Why Automated Self-Service, Why Now: Four Factors Driving Brands to Deploy Artificial Intelligence Based Customer Self-Service
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has risen to the forefront of call center automation priorities. Its promises to lower costs, increase efficiency, boost productivity, and enhance the customer experience are proven now that so many brands have introduced call center AI. But what drove them to this technology? As we all know, you don’t need a solution if you don’t have a problem.
Let’s examine the top four challenges that call centers are facing today and how AI has proven to be a valuable solution.
1. Labor Costs
By labor costs, we are referring to the “true agent cost.” The true agent cost is much more than just the agent’s hourly wage. Since many call centers use cost per call to measure their performance, there is a simple calculation to use for the true agent cost per call: Call Center P&L divided by the Number of Calls. This calculation factors in all the interrelated costs in the Call Center P&L: workforce management, recruiting, training, software, vacancy, and more. Using this method gives a clearer picture of the labor costs in a contact center.
AI enables contact centers to use more and more automation to deliver the same service at a substantially cheaper rate. Once deployed, AI needs far less maintenance than the everyday human agent might.
2. Minimum Wage Increase
Without a doubt, the largest expense in the call center is human labor. As businesses face legislation to increase the minimum wage all across the country, finance and call center managers alike are faced with potential increases to their already high labor costs. It is predicted that in California alone, minimum wage will increase from $10 to $15 an hour by 20221. That’s a 50% increase in just the next five years, and the subsequent unit cost of those agents servicing customers rises along with their wages. Not to mention that if minimum wage goes up, that may lead to boosts in tenured agent pay too in order to maintain equity.
AI, obviously, is not subject to the minimum wage and therefore costs much less once implemented. With the scalability AI offers for automating tasks that the agents had typically handled, it offers an excellent alternative for the non-human-only tasks in the call center.
3. Agent Turnover
This is often the primary challenge that call centers face. Agents turn over at a high rate—between 30-50% (The Everest Group). Whether a company is dealing with constant turnover–paying hiring, training, and retraining costs all the time–or they are spending a fortune on retention programs, this problem is expensive. It can also create issues related to providing consistency, specifically with brand tone, personality, and service level.
AI bots help to reduce that reliance on human agents, so turnover slowly decreases in significance for call center and workforce managers. Additionally, they offer the consistency that companies desire: the same brand image and service level in every customer engagement.
4. Customer Expectations Are Changing
Lastly, new technologies have reshaped customer expectations. Many of today’s customers have a Millennial mindset, even if they are not Millenials themselves, and prefer self-service to communicate with the brands they love. Thanks to the rise of consumer products like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, customers expect to communicate with smart machines using their voice. They also expect accuracy, availability, and personalization in the self-service, and they want to use whichever channel they perceive to be the easiest for accomplishing their task. One analyst put it this way: “Don’t put a human between me and solving my problem.” This is a drastic shift that companies are reckoning with.
Call center automation, specifically AI-based voice solutions, meets the expectations of today and tomorrow’s customer, as Millenials continue to grow with regards to buying power. Customer journey dynamics are changing, so the way call centers operate needs to evolve as well. Many organizations have already turned to AI solutions to contend with these challenges.
With an AI platform in place, these pressures are less magnified. AI can be utilized not only to enable productivity, but also to improve and enhance the customer experience.
1 Heritage Foundation