Contact centres no longer the ugly duckling
Who would have thought that the contact centre, in the past an unassuming, non-glamorous expense and outsourced part of a business, would today stand at the frontline of technology innovation?
First, it had to transform to meet the demands of the new customer and so it quickly became an expert of all things interconnected, met the tactics of each social platform, and also understood the mobile customer - dubbing all, the omnichannel.
And now, in a clash of thunder and a flash of lightning, the inconspicuous call centre of old rises again. It is being hailed for having the competitive edge, for being the fountain of an abundance of customer knowledge, for holding the crystal ball containing the be-all and end-all of the customer experience.
All this is due to the rise and rise of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, natural language processing, deep learning, mega volume analytics, and more. In fact, says Google, by 2020, a staggering 85% of customer interactions will be managed without human intervention.
With these statistics in mind, it makes sense that the contact centre is now going through its biggest and most disruptive transformation, obliterating its once-known structure and morphing into something completely new, to become the beating heart of every business.
We're rapidly moving into a world characterised by chatbots and virtual assistants that are able to access and understand a customer's entire history and then draw meaningful insight in real-time - something that is impossible for contact centre agents and other human customer-facing staff to do.
Return on investment
Companies globally have already seen massive success with this approach. China Merchant Bank's front-end bots conduct between 1.5 million and two million customer conversations per day. Amazon has sold more than 30 million units of its Alexa chatbot. Dutch airline KLM provides flight details through Facebook Messenger. LEGO introduced its Gift Bot, Ralph, at the end of last year, to help consumers overcome common holiday-related shopping challenges, using Facebook Messenger to give gift recommendations.
Considering the improved service levels and reduced costs that these organisations are experiencing, it's clear that the time has come to put the AI technologies that engage both customers and businesses under a magnifying glass and make the resultant investment in customer relationships.