Agent-assisted automation is a form of technology that is becoming increasingly popular among call centers around the world. Already employed by many companies and integrated into their business processes, agent-assisted automation provides solutions that, when properly implemented provide fast, effective service to customers, while reducing effort and input required from staff.
Under ideal circumstances, such automation could even lead to lower personnel requirements, allowing businesses to either enjoy an increased capacity to service clients or alternatively reduce costs by maintaining smaller teams.
The forms of agent-assisted automation available to prospective adopters is fairly extensive and is set to grow even further as systems such as ‘machine learning’ and ‘artificial-intelligence’ continuously become more refined, nuanced, cheaper, and accessible.
At its most basic level, Agent-assisted automation can be classified under two forms; business-facing, which assists customer service representatives and client-facing, which provides direct automated assistance.
A few of the more popular applications for agent assisted automation are listed below:
Pre-recorded systems and self service
In situations that require the same, sometimes lengthy, information to be provided multiple times flawlessly and in-full, the minimization of the human element in such situations is often beneficial and desirable. Customers can also input data via the keypad upon receiving pre-recorded verbal prompts allowing for a varying degree of self-service.
In this situation, human intervention is only provided in cases where the client desires it or in atypical situations that the automated system is not specified to handle. Agent-assisted automation in this scenario enables the service team to handle a larger number of customers. This form of automation is already highly popular and is used extensively.
Data protection for sensitive information
Related to the use of pre-recorded messages is the additional security afforded to customers via automated assistance. With fraud and identity theft posing a constant threat to businesses and their customers, particularly in the banking, credit and other financial sectors, the ability for customers to interact securely with an automated system are invaluable.
Customers can enter sensitive data such as credit card information via their phone keypads, the key-tones of which are standardized via software to prevent the inputs from being determined either by customer service representatives or by third parties who may be intercepting the communication. This technology enables greater security for any financial transactions or enquiries taking place via phone such as phone-banking or checking credit card details.
Automated and semi-automated outbound services
While inbound focused agent-assisted automation has been widely adopted by most call centers; an emerging field of use for these automated and semi-automated systems is in outbound services, the most prominent of which is in telemarketing. So called ‘Robot’ callers have been in use for several years, but better designed systems coupled with advancements in technology and machine cognition have resulted in new automated systems that can pass for human albeit not perfectly.
The new caller systems make use of a large database of pre-recorded responses that it can access and play based on inputs provided by customers, this allows the software to maintain a far more responsive and active role in the conversation, responding to questions and maintaining a conversational tone.
While such systems are already ‘in-play’ with a few firms, they are not yet perfected and it may be a while before such systems can flawlessly replicate a natural-feeling human to human experience. However, at the lower end of the tech spectrum, a similar system that integrates a human telemarketer and pre-recorded voice messages has already begun to prove its effectiveness.
In this situation, a human ‘operator’ controls the pre-recorded voice through the use of a ‘soundboard’, essentially a catalog of the voice messages at their disposal. While still at its heart, a human to human interaction, the use of the pre-recorded voice is useful for telemarketing operations located overseas where employees may have heavily accented speech which makes effective communication via voice processes with people from other nations more difficult.
The adoption of such a human assisted system would enable call centers around the world to service clients effectively while allowing them to avoid or minimize the resource and time intensive process of having their employees undergo the ‘accent neutralization’ courses which many currently engage in.
What are the benefits of this technology?
While it’s still early days yet, some of the benefits that companies currently enjoy from the implementation of agent-assisted automation are as follows:
- Increased speed and convenience of service
By minimizing or removing the need for human interaction, customers can gain the assistance they require autonomously and at any time. On the service provider’s side, representatives benefit by being able to focus their efforts on providing assistance only to customers who require specialized or non-standard support.
- Aids in lowering costs or increasing capacity
With fewer customers requiring assistance from employees, call centers could choose either to lower costs by reducing team size or take advantage of the extra capacity gained through automation to expand service coverage.
- Customer experience homogenization
One area that call centers routinely struggle with is in providing a constant and reliable level of quality to all customers. While training courses for personnel help address this to some degree, there is a significant investment of time and money required for training and even then, the variability in results is significant.
Too often, the level of service received by a customer depends on who picks up the phone and how they feel at that moment. By adding a level of automation, the quality level of the customer experience becomes far more standardized and predictable.
- Enhanced privacy and security
By reducing human contact and implementing security measures that make phone interactions more secure, companies can provide additional services to customers that would otherwise not be possible due to security concerns regarding the transmission of private data.
This already considerable list of benefits is only going to grow with the advancement of technology and it’s a safe bet to say that, while it may not be universally welcomed, this field promises to get only more interesting in the future.