now comes a trickier challenge: Strategically and successfully deploying automation in customer experience (CX) that doesn’t forget the human.
A panel of contact center executives from Avaya, Genesys, Five9, NICE, and Talkdesk joined Sheila McGee-Smith, founder of McGee-Smith Analytics, and fellow No Jitter writer, during a general session at Enterprise Connect 2021 to discuss how speech and machine learning technologies have already changed the level of automation in contact centers. Each vendor shared their perspectives on how their customers' attitudes toward automation have shifted in the last couple of years and what lessons they have taken from their own deployments of automation in CX.
Here are some of the key highlights from their stories:
  • Avaya: An AI model is only as good as the data it’s fed, so pay attention to the data. – “AI has a perception problem,” David Chavez, VP, innovation and architecture, Avaya, said, so whenever he talks about AI, Chavez emphasizes a few things. First, AI goes hand-in-hand with data. “The more data that you can apply, the better your AI is going to be overall.” Second, an AI model is only as good as the data it’s fed and that data is only as good as the human curation that’s shaped it. Chavez explained contact centers must have a good plan for how to do curation, and identify bias. For example, if the AI-powered automated model produces a problematic result, human designers must implement a trapdoor in the system so that the customer can actually reach a knowledgeable human rather than allowing the AI or the human to struggle in that customer experience. “Be ready to walk away, regroup, and restart.” You may have to repeat this phrase several times, but "it's not a destination, it's a journey,” Chavez added.
  • Genesys: Make frictionless customer interactions a priority – VP and general manager John Hernandez said the following technologies are vital to orchestrating an automated customer journey: Predictive engagement, digital channels, voice, and chatbots. Creating a fluid transition for customers – from automation to live assistance – will involve looking at a broader view. Hernandez said critical conversations are taking place across all channels, and data should be synchronized between organizations to provide that touchpoint and "ensure that you're taking the friction out of that interaction with the individual customer, so it's definitely a priority, shift in mindset, and data alignment that goes with it."
  • Five9: Before committing to automation, define what success will look like once it’s implemented – Before any company embarks on its automation journey, the leadership must reflect on what a successful automation implementation looks like and what the metrics will be, Callan Schebella, EVP Product said. He elaborated, “How will they know if the application, the service, the system, whatever it is they have built, is successful?” Once you view those success metrics, Schebella said go to your vendor and ask them specifically if they can deliver. “At the end of the day, be aware that you're working with an emerging set of technologies, and though many things are possible, not everything is possible.”
  • NICE: Success depends on the right staff and the right quality management processes – “Automation is more than self-service,” Paul Jarman, CEO, NICE CXone, said. NICE customers are asking for help around creating an intelligent experience. Jarman explained that they recognize the need to add channels, provide self-service, or have cost pressures, but are unsure how to make it happen. “They're looking for a portfolio, a suite, or platform to simplify it, but they're also looking for advice,” Jarman said. He added that customers are moving from what he calls “scripted interactions” to conversational interactions and the digital process doesn’t just start with a bot. For the consumer to have a great experience, “you need excellence in the individual parts of the interaction.” This may require asking if you have the right knowledgeable staff or the right quality management processes in place. Jarman advised when you can deliver a complete suite that incorporates each of individual moments, as well as an orchestration engine that ties them all together to make it more seamless, “then you start to really succeed in that journey.”
  • Talkdesk: Talk to your competitors and peers about how they define success – Charanya (CK) Kannan, chief product and engineering officer, Talkdesk, had three recommendations for any contact center looking to enhance its footprint in AI. First, leverage value assessment projects from your vendor “because you don’t have to [set your goals] by yourself,” she said. Second, “tap into the community.” For example, if you’re a contact center provider in the healthcare space, talk to other healthcare providers and hospital systems to identify what success looks like for them. Lastly, from a product standpoint, do testing with provable metrics – it’ll help build a case for the technology’s value with the leadership team. “A/B testing has been quite positive, she said.
Enterprise Connect pass holders who missed McGee-Smith’s session, "Contact Centers & CX: Blurring the Line Between Automation and Live Assistance," can watch it on-demand here.