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Monday, 25 April 2022 09:32

Artificial intelligence and automation: The future of customer experience in the telco industry

By Ravi Saraogi, co-founder and president, Uniphore APAC

GUEST OPINION: The pandemic has altered the business landscape forever, and telecommunications has been a focal point in that evolution. With businesses permanently moving workforces to remote and hybrid models, and more individuals relying on secure and stable connectivity, the need for fast mobile and internet connection has never been higher.

This transition is coupled with profound changes to the telco organisations themselves. Contact centres are moving back to Australian shores due to the pandemic’s impact on available agents, but also partly due to positive sentiments from customers.

Today, many telecommunications contact centre staff are able to work from home, or from remote offices. Additionally, a growing proportion of customer service transactions now occur via digital channels. For one organisation this figure grew from 53% in June 2020 to 71% the following year. Of the telecommunications service providers currently operating in Australia, nine are listed as having contact centres in Australia, and a further seven have both local and overseas contact centres.

There is a definitive shift in the telecommunications market in Australia, with a recent report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) stating that the large incumbents are losing market share to smaller providers, especially in the National Broadband Network (NBN) space. These smaller providers predominantly have contact centre services in Australia and aim to win market share by providing strong competition.

As ACCC commissioner Anna Brakey stated when the report was released, “We are glad to see the continued growth from smaller NBN providers. Their presence in the market keeps pressure on the big four to maintain a high-quality, competitive service.” Ultimately, with a smaller workforce focused on contact centres in Australia, it becomes imperative for telecommunications companies to provide the best tools for their employees, and empower them for successful customer interactions.

According to research from IBISWorld, technological developments will likely be of significant benefit to industry operators over the period 2021-2026, as operators increasingly use digital channels, such as online chat services, to increase productivity. In order to enable this, Australian telcos should focus on customer self-service, after call work, and post-interaction analytics as key areas to drive business growth while ensuring superior customer experience.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can enhance self-service operations
Simple contact-centre tasks can be automated and driven through self-service channels such as intelligent virtual assistants to improve CX. Such solutions leverage AI and natural language processing (NLP) to provide chatbots and voice-over bots with sophisticated capabilities. This allows customers to resolve straightforward issues quickly and easily on their own, reducing the volume of calls moving to contact centre agents.

This also provides a telecommunications company with the ability to let customers take care of basic customer services themselves, on-demand. Should the automated service fail to find a fast, easy resolution the call can seamlessly be transferred to a live agent.

Conversational automation for better customer interaction
Using an AI-powered platform like conversational automation can allow telco providers to truly deliver transformational customer service experiences as well as improve automation to lower costs. A conversational automation platform can address the entire conversational experience for both customers and contact centre agents, using conversational AI, RPA, and workflow automation to blend front-office and back-office operations. Conversational AI provides contact centre employees with increased information flow during a call, presenting them with information, in real-time, that is relevant to the conversation they are having with their customer. This empowers better customer service and enriches the overall service experience.

For example, AI-driven capabilities can deliver in-call alerts (real-time insights), guidance and real-time automation of repetitive agent tasks all while the agent is being co-piloted with AI. These features can play a pivotal role in building detailed customer personas for improved customer service.

For every query, complaint and call that comes in, contact centres collect an abundance of real-world data. This allows AI-led tech to learn about customers more intimately, making sense of what a customer prefers, identifying patterns, uncovering hidden relations, and systematising customer data. All these factors go towards making the entire customer request more comprehensible for human agents, and empowers them to take appropriate and timely action.

Automating after call work
After call work (ACW) represents a central component of contact centre operations, consuming considerable agent time and attention. This part of the process requires agents to summarise and detail interactions after every call along with categorisation of each call for promise keeping. It is usually required that agents complete this work before connecting with their next customer. ACW is generally a time-consuming process, and as such, is prone to human error.

Additionally, supervisors can instantly connect to urgent situations, with immediate access to the dashboard. This allows them to quickly step in and deliver agent support as needed, as well as prove an opportunity to improve CX.

Capturing key conversation details provides a comprehensive summary after the call. Agents can edit the summary if needed and instantly upload it to their internal system, thereby increasing data accuracy. The time and effort saved allows agents to quickly move to helping the next customer, as well as focusing their attention on providing personalised customer service with empathy and care. This will allow telecommunication organisations to decrease customer hold times, providing an immediate ROI.

Improving post interaction analysis for superior CX
The next stage where telecommunication companies can recognise time and cost savings is the automation of post-call analysis. This allows service providers to extract data easily and automatically from every customer interaction and use those findings to improve business efficiencies. AI capabilities enhance the value of post-interaction analysis so telecommunication companies can coach contact centre agents to perform better, identify areas for business improvement and optimise overall internal processes.

Using this post-call analysis, companies can detect customer and agent-centric patterns from a large data pool, whether that data came from voice, email, or chat. The analysis of this data empowers them to identify potential points of friction in the customer journey, as well as deep insights into their contact centre’s daily operations. All of these insights provide opportunities to optimise CX.

With more competition, more contact centres in Australia and reduced staff, the industry is primed to undergo further digital transformation. Putting the right technologies in place will empower better customer service, and give providers a competitive advantage.

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