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  • CCConcierge

Efficiency Should Serve Customer Service

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

The recent introduction of advanced customer self-service technology in the Contact Center industry offers enormous promise if handled properly. But it also comes with an all too familiar peril - customer alienation.


When the traditional Interactive Voice Response (IVR) was introduced, it was quickly adopted by the call center world as offering cost reductions and the hope of better customer service. Unfortunately, it was a failure with customers as they felt trapped in a frustrating maze of transfers through various departments, sometimes seven levels deep. Customers rebelled with 60% opting out of the merry-go-round by pressing 0 for a live agent at the beginning of a call. This left customers with a bad taste in their mouth, and they became distrustful of corporate customer service technology. Now let's move forward.

The IVA and a New Day

The Intelligent Virtual Agent (IVA) replacing the IVR is now all the rage. It is backed by advanced artificial technology (AI) and accompanied by chat bots, knowledge bots, language recognition software, digital FAQs, and voice-to-text, offering a sophisticated solution to real quality customer self-service with the possibility of a 40% reduction in calls to live agents. See the FIVE9 IVA video below. Repetitive tasks can be assigned to self-learning technology and, therefore, less agents equals reduced costs. What could go wrong?

Missing humans! Technology needs humans and this AI technology needs to be taught, guided, and adjusted by the contact centers themselves. Offering the best and most efficient customer service should come first, with the prospect of cost reductions second. Customers do want the option of 24/7/365 self-service options. Based upon prior experience with being put on hold with long wait times, most customers do not want to call a contact center if there is an easier alternative. Therefore, contact centers need to hire and train a sufficient number of savvy employees specifically to handle and monitor this AI technology, especially after introduction. If contact centers use this technology as a gatekeeper to block customers from getting to live agents simply to save headcount, then they will do a disservice to their customers, the technology, and to their brand.

This brief blog was written based on a real experience and not a hypothetical one. Even if you are a professional who works in the contact center industry, we still all deal with it on a personal level too. This author opened a second account online with a national company I had dealt with for 15 years. Unfortunately, the new account developed problems straight away. This well-established company used all the latest online AI technology but with no proper human oversight to make sure issues were being resolved. This left the account inoperable still after 13 days even though I requested live help several times. The solution - I simply opened an account with a rival company who also used AI technology, but they had the option of getting live agent assistance to correct any problems quickly. The moral of the story is this - technology is great only if humans are not left out of the equation. It is not enough for a contact center to buy AI software, install it, and wash their hands of it. They are the parent, and it is the child. It has the ability to develop into a sophisticated entity but only if it is nurtured and supervised. Why does it matter? Because customer loyalty depends on resolving customer issues in a timely manner. Once a customer leaves, the brand is damaged, and revenue is lost.


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