Next Gen Contact Centers
Date: Wednesday , September 01, 2010
Service providers today understand the importance of customer service in defining their success. Of all the business units aligned towards customer service, contact centers have a direct involvement in customer satisfaction. However, traditional contact centers operate with the sole aim of efficiently completing the transactions and resolving the issues cost-effectively. This, as a result, introduces inefficiency in the contact center workflow, affecting the customer retention and in turn, the revenue. Next Generation Contact Centers (NGCC) improve the customer satisfaction level by leveraging the immersive and latest advanced technologies, thus overcoming the aforementioned inefficiencies.
Since customer retention and revenue generation per customer is the primary focus of service providers around the world, customer satisfaction (C-SAT) plays a pivotal role in deciding their success. The service that contact centers provide gives a good indication of C-SAT levels and acts as a make-or-break criterion for a service provider’s business. Organizations set up contact centers for catering to the needs and requirements of their customers about the applications and services the organization provides.
The current workflow followed by the contact centers around the world embodies inefficiency in multiple ways. To begin with, customers are generally made to navigate through a labyrinth of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) prompts to determine the problem type and finally are routed to the human agent. In many cases, the IVR prompts are not adequately designed, and quite often a customer reaches a dead stop at the IVR prompt with no category or solution sounding correct to him. Again, multiple times a customer is put on hold waiting for a free agent to respond. Sometimes the agent is available, but the customer once again has to replay the entire problem. The ability to resolve a problem further depends on the skill level of the human agent and their abilities in searching the existing knowledgebase for the solution or in routing to the best agent who is skilled in the required area. All these lead to
* Longer call handling time,
* Lower C-SAT levels, and
* Inefficient workforce optimization and management of the contact centers.
Thus, we propose the concept of the Next Generation Contact Center and explain how it can help in addressing all the problems discussed above by making use of innovative technologies and techniques that have a positive effect on business productivity.
Introducing the Next Generation Contact Centers (NGCC)
The Next Generation Contact Center revolves around the implementation of the following concepts:
1. Taking advantage of Immersive Technologies, 3D Internet, and implementing contact centers inside Virtual Worlds.
2. Improving the information interpretation mechanism by converting the information into visual cues so that it can be better interpreted.
3. Simplifying the workflow to categorize a problem faced by the customer for speedy resolution.
4. Improving the collaboration among multiple support teams and support systems in the organization.
5. Making use of both manual and automated systems for issue resolution.
The NGCC are based inside virtual worlds where customers and agent avatars can meet face-to-face. The agent avatars are intelligent AI bots along with human agent avatars. The intelligent AI agents in NGCC make use of speech recognition technologies and act at the first level of interaction with the customer. The customer has no idea that he is interacting with an AI bot and this provides an immediate psychological healing to the customer that someone is always there to listen to his problems. The AI based agent bots use a variety of data mining algorithms to analyze and interpret the problem and to provide solutions using 3D visual models, video streaming, and so on. In the situations when the intelligent agent bot is not able to interpret or resolve the problem, there is a smooth transition to a human agent by the backend systems. Since all the conversation and data is already available, the human agent avatar can seamlessly take over the interaction with the customer without asking for any further clarifications.
This concept of contact centers involving virtual worlds and intelligent avatars as agents overcomes the typical inefficiencies in the traditional contact centers. As the information is virtually and visually conveyed among the parties more efficiently the call handling time reduces, adding to the C-SAT levels. Moreover, as the transactions happen over the Internet and the number of human agents is reduced by using AI bot agents, the cost spent over the contact centers is substantially reduced.
Advancing to Next Generation
Though the working of NGCC does provide benefits at each level over traditional contact centers, it cannot be attained with the usual call center technologies like Interactive Voice Responses (IVR), Computer Telephony Integration (CTI), or Skill Based Routing (SBR). These technologies are highly mature, but at the same time saturated and there is still some scope for improvement. We propose the use of advanced technologies along with the existing technologies in the NGCC workflow.
Immersive technologies, which allow creation of virtual worlds are used to reduce the strong reliance on voice interaction and voice telephony. To improve the overall services experience, the virtual worlds are complemented with other technologies mentioned below:
1. Voice over IP (VoIP): Allows contact centers to benefit from the lower operational cost of VoIP over the public switched telephone networks (PSTN).
2. Video and Media Streaming: Allows the contact centers to resolve the how-to solve issues with a detailed procedure, using multimedia. Customers can also stream in data into the contact centers.
3. Integration with backend enterprise systems: Allows seamless extraction and transfer of the backend application data.
4. Natural Language Processing (NLP): Makes the intelligent agent avatars capable of better interacting with customers who use a natural language.
5. Pervasive Devices: Improves the ‘human-intelligent agent’ interaction to the next level.
A virtual world strongly integrated with the above technologies will considerably improve the customer experience at the contact centers. The ‘Query Cease Time’, a better term than ‘Call Handling Time’ in this scenario, will be reduced along with the cost for handling these queries. Following frameworks and mechanisms are required to give the basic concepts in NGCC some shape.
* Intelligent Agent Creation Framework with AI and machine learning capabilities.
* Knowledge mining, discovery, and data mining.
* Speech and Voice Synthesis and Recognition.
* Automated C-Sat measurement.
* Customer personalization and customization.
* Automated skill based routing to human agent.
* Service integration with other systems and feedback systems.
* Realtime offer promotions and recommendations.
All the frameworks and mechanisms are bundled together, supported by the next generation technologies.
A Virtual Finance Management Center (vFMC): A Use-Case Analysis
A virtual finance management center is a virtual world where all finance related queries, support, and information about the financial investment plans and their activation, along with communication with financial SME’s happen at a single place. Here we put the NGCC concepts in the perspective of a personal finance management portal for a pseudo service provider.
Virtual Finance Management Center (vFMC)
The different units functioning in the center are as follows:
1. Customer-Briefing Center: The focus of the unit is to understand the requirement of the client who joined the world, provide realtime analysis and advice for planning his finances and provide custom peer review. All the interactions that take place in the center, along with the actions performed are logged into the system for future reference.
The customer-briefing center also has the ability to host VoIP as well as PSTN based communication channels, providing the ability for remote voice interactions capabilities for in-out worlds.
2. Interaction with financial SMEs: If a customer needs, a financial SME can be pulled in to interact and guide the customer over the decision making process about the chosen plan. The system also allows the customer to access the reports and articles available.
3. Realtime Reports: The center pulls in the realtime updates about what all is happening in the financial world from all the news websites, blogging websites, financial portals, and business websites.
3. Private and Public Discussion Rooms: The center has private and public access zones.
Architectural Flow of vFMC
The following architectural flow diagram helps understand the whole system and its working, highlighting the necessary coupling between various different external systems.
Traditional contact centers operate with the sole aim of completing the transactions and resolving issues cost-effectively and do not provide satisfying results. This paper introduces a new age variation of contact centers, which we call Next Generation Contact Center, that leverages the next generation technologies like virtual worlds, data mining, enterprise information system integrations, and VoIP. The paper explains through a use-case how financial organizations can incorporate NGCC to deliver the high quality customer service and use the workforce for contact centers efficiently.
The authors are from Infosys Technologies