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Friday, 23 September 2022 11:34

The impact of talent shortages in Australia can be reduced with the right technology solutions

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

GUEST OPINION: Unemployment in Australia is currently sitting at historically low levels leaving companies with challenges in recruiting and employing new staff. As such, organisations are looking for innovative ways to attract prospective employees.

Coupled with this, the pandemic has had an impact on employee mental health as well, with as many as 76% of contact centre employees reporting that Covid mostly had a negative effect on their wellbeing.

These issues are further compounded by attrition, as employees seek higher wages to combat inflationary pressures and associated higher costs of living.

As employers try ever-harder to secure talent, omni-channel, recruitment campaigns have become commonplace, and so have ads on social media community forums, noticeboards in shopping centres, signage outside stores, and online marketplaces. There are over 50% more job ads than there were in June 2019, and applicants per ad have decreased by nearly 5% month-on-month.

The feasibility of using more skilled migrants is still difficult with border restrictions and ongoing roadblocks and long wait times for visas. Simply put, the Australian economy has grown to the point where talent resources are stretched thin and supply is unable to meet demand.

In the words of previous Prime Minister Scott Morrison in May 2022, job creation is the “single biggest challenge facing the Australian economy today," and with well over 400,000 jobs that currently cannot be filled, the situation will remain challenging for a while.

Technology is being touted as a means of improving this deficit and enabling organisations to maintain their full business functionality – despite a lack of human resources.

Take for example the contact centre department which sits at the very heart of many major organisations; and acts as the information conduit between the company and its customers.

With fewer employees available to fulfill roles, customer wait times increase, thereby reducing the overall satisfaction with the organisation’s customer service. This is an unfortunate situation that, traditionally, could not have been avoided. Customer sentiment inevitably drops with fewer available agents to handle sales and service inquiries - a situation that can be rectified with a forward-looking business plan and the right technology.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can now be found across many pillars of a modern business, in departments including contact centres, sales and marketing, operations, and the supply chain.

Deploying AI-powered, automated customer experience tools in a contact centre will empower a company to maintain its customer engagement levels despite reduced resources.

This may take the form of virtual, AI-powered tools which enhance a customer’s journey across all stages of contact with organisations.

Automating calls according to their needs and urgency reduces the risk of overwhelming a business. At the same time, it reduces the burden on hard-working agents who are being called upon to handle greater call loads. Prioritising calls through an automated platform gives time back to contact centre employees and allows them to focus on more complex tasks such as problem-solving, referring customers to different departments, and training or upskilling junior employees.

Certain calls can be handled by chatbots if they are straightforward. Others can be directed automatically to the appropriate department, or to online resources that help solve the customer’s issue.

During a customer call, AI-powered applications can enhance an agent’s capabilities by presenting them with additional, supportive information in real-time. Effectively, an advanced application can engage with a customer on call and ascertain their needs, presenting layers of information that would otherwise require to be found manually by the employee. These include elements like historical purchase data and suggested products or services.

Tracking and fulfilling promises made to customers is a very important element in the process of enhancing customer experience. This is an onerous task when done manually, but again, tools now exist that will extract, track, and fulfill commitments made by an agent during a call in real-time, therefore aligning customer expectations with actual outcomes quickly and efficiently.

Again, this AI-powered automation will help cut down the manual hours spent on follow-ups and allow agents more time to focus on delivering an outstanding customer experience.

After Call Work (ACW) can also be enhanced by automating processes, again speeding up customer wait times and increasing customer satisfaction. This can take the form of call categorisation and summarisation, updating of relevant systems and information, taking follow-up actions on promises made to customers during every interaction, and more. By automating ACW, companies are seeing 60 to 80% reductions in follow-up times, which again allows that organisation to do more, with less.

The outcomes of these technological improvements will be two-fold. On one hand, customers will receive faster, more detailed responses to their inquiries. On the other, employees will feel their burden reduced, and be empowered to offer more value to each customer contact.

Effectively, the automation of contact services via the use of AI-powered applications will see companies continue their success and manage to achieve more, even with limited available talent.

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