The nature of human species is to adapt to changes. This is the driving factor that pushes humankind forward over the whole history. When we observe some of the past global crises, we can see that changes and consequent adaptations are happening even faster. Rapid changes in our day to day lives seem to be unnatural in the beginning but pretty quickly become a standard without even notice.
It is usually start-ups that leverage these changes. Sometimes they even flip over the established orders on their own. Think about Amazon, Uber, or Airbnb. In the beginning, they all were named fools but the time has proven their vision. They moved the society forward towards something more productive than before.
The current coronavirus outbreak will reveal new tools built around the environment changes. Businesses will adopt them to survive the crisis and even strengthen their future.
Online is “healthier” than offline
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen many companies being locked down. Those that have at least part of the business already in the cloud - abstracted from the physical world - moved their employees to home offices. So needed social distancing reveals that online is much healthier than offline. Who would have thought of this a few weeks ago!
We’ve talked to several large businesses in the telecommunication and banking industry. Call center employees of these companies have to be present on the field to actually deliver the support. The managers had to split their teams into separate entities that won't meet each other. This precaution limits the possible infection between teams. In case of a positive test to COVID-19 at one team won't put the whole call center personnel into quarantine.
At the same time, those companies are facing significant growth in customer support recently. For instance, people want to postpone the loan payment due to loss of income. Or they want to speed up the home internet connection to handle daily video conferences. High load results in high pressure on reduced support teams. It also prolongs waiting times of customers making the whole situation even more frustrating.
Automated online customer support
That all put together results in businesses considering a shift to online support channels more than before. The natural next step is to provide self-service and automation of repetitive inquiries. It doesn’t make sense anymore to hire another live agent and provide him or her with a landline telephone.
Introducing virtual customer support assistants doesn’t need to blow up your budget. It actually should decrease the cost of your call center. Thus, you should always focus on high return on investment (ROI). There are several proven factors that ensure the success of the transition.
1. Focus on channels with high load
A key value lies in the channel where most of the customer support could happen. There are plenty of online channels, however, not everyone is that suitable for automation. For instance, email questions usually contain longer text with vague explanations with more than one issue. Contrary to email, modern messaging channels are good candidates.
Usually, webchat is the channel with the highest traffic. If you don’t have any, it’s time to think about one. Also, if you suffer from a small load on messaging channels, there are techniques to drive the traffic there. We will be covering this topic with later posts.
2. Automate the most repetitive tasks
The second most important parameter to the ROI equation is the level of automation. So, you should focus on the most repetitive questions in the beginning. The source of truth sits in the historical data. Your help-desk software stores past conversations. These data can be clustered so you could see where to start. Or if you don't have this data, pick your template answers your team is operating with.
3. Measure and analyze
One of the most neglected areas after the virtual assistant implementation is analytics. You should be aware of the level of automation and the actual traffic happening on automated channels. Otherwise, it's impossible to calculate the business value and improve it over time.
4. Improve over time
There should be a project roadmap of the whole implementation process. It makes sense to start with a limited solution and measure the outcome on a smaller scale and increase the automation over time. There also should be an employee responsible for the virtual assistant design and maintenance in your organization. This is how new employee positions arise - AI Assistant Designer, AI Trainer, AI Manager - there is no name for this position yet.
Why does it make sense to react now?
Coming back to the biology aspects we’ve discussed in the beginning, we know that the human body reacts to any outside danger immediately. The body floods the adrenaline hormone that puts us into nearly superpower state for a limited time. Similarly to the ongoing crises, we should alarm our business to move faster than ever. Decisions have to be made now with open minds to disruptive ways to put superpowers to us, our employees, and the whole business. Only a foolish person would consider quarantine as a time of holidays.
If you consider the current situation as an opportunity as we do and you want to start with customer support automation straight away, feel free to reach me.