Why AI virtual agents will dominate contact centers in 2021
- Changing consumer expectations and preferences in 2020 has moved up the digitization schedule of many industries, forcing new ways of working and this includes the changes affecting contact centers.
Millions of consumers in lockdown flooded contact centers with requests for information and services, highlighting the need for more robust customer service channels that can support higher call volumes and home-based call center workers.
Just like how cloud contact centers have been become the preferred option of major companies like Best Western and John Hancock to enable call agents working remotely, intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) powered by AI and natural language processing are being looked at as reliable, scalable replacements to outdated interactive voice response (IVR) technology to handle surges of consumer requests in 2021.
“Once the pandemic is past and organizations have had an opportunity to assess which of their disaster recovery plans worked most effectively to minimize the impacts of disruption, IVAs will certainly be recognized for their flexibility and contribution during these challenging times,” noted Donna Fluss, the president of DMG Consulting LLC, in DMG’s latest Intelligent Virtual Agent Product and Market Report.
IT shot callers appear to agree, according to a recent survey. More than three-quarters (76%) of respondents believe that intelligent self-service automation has helped them remain agile during the crisis, and one-third plan to invest in voice-based virtual agents over the next year.
With the deluge of contact center interactions on the up, AI- and data-driven IVAs can help handle many of the menial tasks that hold up human agents, such as scheduling appointments, collecting product information, checking inventories, placing orders, and updating account information.
If users add complex conversational flows and backend integrations over time, the virtual agent can handle advanced interactions related to the specific company – those could be related to changing an individual’s credit limit with a bank, for example, or checking where an order is with a retailer.
Virtual agents are not just for support roles; they can assist with alleviating pressure on live agents by handling some of the calls to shorten call queues. Whenever callers need to dispense sensitive personal information, human agents can revert the call to an IVA to collect the info, reducing compliance and data exposure risks.
Contact center technology may gather pace during this period, as organizations realize how IVAs can transform preconceived ideas of the contact center, shifting from one where live agents are benchmarked on call volumes and average call times, to one where the focus is on the quality of customer interaction more than anything else.