Upskilling helps employees feel valued and will most likely help them progress along their career path. It boosts a company’s productivity and can expand its offering. Automation and AI can both support upskilling. Paul Milloy, Business Consultant at Intradiem, discusses how these technologies can increase the speed with which employees reach competency, boost the accuracy of training and help build their skillsets to deal with a variety of complex tasks.
Automation is a great tool for accelerating processes, streamlining workflows and reducing costs. But combining this with Artificial Intelligence (AI) will take things a step further.
Within customer service delivery, for instance, new technologies are on the path to revolutionising contact centres by helping to transform the role of frontline agents. AI-enhanced automation is reimaging that role, which used to involve highly repetitive, entry level tasks and simple interactions.
Meeting new demands
Early automation attempts in customer service had an unexpected result. After companies introduced the first versions of self-service and online customer service to reduce calls, these channels ended up actually increasing call volume. These new options made it seem easy to get help, so customers called in even for small issues they wouldn’t have before.
But those automated channels only allowed customers to resolve the most basic transactional enquiries, and many of them – frustrated by these unsuccessful digital interactions – would follow up with live agents. This led to additional enquiries from frustrated customers to agents’ already heavy call volume.
New AI-powered automation technology can absorb much of the transactional requests and achieve better resolution rates than basic chatbots. At the same time, it is helping to prepare agents for the more demanding but also more engaging work that lies ahead.
Reclaiming lost productivity
Through its ability to monitor and analyse large volumes of data, the new generation of AI-powered automation can identify and use unanticipated intervals within the unpredictable flow of customer service enquiries.
These intervals had always been moments of lost productivity but the real-time capabilities of new automation enable contact centres to seize those precious moments for necessary development. Training or coaching can now take place when call volume is low or there are extra staff, without affecting customer service.
The automated coach
The application of AI in conversational analytics can also help pinpoint the areas of agent training needs. This can be addressed by targeted training undertaken directly through the desktop, whether the agent is working at home or in the office.
Additionally, businesses can extend the use of conversational AI analytics to review and analyse customer feedback systems, which will enable them to identify trends in agent behaviour and the causes behind any issues that arise. Team leaders can then intervene by implementing the training or coaching needed to develop the skills and experience needed to resolve the problem.
In the area of coaching, some of the latest AI technologies provide a safe environment to practise this activity. The technology provides feedback and scoring to allow supervisors to assess agent competency levels without the need to practise on live customers, which could have adverse results. This can be extended to fully interactive two-way conversational journeys, which simulate the organisation’s sales or service processes.
Managing increased complexity
Another challenge for customer service operators traces back to the multitude of channels that customers can use to contact an organisation, such as web forms, chat, messaging and phone calls. Customers often use more than one channel at a time to get help faster. This adds complexity for contact centre agents who need additional support to handle it.
This is another area where AI can help, and it is a win-win situation for customer service leaders. The customer service environment is complex, but this can be turned into ‘positive’ complexity with the use of AI-enhanced automation. This technology can be used to establish a healthy variety in an agent’s role, which in turn adds value and improves engagement. In addition, the ability to switch between communication channels or to manage them concurrently presents greater flexibility for the operation.
To further enhance agents’ skills and adaptability requires a data-led approach. This requires real-time support that some agent-assist providers are now championing – whether it’s offering real-time connection to an expert or supervisor or access to a knowledge management system which provides agents with the specific support they need when they need it.
AI in onboarding
Automation makes a strong contribution to new employee onboarding, which is a challenging area for customer service operations due to chronic attrition. This problem is being exacerbated by the recurring feeling of being undervalued by business decision-makers.
From reviewing applications to selecting candidates for interview, AI offers up multiple helping hands in the onboarding process. But its capabilities do not end there. It can also create simulated customer experience scenarios for candidate selection workshops. This can help identify the skills and behaviours an organisation may be looking for in new recruits.
Following the hire, training can be enhanced by automated self learning and simulated practice, which allows multiple attempts to gain competency without involving expensive and valuable trainers.
An environment driven by data, automation and AI
For the first time, we have access to automation and AI which can create additional capacity. It does this by identifying, capturing, and re-purposing unproductive ‘lost time’.
New automation will continue to quickly find and fix training gaps using conversation analysis and AI-driven practice. It will help employees get skilled faster and maintain their skills on an on-going basis.
By removing routine, repetitive tasks and facilitating agent upskilling through AI-powered training and coaching processes, leaders can develop materials to maintain a highly engaging and rewarding environment for frontline agents – an environment driven by data, automation and AI.