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Conversational Service Automation: Redefining Customer Service A significant portion problems relating to poor customer experience can be eliminated or fixed with technological advancements such as artificial intelligence

By Umesh Sachdev

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Customers today have a multitude of choices. They are easily distracted, pressed for time, brand promiscuous and focus on instant gratification. When a customer chooses to engage with a brand, she expects the brand to treat her time as valuable. Today, the fast-changing customer dynamics has driven the movement towards smooth and frictionless customer experiences, from service providers.

Poor customer experience is one of the fundamental reasons why companies incur loss. In the US alone, companies lose $75 billion a year, a $13 billion increase from 2016 (source: NewVoiceMedia) due to poor customer care. A significant portion of these problems, however, can be easily eliminated or fixed, especially with technological advancements such as artificial intelligence (AI). Today it is possible to drive efficient customer engagement and deliver a superior customer experience, at scale, through AI.

Customer service and the contact center is the backbone of service-based industries and a critical driver of customer experience. Though there is a growing use of AI in the sector, enterprises have not taken full advantage of the technology. They have deployed combinations of process automation, chatbots, email, analytics and biometric security to open new paths for engagement and conversation. But quick-fix customer experience solutions that deliver a nondescript, impersonal brand experience result in unhappy customers, looking for alternatives.

In order to improve the efficiency and quality of the customer experience, enterprises need to gradually do away with siloed offerings and dependence on poorly equipped human agents. They must approach service holistically and merge the skills of individual, AI and automation to truly listen to their customers in real-time and understand their conversations better.

The Future

A new category of solutions for companies to offer transformational customer service experiences, uses AI as a core component. Conversational service automation, or CSA, is the future of customer service. CSA is a combination of different, overlapping categories such as data analytics, conversational analytics, IVR systems, voice bots, security, robotic process automation and customer feedback history, working together in real time. This solution optimizes and drives both automated human to machine interactions as well as direct conversations between contact center agents and customers.

Any Interaction is "Conversational'

Customer interactions are "conversational' irrespective of it taking place through website, chat, voice, IVR, with a human, a chatbot, a website, mobile app or with a wider social media universe. Conversations are complex, especially when customers are engaging with you across multiple channels, which is why it is imperative that enterprises must be equipped with an understanding of context, sentiment, behavior and real intent in real time.

When a bot says it will send you a follow-up email or call you back, intelligent automated digital agents must be able to resolve the issue in real time, with the added ability to seamlessly handover it to a human, should the need arise. The underlying AI and analytics layer should be able to help you understand your customer better, offer the best service or next best product and deliver enhanced personalization.

The Automation Platform

Between the automation solutions provided by RPA providers (who focus on back office automation) and solutions provided by contact center infrastructure providers, there lies a huge gap. This gap can only be bridged by an intelligent end to end, automation platform designed specifically for the contact center needs, which can also go further to bridge the front office and back office, thus allowing for a seamless flow of information.

The solution should be able to listen conversations in real time, across multiple channels and then take appropriate automated action by using an intelligent AI-enabled platform that can learn as it works. This has multiple benefits for the contact center and the enterprise. The platform helps reduce the work load on human agents, it provides real-time data to call center managers to aid in decision making, it increases the accuracy of information shared with customers and most important of all it provides a customer experience that is now free from unnecessary stress and hold time on calls, thus creating a positive brand interaction.

CSA improves the front office function at call centers with automation. Imagine this interaction. A customer engages with a voice bot/chat bot for quick, simple resolution of a query. The voice bot pulls up the data from the customers' previous interaction with the enterprise, uses an easy voice interface to collect customer inputs and addresses the query. Should the interaction get more complicated, the bot can hand over the interaction to a human agent seamlessly via a live transfer. The bot then uses behavioral coaching to provide the human with the next best attractive offer to present to the customer who accepts it. Simultaneously, an analytics layer gets an RPA bot to carry out the required process so the order can be actioned. The human interacting with the customer is thus able to inform them that the request is being processed as they speak. The usefulness of such a platform does not end there; this solution also automates the after-call work that an agent typically must fill in. Elements such as call summary, customer sentiment are captured and shared with the backend CRM system thus saving on the agent's time.

Path Towards a Greater Efficiency

There is a $350 billion global contact center industry that will get disrupted by CSA. With CSA, companies can achieve better cost efficiencies while simultaneously improving their customer service delivery. The future of customer service is here.

Umesh Sachdev

Co-founder and CEO, Uniphore

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