Is your Call Center optimised for Peak? It can now

No traditional call center can be optimized for peak. But that’s what call centers should be doing in the first place.

To put that in perspective let’s take a few situations

Situation 1: You are launching a new product, you have many campaigns running across various media and a lot of information about what you want to launch is out there. It could be a product, a feature, a new service or service line -you put some information out there on that. There are ad agencies, marketing teams, on field staff, event organisers, and even your sales teams that are geared up for the occasion. They all ensure that the data you put out there is good and appealing to the market segment you are targeting. And yet… on launch, there are a few variables that you couldn’t gear up for. The response is fantastic. There are thousands of calls every minute enquiring about a feature that was there in some media but not in others, rather not clearly visible in some campaigns. Or some information that was of concern to many many but did not come up in the survey as really important. Or simply to book / order the product or service!

The call centers were trained and equipped with the details on the product but the system couldn’t handle the sheer traffic. There weren’t just enough people even though all leaves were cancelled and extra systems were put in place. The SLA capacity was half the capacity available today and yet the extra wasn’t enough to cater to the hype around the launch plus the usual regular volume of the call center. This also raises questions on the product as the first experience with the enterprises wasn’t that great for most who called in!

An excellent product took a beating on the day of the planned launch in spite of an excellent campaign, or shall I daresay because of an excellent campaign.

Situation 2: There is an unfortunate event. You had to shut certain operations for a while. Its all over the news. It was sudden and you didn’t have enough time or budget to react properly. You released a press statement but it wasn’t published everywhere.

Your current call center is jammed with calls from your existing customers. They just need someone to tell them that you will be back or that servicing will continue for a while. But they just cant get through. That gets them more frustrated and can lead to mob attacks, legal cases and more.

An externality caused irreparable damage to your brand

Situation 3: It’s a regular day. Your call center receives calls from customers / visitors on the product or service or they have a complaint or issue with. Your agents provide them with information or advise them. If the problem is not resolved they register a complaint by raising a ticket. Then the “feet on street” get involved to close the ticket.

Here basically the call center is simply managing the drawbacks in the product or service. It could be technical, functional, ergonomical, etc

Any contact center worldwide will be catering to either of the above situations any given day. These agents have limitations and so does the infrastructure to cater to situations 1 and 2 above. When actually that should be the raison d’etre for any contact center. It doesn’t actually exist to compensate the complexities in a product or service – which should be work in progress as far as the product is concerned or automation when it comes to service.

Unfortunately, the reality is that you cannot really optimise any call center for scale. The unit economics won’t just add up. Some times in cases of external entities that you outsource for the operations they may be able to add on some additional infrastructure to manage for planned events (i.e. launch, etc) for a while. But it doesn’t work out if its sudden or unexpected and the scale also is within limits. Its almost impossible to bring in 4 times the workforce, train them to answer questions and handle the software to help the customer or prospect in need.

Apart from these sheer availability challenges there is the issue of quality of the hardware, software and human resources in question.

Up until Light Information Systems launched the Cognitive process automation platform NLPBots there was hardly any alternative to the call center. The contact center was a bunch of people manning calls (VOIP or telephony switches) from terminals and some hardware or software was used to route the calls to the appropriate agent based on their availability or expertise. This system had many limiting factors including

  1. Inconsistency – depended on the mood of the agent and caller
  2. Authentication –  was linked to some pieces of information verbally furnished by the caller
  3. Information gathering inefficiencies – the caller having to repeat authentication information or complaint to multiple agents
  4. Confusing – Lengthy IVR messages which may not have the option the caller was looking for. (if we knew what the caller wanted anyways why have the call center in the first place!)
  5. Zero personalisation – its always another agent who has no clue of what the caller is going through or went through with the previous agent.
  6. Action plan – in case the caller was required to take some action there was no way to send over some documentation.

All this of course if you somehow made your way to the top of the queue and actually spoke to an agent!

Of course, since there wasn’t a viable alternative and the demand was huge enterprise, (being enterprising of course!) came up with solutions both software and hardware to compensate for the shortcomings to some extent. Cisco, Avaya, IBM, etc created these solutions to optimise the contact center. You had software that opened up once the authentication was done with some sort of history on the caller and the service, in some cases the contact center would work in conjunction with an SMS provider who could messages with information back to the caller, also Caller identification provided by the telecom service provider. But the gaps still remained and the original problem of sheer availability couldn’t be overcome. By some estimates, the losses to enterprise in terms of sales and brand ran into hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Enter the Multifunctional Cognitive Agents or NLPBots.

Built on the cognitive process automation platform (CPAP) these agents can be trained on any data set and connected to any software systems and cater to any stakeholder external or internal and automate processes that ease their pain instantly.

Training: Even a single MfCA (Multifunctional Cognitive Agent – NLPBot) can be trained on  multiple processes and entertain multiple user groups

The NLPBots can converse in multiple languages depending on the customer’s choice.

The NLPbots are consistent and engage in the best quality conversations no matter what the mood of the caller is.

The NLPBots don’t forget. Every returning customer is greeted based on their previous experience.

The MfCAs come with automatic intent classification- which means that the customer doesn’t have to go with any IVR. They just speak / chat with the system and the NLPBot classifies the intent based on a) what the customer said b) the customer profile and c) purchase history.

The NLPBots can be trained to take action based on the conversation such as send an SMS or email to the caller with the details discussed or even the entire chat transcript. Or generate a ticket for the service teams on the Ticketing software.

And above all…

Scale:

Scale Numbers: The NLPBots can be scaled anytime or automatically with the increase in usage to cater to peak. System also automatically queues requests if needed.

Scale Processes: The scale is not just in numbers of agents to manage the peak volumes of users but also in processes. Which means that if a bot is used to cater to customers by helping them with product information or service processes but can scale to engage visitors from your advertising campaign with information with the same product playbook training from customer handling. It can also “listen” to social media conversations on your product or service and take action if needed. It can even schedule appointments or even collect payments depending on the channel.

Scale Channels: The NLPbots can also scale channels and give a completely omnichannel experience to the customer. They can begin a conversation in one channel such as FB messenger and continue the conversation on Whatsapp. Of course, the customer will have to identify themselves for this seamless experience

The new age of enterprise cognition is here and all enterprises have to adapt to it. Till now the argument was the “taking away” of jobs, the lack of training data, etc. Today the COVID 19 Pandemic has alas exposed the frail nature of our human bodies and enterprises that have to survive have to be competitive and provide the services to humans with or without them doing all the work. The Multifunctional cognitive agents like NLPBots will ensure that your customers have the best personalized experience at the lowest cost to your enterprise while ensuring that they keep learning to be able to do more and more functions by adding data sets and processes. With the increase in unstructured data being generated through social media, emails, soft communication, collaborative channels, etc any enterprise that doesn’t make sense of it in real time misses out big time! Watch this space for more on that…

Customer Centric Cognitive Process Automation

Enter Cognitive Process automation, the next wave in automation where the cognitive powers that we have can be handed over to the machines to do a better job with it.

When you think about cognition you typically think about something that a human can do and not a machine, that’s where the Cognitive Process automation of NLPBots comes into the picture. CPA automates any process where traditionally human cognition (speech, understanding of text, ability to read and understand, see and understand, etc..) is required. NLPBots CPA platform helps you to achieve Customer centric Cognitive process Automation – Automating your key processes keeping the customer in the center and focusing on the outcomes like better customer experience and lower cost. Here better customer experience is used as a catch all phrase to represent things like zero wait times, 24×7 availability, omni channel and a personal support personnel (artificial though) for each of your customers that always remembers. Essentially the cognitive capabilities of the system rather than humans propels the scale of operations

Disconnected Customer journeys – different problems different departments

Let’s say you called a bank /credit card company/ telecom service to mention a few of the key product/service support scenarios that everyone would  have experienced.. (if you have never contacted your bank or telecom service provider ever in your life stop reading this – you are either too young or you are an alien and your planet already evolved CPA to the next level)

While enquiring about your transactions or a refund status you decided to check on your loan account, you get transferred to another person in another department,  while doing the loan account enquiry, if you decide to ask about something else, you will get tossed to someone else in another department and so on and so forth. This scenario arises because most of the enterprises are organised into internal processes and departments with certain focused skill sets and they translate this directly into the customer which is not a customer centric approach. In a customer centric approach, the customer gets a single window to address all their queries and problems. Irrespective of how the organisation is set up internally. This poses an additional challenge of training human workforce to deal with a myriad of problems that the customer is facing, and if your customer base is large, the problem is even more severe since it will be a challenge to train a large workforce (call center) to deal with a variety of issues rather than siloed training. With CPA you can have a single customer centric window and assistant that helps the customer with all of their issues irrespective of the department that the issue belongs to with intelligent escalations to solve the customer problem 100%, 100% of the time.

Typically no call centre can be set up for peak volumes at all times without keeping a lot of idle work force and you always hit a peak volume whenever the customer is desperate for some support (e.g. a service / product outage). A customer reaching out at a bad time and facing long queues and compromised service quality could negate the entire good will build up over the years. The Only solution is cognitive process automation that automatically scales as per the customer demand.

Remember the customer

Have you ever experienced a call drop/disconnect while describing a problem to a support personnel and having to start all over again when you get connected to a new person when you call again. What if you get to talk to the same person every time you reach out for help or support. With NLPBots CPA organizations can afford to offer a personal assistant to every customer at a lower cost.

Omni channel interaction

The experience of the customer reaching out to the organization should be consistent irrespective of the channel of interaction and the history/knowledge of the interaction should be utilized in every channel and interaction for providing a consistent and superlative customer centric experience. Today this is possible only with NLPBots CPA. With NLPBots you can have a personal AI agent dedicated to every customer and the same agent deals with the customer irrespective of whether the customer calls in, interacts over Whatsapp, gets in touch from the mobile app or over email.

Chatbots are the new HTML5

Chatbots, AI Assistant etc. have been seeing a good uptake with enterprises but does it actually help in a strategic scale. It may help for you to get some temporary tactical benefits. Typical chat bots work with intent classification with scripted dialogues, this does not help the organization to get any kind of strategic benefit or generate any kind of usable AI learnings at all. The more you want to turn customer centric and add areas of support for the customer on your chat bot the less accuracy you get and more scripting you will have to do, to a point of the chatbot completely failing to scale beyond a point. This is usually the time the enterprise starts looking for a new technology to replace the chatbots as we start seeing now with some of the early adopters of intent based chatbots.

Yes, it may help in catering to a specific group of customers reaching out to you with a specific request; with this level of predictability (specific customer group for a specific problem) enterprises can design and script a very nice html5 page to cater to these customers. Instead of scripting, the dialogues deploy the resources to script in HTML.. Chat is just a channel and the enterprise should look at what is the automation that can be achieved with powerful AI and NLP while keeping the customer and the desired outcomes in the center. CPA helps you achieve this while keeping a very personalized engaging omni channel exchange with your customers.

RPA is Robotic

As the name implies. It duplicates repetitive robotic human action without any intelligence and cognition. If you are repetitively opening a specific excel sheet in a specific folder on your computer and copying a specific cell (based on row and column without an understanding of what the cell is about) in an excel sheet into a DB, you can use RPA to automate it. If any kind of decision making is coming into the picture RPA fails. In the same example if you are looking for something specific based on your understanding and deciding on the action based on what you find (a value for e.g) you need cognitive process automation for the machine to act like you automate the process. Cognitive Process Automation is always AI first, Approaching CPA via an RPA route is like trying to convert a bullock cart into an electric car rather than looking for an electric car in the first place.

The next wave – Cognitive Process Automation

A customer centric approach is essential for businesses today and ultimately it is the understanding through cognition of NLPBots that drives the automation and helps the organization to offer a better customer experience at scale while lowering costs. Some of the Key features of the NLPBots CPA platform that helps organization is customer centric cognitive process automation are as follows.

  • NLPBots Platform understands Unstructured data at Human Parity (Patents pending) levels – Whether it is documents, Videos, Images – the system understand the data as it is just like a human without having the break up the documents or videos or images into manual tags or scripted dialogues.
  • Powerful UI and workflow designer to configure the automation, define and manage workflows, manage the data and users, etc..
  • Integrates with any enterprise system, UI configuration for new API hooks
  • Omnichannel (multiple processes with single window)
  • Hosted on any cloud or premise, security as per your organization policies and organization owns the AI learnings for the future.