Virtual Agents are Automating the Contact Center: Natural Language Greeting & Intent Capture

With all of the new improvements and changes in modern day customer service technology, it’s no surprise that customer expectations have evolved to follow suit as well. Customers want better and faster self-service options, especially in the voice channel thanks to the popularity and increased adoption of conversational home/personal assistants. Since a dial-tone IVR is not be the best option for more extensive automation, many businesses are looking into implementing a more sophisticated solution: natural language “front door” that captures customer intent, replaces nested phone tree menus, and streamlines conversations. This is the first of four ways that virtual agents are automating the contact center.

Now more than ever, customers want fast and efficient service. Reaching the right agent at the first attempt is a prerequisite for an effortless, fast customer experience, but touch-tone systems and single word command menus are somewhat limited in their capabilities and options to precisely determine a customer’s needs. By comparison,  natural language capabilities help to more directly and accurately capture caller intent and route the call accordingly, making the conversation a more seamless and quick experience.

Navigating poorly designed DTMF touch-tone systems and single word command menus can cause issues with proper routing and ultimately result in internal transfers, which is a large expense for contact centers. You’re probably familiar with the process – you call a company’s customer service line and get a single word command menu that prompts you for a word describing your need. You say, “Problem with my bill,” but since the system can only handle single-word commands, you’re forced to repeat it or try saying it another way, which also doesn’t work. Annoyed, you hit the “0” key to try and just get to a live person, which you do but it is ultimately not the right person.

Because in this case the caller does often not reach an appropriately skilled resource, this “opt-out” will typically result in a transfer, and very often a “cold” transfer. Cold transfers occur when agents route calls to other agents internally without gathering information about the customer and passing it along. Not only are cold transfers frustrating for customers who have to repeat themselves, but they also are the cause of large expenditures within call centers. Numerous internal transfers lead to increased and lengthy average handling times for live agents, which can be incredibly expensive for companies. While cold transfers are more of an agent training issue, it often begins when customers are either unsure which menu option they should choose or try and circumnavigate the menu altogether.

To meet customer expectations, contact centers should be complementing their existing IVR platforms with cloud contact center solutions and virtual agents to capture intent and route the call to the proper department along with all customer information that’s been captured. Incorporating a conversational AI front door meets customer demands for fast and effortless experiences, and creates seamless conversations that your customers can easily self-navigate. Your business benefits through increased cost-savings from a reduced number of internal transfers and reduced agent minutes. In fact, by automating the front door and additional self-service in voice and chat, an innovative e-retailer experienced a 45-second reduction in average handling times, with 18.5% fewer calls being transferred to live agents. The best part was that they did not need to rip-and-replace any existing systems, since the cloud-based virtual agents integrate seamlessly with their existing NICE inContact CXone platform.

Dozens of leading businesses have implemented a natural language front door solution to optimize the customer experience and reduce the unnecessary costs of internal cold transfers.

Check back next month for the second of our four-part series on how virtual agents are automating the contact center!