Categories: Customer Experience

How AI is shaping the future of contact center operations

“Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss”

At the end of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from the 1971 album, “Who’s Next”, Pete Townshend penned an epic line that is firmly embedded in modern lexicon – “Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss”. Word is Townshend came up with this line at Woodstock, where he began to doubt the impact the event might have in the long term.

The contact center industry finds itself at a similar crossroads, with a pair of immovable objects watermarked and present behind ever customer interaction, whether human-assisted or digital. These two old “bosses” of the physical universe for years have presented themselves often as adversaries on each contact, each pulling in their own selfish direction. Being unavoidable by nature, they are forces that can be leveraged for customer success or can wreak havoc on customer experience.

So, what is this “New Boss, Same as the Old Boss?” force for contact centers? Simply put, it’s efficiency.

The Big Bang of contact center efficiency – time plus one second

Since the first call dropped into an ACD at Continental Airlines in 1973, efficiency has been the prime mover impacting contact center operational outcomes. Driving the need for ultra-high efficiency was (and is) the high cost of human capital – the only inflationary element of running a contact center.

The efficiency paradigm takes up significant residence in routing, reporting metrics, and all elements of contact center operations, and does not cede its place to effectiveness easily. The need for efficiency silently gnaws away at every call, contact, chat, email and message with dozens of background processes evaluating every move in the contact center.

“But what about me?” says effectiveness?

Every subsequent innovation in contact centers since the ACD – CTI, digital engagement, proactive outreach, omnichannel, and workforce engagement management (WEM) were first presented as enhancements to customer engagement, i.e. effectiveness. And yet how were they eventually sold and marketed as drivers of efficiency?

CTI became “save 20 seconds off every call” versus its original intent, which was to enhance personalization and routing effectiveness. “Meet your customer where they’re at with digital” . . . became “reduce your cost per contact by 80% or more”. A contributing factor is that business cases for cost reductions are often easier to identify.

Standing at the precipice of a new era of AI innovation – which force will win, or is a new outcome possible?

Among many, there are two key challenges that contact center AI can help to address. The first is an operational dependency on human capital, which often exceeds 70% of the cost of running the contact center itself. Even with massive automation, remaining voice calls are longer and more complex, countering the ability to reduce headcount.

The second problem AI can help solve is the long-standing tradeoffs in contact center automation efforts. Incoming demand for human assistance often exceeds the resources available to do so, therefore self-service options have historically low completion rates for complex interactions. This leaves both customers dissatisfied and companies frustrated.

AI promises to break through the automation (efficiency) barrier to the satisfaction (effectiveness) of the customer (“Conversational AI”) vs. static menus and lower the cost profile of the business . . . a rare “win-win” . . . (better service and lower cost).

And a third category is emerging, AI will accelerate – the ability to rapidly acquire insights and adjust operations and processes at a pace never seen prior – in the moment, predictively, and preemptively.

Avoiding old news happening to new people

While the potential exists for AI to create a synergistic relationship for efficiency and effectiveness in contact center operations, there are also even more newly emerging use cases that lean even further into driving efficiency. This may be a natural progression for contact center AI – where adoption depends on practical use cases with clear ROI metrics to justify investment.

A 304% ROI and better customer experience? It’s True.

Read Forrester Consulting’s findings to learn how Webex Contact Center can significantly enhance your organization.

Call summarization, automated wrap-up, and suggested responses, all powered by AI and LLMs, provide clear and measurable value – all while freeing up resources to do what they do best – solve customer problems. In the world of AI, efficiency, and effectiveness in the contact center come to a truce.

Check out what Webex by Cisco is thinking regarding contact center AI and our recent announcements to help you provide smart, proactive, and contextual engagement with your customers.

Learn more about Webex Contact Center:

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Published by
Zack Taylor

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