Article

The intelligent contact center of the future

By Dan Levy, Group manager, content marketing and editorial strategy

Published March 18, 2020
Last modified March 18, 2020

With so many new customer communication channels opening for business, the classic contact center can seem kind of old school. Nobody wants to phone a business anymore, right?

Wrong.

In fact, 66% of customers still typically resolve their issues with a company via telephone, according to our latest Customer Experience Trends Report. While many support issues can be resolved via messaging, email, or self-service, sometimes it’s just easier and more efficient to pick up the phone.

The reason contact centers often get a bad rap isn’t because of the channel, but the experience. The digital era has made information more open and abundant than ever, but traditional contact centers are still black boxes where customer conversations (and, as a result, customer relationships), go to die. Anyone who’s had the experience of calling a business only to be dangled on hold, shepherded through a series of irrelevant IVRs, and then forced to repeat themselves as they’re passed from one department to another, knows what I’m talking about.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. With the rise of cloud-based platforms like AWS (Amazon Web Services), and Zendesk Sunshine, businesses can now connect their contact centers to an endless amount of systems, bots, databases, CRMs and channels, so that agents have all the context they need to resolve their issues with ease — sometimes before the customer even reaches out.

Here’s what a truly intelligent contact center looks like, and why it’s a game-changer for both business and customers.

Automation for the people

Despite media concerns about bots and AI replacing humans, they’re actually here to help. By 2022, 70% of all customer interactions will involve tools like chatbots and machine learning, according to Gartner. Voice assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa have already become part of the furniture at home, and they’re starting to transform the customer experience as well.

Amazon Connect, the cloud-based contact center that integrates with Zendesk, uses the same automatic speech recognition technology as Alexa to help automate interactions, personalize conversations, and improve customer service. Arcus Global, a government technology provider, saw employee satisfaction and retention increase after it was able to deflect and resolve 42% of calls via an automated voice agent using Amazon Connect.

As we reported in State of Messaging 2020, more than a third of customers say they prefer an instant response from a bot to a delayed reply from a person. Connecting your bots and voice assistants to an intelligent contact center platform means empowering them with the context they need to respond intelligently. This will enable them to do a lot of the heavy lifting for your agents, while satisfying your customers with more relevant and empathetic answers.

The best defense is a good offense

Being able to quickly parse and triage customer requests via automation is a huge win, but what if you were able to anticipate those requests before the customer even made them?

That’s what proactive customer engagement is all about. Often, this involves triggering outbound messages or emails when customers signal their frustration by sending multiple support tickets, giving a low CSAT (customer satisfaction) rating, or returning an item they recently purchased, to give a few examples. In order to pull this off, you need to be able to access your customer data. An intelligent contact center is able to identify the customer who’s calling, understand their previous history with the company, and deliver helpful advice and relevant offers through an AI-powered IVR.

Amazon Connect even lets you trigger automated phone calls to remind customers of upcoming events like appointments or in response to behavior that indicates the customer needs a gentle reminder or heads up (think payments due or service outages).

Given that 20% of customers surveyed for the CX Trends report identified proactive support as one of the most important aspects of a good customer service experience, this is quickly evolving from a customer experience nice-to-have into a customer expectation.

The conversational data dream

While the proliferation of customer engagement channels can be challenging on a technological and operational level, it’s really good news for businesses. It means the voice of the customer is louder and more accessible than ever. It’s never been easier to capture not just customer activity like purchases or other events, but the actual words and sentiments customers are sharing with us in private conversations across every channel.

In an article for The Next Web, Zendesk’s VP of Conversational Business, Warren Levitan, wrote about the strategic importance of conversational data in light of the rise of messaging channels like WhatsApp, and the increasing popularity of chat (and chatbots) within business’ websites and mobile apps. But voice is the original conversational business channel. And by integrating AI for things like simultaneous transcription, translation, and sentiment analysis, businesses can turn their intelligent contact centers into a conversational data goldmine.

We’ve already talked about what this means for real-time support and proactive customer engagement. But the data and insights gleaned from customer conversations can be leveraged across the entire enterprise — from support, sales, and marketing, to business operations and product strategy. As Levitan writes, “From retargeting campaigns based on customer requests to churn reduction campaigns based on sentiment analysis, conversational data combined with today’s Natural Language Understanding (NLU) allows brands to truly listen to what their customers are communicating to them at scale.”

With cloud-based platforms like Amazon Connect and software like Zendesk, building the intelligent contact center of the future is possible today. Your customers are already telling you how they want to be served. It’s time to start listening — and acting accordingly.

To learn more about how Amazon Connect enables seamless customer support across channels, click here.