Call centre outsourcing vs conversational AI
A look at how AI is revamping the call centre and helping redefine customer experience itself
Covid-19 has not only accelerated digital transformation around the world but has also disrupted call centre and customer service operations on multiple fronts. Hold times have increased by 50% since the beginning of the pandemic.
Although more than 85% of businesses still use dedicated customer support teams in call centres as part of their customer engagement strategy, the pandemic has overwhelmed the industry with a sudden surge of incoming inquiries, calls and unexpected traffic. Consequently, the scalability of organisations’ call centres and their customer interactions have been pushed close to the breaking point.
Despite all of these challenges, voice channels continue to be the primary way businesses and customers communicate with one another. Companies quickly realised how critical it was for their phone lines to stay operational during crises. More players in the call centre industry are starting to realise the importance of managing call centre outsourcing, the potential of Voice AI, and how automation can power their business.
Demand for call centre support has reached unprecedented levels, with people looking for information as Covid-19 impacts their business or personal circumstances.
However, due to pandemic restrictions, contact centre teams are unable to return or keep pace with “business as usual”. Many call centre companies are experiencing difficulty handling calls remotely, responding to increasing complaints about slow response times or dealing with additional privacy and cyber security risks related to remote work.
The pandemic, as it has in many other industries, has simply accelerated the process of digital transformation much faster than we anticipated. Massive strategic shifts in the work-from-home trend necessitate a rethinking on how businesses should support customer service agents. Gartner Research found less than 10% of customer service and support organisations worked from home before the pandemic; the figure is now 71%.
Customer service companies now had to consider how to relocate all of the employees to their homes while maintaining access to technology, training, team communication, and customer data. Some call centres are establishing virtual call centres, with new tools and support systems that facilitate remote work.
Many call centres are expanding their remote workforce, but they have difficulty training their remote employees to the same level of proficiency as their on-site employees. With customer experience becoming ever more important after the pandemic, call centres are being stretched to their breaking point, with workloads growing to cater to personalised customer demands. Some customer service agents are even being trained in non-customer support protocols!
Will these factors add pressure to an already stressful and results-oriented profession? The high turnover rate speaks for itself: employees are constantly being replaced and trained, while managers strive to achieve increasingly difficult KPIs.
On the other hand, call centre outsourcing can help overcome these issues, as it entails hiring a team of professional agents who work outside of your company, and can work from anywhere. Outsourcing will help your company prioritise what’s important—not that customer service isn’t important—by freeing up your workforce to focus on the services it excels at. The rest can be left to a competent and high-quality team of call centre agents.
Alternatively, companies can also make use of technology to fill service gaps. New and improved digital tools, such as Voice AI, can help companies automate almost every interaction with their customers, efficiently handling complex requests while still engaging with a personal touch.
Experts have predicted that AI will power 95% of customer interactions by 2025; the number of AI-powered voice assistants is also expected to reach eight billion by 2023. What do these figures tell us about Voice AI and its potential for call centres?
Voice AI is a conversational AI tool that enables anthropomorphic voice interactions between computers and humans. It functions similarly to person-to-person communication, with the bot capable of engaging in human-like conversations and providing spoken context-appropriate responses to callers.
Voice AI can scale up calling capacity more sustainably and quickly than human-only counterparts, helping companies to avoid common emotional burnout or motivation loss among customer service representatives during times of increased demand. Voice AI solutions handle thousands of simultaneous calls without fail, performing the work of an entire floor of human agents while providing customer support prioritised by urgency. Furthermore, Voice AI can recognise the tone and intent of a conversation, allowing it to respond to the caller naturally and with relevant answers. The new data and learnings captured by AI from each conversation also help automate an even higher percentage of calls.
Voice AI can also be curated, scripted, and customised to a company’s needs, unlike call centre outsourcing to other countries, where agents may not have the right understanding of the country or culture of their clients.
The adoption of Voice AI has also been shown to significantly reduce production costs. By handling thousands of repetitive queries with customer support automation, companies are able to satisfy customers with prompt service while saving on manual labour costs. According to McKinsey & Company, half of all human work activities can be automated, saving nearly $16 trillion in wages.
Despite the improvement in its service quality, Voice AI remains a supplement to the traditional call centre–and should stay that way.
Voice AI robots are not intended to replace or displace human workers. Their automated features simply help human employees save time and focus on more meaningful opportunities. Indeed, in the aftermath of the pandemic, synergies between AI and human agents will be critical to growing businesses focused on customer service excellence or better processes.
By simply integrating the API (Application Programming Interface) with the existing customer service software, companies truly take their customer engagement level to the next level. When companies incorporate Conversational AI in their workflows, customer service teams will be able to handle an unlimited number of incoming and outgoing customer service tasks at all hours concurrently.
AI-powered technology works best when it enhances rather than replaces human services. The use of AI frees up customer service representatives to make more meaningful decisions; they can delegate high-volume, time-consuming tasks to highly scalable Voice AI platforms. Through customer insights, teams can also analyse data and make data-driven decisions, improving customer experience and making engagements more meaningful overall.