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Does conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) make a difference to time and the bottom line in call centres?

Whether or not the festive season meets retailers’ expectations, it comes with increased pressure on reverse logistics as consumers seek to return some of their purchases. Many of these call centre and chatbot interactions can be frustrating and result in quite a negative experience for customers. Elerian AI, a Conversational AI company, has recognised this as a major challenge for contact centres and has developed a Voice-based Digital Agent where conversations and user-intent drive the tasks and processes through innovative use of proprietary technology.

Poorly designed and deployed chatbots and other supposed intelligent machines have replaced Interactive Voice Response (IVR) as the technology that is most likely to drive customers crazy. Yet businesses continue to deploy them at pace without recognising the importance of understanding and interpreting high-level customer intent, customer-specific historical data and different dialects and speech patterns that are the key ingredients in a successful Intelligent Voice Agent (IVA) implementation.

Says Gerry Brown, Elerian UK Strategic Advisor “A common theme for many of us, even the most mild mannered, is screaming in frustration, either literally to customer service agents or silently to ourselves, as we navigate yet another challenging contact centre experience. It’s even worse if our anger is directed at an inanimate object such as a chatbot, which can’t seem to understand words and phrases that would be a simple task for a human.”

The classic applications for chatbots are usually described as those that can automate repetitive processes, eliminate inefficiency, cut costs, and improve the speed and performance of handling inquiries. For regular online shoppers, an example of a popular use case for this technology is “Where’s My Order” (WISMO), and its now more frequently occurring and more expensive sibling “Where’s My Refund” (WMR).

Says Brown, “There is clearly a financial implication for retailers and others – it’s also an operational one as the manual and complex processes mentioned reflect the time and effort expended by the customer to “chase” the refund, often by phone if the company neither acknowledges receipt of the goods nor the refund date. While this is only one element of the returns process, it can have a lasting effect on the customer experience and future purchases, if handled poorly.”

Elerian’s Audio Speech Recognition (ASR) technology delivers a natural, human-like interaction and a consistently great caller experience that can handle many of these inquiries swiftly and accurately while significantly reducing call costs, enhancing the customer experience for the retailer, and taking the strain off the customer service agents.
As WMR calls are often handled by Business Process Outsource (BPO) companies, this creates additional cost challenges for both the retailer and the BPO if these calls take longer and increase impact staffing requirements, which can negatively impact their margins.

This is where Elerian AI provides an intelligent, automated response to the call that truly and consistently understands the caller’s intent, can gather relevant information such as order number, customer number or phone number, address security concerns by identifying and verifying them by return text message and then providing up to the minute information on the status of their return and the refund. If necessary, when additional information is requested by the customer the call can be passed immediately to a live agent, along with the accompanying data related to the inquiry so that the customer needn’t repeat themselves and the agent can respond confidently and swiftly.

“The business benefits speak for itself,” says Brown. “70% cost reduction compared to human agents, an improved customer experience through higher customer satisfaction scores, pre-trained AI models designed specifically for contact centres, easy to deploy without deep engineering, rapidly scale use cases, faster time to market, and opportunities for further data analytics and business insights”

Operational benefits include

• Eliminates hold times, shortens query resolution times, understands varying accents and dialects, available 24/7
• Reduced staff hiring and training costs, time, and performance impact
• Continuous improvement and learning from the most effective interactions
• The digital agent delivers a standardised engagement process and seamless handoff to specialist human agents

Concludes Brown, “While this won’t fix every issue associated with product returns it can make a huge difference in terms of the costs to handle these inquiries and the positive customer and employee experience it will engender, and that may make your company the next social media sensation – for the right reasons.”