Call center automation helps simplify and streamline existing business processes. It’s also a great way to optimize your call center resources and reduce or eliminate unnecessary costs.
However, with automation comes a lack of human interaction — which can leave customers unhappy.
Then how do you automate processes and provide a great customer experience?
In this article, we’ll cover what call center automation is, its types, key benefits, and major challenges. We’ll also highlight four excellent tips to help you transition to automation with ease.
Let’s get started.
What is call center automation?
Call center automation is performing repetitive tasks with the help of technology — eliminating the need for human intervention.
Call centers can implement automation across various business processes. They can use it to offload routine, time-consuming tasks, boost call center efficiency, and improve customer experience.
For example, you can use Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) to upgrade your Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems. This enables customers to use self-service options like checking account balances in real-time. ASR also helps authenticate the customer’s identity before connecting the incoming calls to the right agent.
Let’s explore some frequently used call center automation types.
6 popular types of call center automation
Here’s a detailed look at six widely used types of call center automation:
1. Automated interactions
Automated interaction refers to call and contact center software like chatbots or robotic process automation (RPA). In other words, any form of customer self-service tool can be considered an automated interaction.
An AI-powered (artificial intelligence) IVR is an automated interaction and telephone system. It uses pre-recorded messages to engage with callers, allowing them to provide and access information without talking to a live agent.
Likewise, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be used in call centers to automate time-consuming and mundane tasks such as making phone calls or sending emails. It helps reduce the waiting time and handle customer queries faster.
This automation tool gathers information about customer intent by helping agents (working on live chat software and phone calls) become familiar with the customer’s needs.
For example, IVR uses the online knowledge base to understand the customer journey based on previous interactions and purchase history to provide customer support and build customer engagement.
2. Forecasting automation
Call center software collects tons of customer data, the total number of inbound calls, etc., which is added to their CRM software and used for analytics and forecasting.
What is forecasting?
Forecasting uses customer data to understand trends in existing datasets and make predictions accordingly.
For example, using the available customer data, you can forecast call volumes, i.e., the number of phone calls your call center receives in a given period. These predictions allow you to staff your call centers effectively to avoid overstaffing or understaffing problems.
It also eliminates the need to create strategies manually to optimize data for the best results.
3. Workflow automation
From interacting with clients on calls, sending emails, entering data, and working on multiple applications, the call center agent handles many tasks.
However, these tasks can be prone to human error.
Workflow automation enables agents to set up automatic actions by allowing artificial intelligence to handle all the repetitive tasks involved in the daily business process.
For example, you can use call center automation software to enter accurate customer information into the company’s CRM database. With the customer contact information available in your CRM software, you can follow up with leads by sending them automated messages and emails.
This helps agents simplify their workflows, saving a lot of time that they can invest in more demanding tasks.
4. Automated agent guidance
While assisting customers, call center agents need to keep compliance rules in mind.
For example, agents dealing with payments have to adhere to PCI (Payment Card Industry) standards. Likewise, agents handling sensitive medical information need to comply with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protocols.
Automated agent guidance provides agents with real-time assistance and guidance to handle specific situations and ensure that they adhere to the rules. It helps agents through chatbots, scripting, and visually mapping out processes and procedures.
5. Sales automation
Sales automation helps you automate all sales and marketing-related tasks. It aims to speed up the sales cycle, increase customer engagement and improve conversion rates.
This automation solution enables agents to:
- Automate routine follow-up tasks.
- Send announcements and post-sale emails.
- Initiate customer onboarding process.
- Fulfill marketing campaigns.
Moreover, it also helps provide the best customer experience to potential customers for maximum customer satisfaction. For example, a use case could be to send out automatic sales offers via emails based on customer purchase history.
6. Scheduling automation
Improper call center scheduling can lead to either understaffing or overstaffing — both of which translate to monetary loss.
To create a perfect schedule, you need to:
- Line up all the available schedules of each agent.
- Align time slots to ensure everyone is scheduled.
- Overlap time slots to fill the gaps between shifts.
But doing these tasks each day can be tedious and time-consuming.
That’s where automated scheduling solutions can help you out.
Scheduling automation uses AI-powered algorithms to create employee schedules considering all the above-mentioned factors and ensure no agent is over or underutilized.
This saves a lot of time for call center managers, which they can spend on other critical tasks.
Let’s look at some recent technologies that have simplified center automation processes.
3 Technologies used in call center automation
Call center technology has definitely advanced and can ease an agent’s workload, allowing them to focus on the more important ones.
Intelligent automation tools can perform repetitive tasks and have become advanced enough to offer a more personalized customer experience.
Here are 3 advanced call center automation technologies used today:
1. Conversational AI or chatbot
Conversational AI or chatbots are virtual agents that offer real-time customer service and help in workflow automation.
Built on Natural Language Processing (NLP), a chatbot can recognize human speech. Chatbots can understand the customer’s intent by recognizing specific phrases.
Using a chatbot, customers can perform self-service tasks such as changing passwords, scheduling appointments, etc., without help from a human agent.
2. Statistical machine learning
Statistical Machine Learning uses algorithms to identify customer interaction patterns in terms of the customer journey, associate activity, resolution, and customer service feedback.
For example, call centers can use machine learning to analyze customer satisfaction levels. However, they can also use ML as a predictive analytic tool to measure employee satisfaction of a call center agent and improve agent productivity.
Machine learning can even use the agent’s tone, sentiment, and language to gauge agent burnout and help reduce agent turnover.
Utilizing ML over a long period can improve agent productivity and make your operations faster, more efficient, and more effective.
3. Deep learning neural networks
Deep learning neural networks teach the computer to process data in a way similar to the human brain. It can take call center service to the next level by mimicking the human brain to draw conclusions.
Call center service providers use this technology to analyze every recording deeply, extract valuable insights, and learn from customer interactions to improve customer experience.
So what are the perks of using call center automation?
6 key benefits of call center automation
Here are the key advantages of call center automation:
1. Increased customer satisfaction
Usually, customer interaction over phone calls begins with the on-hold music.
But call center automation starts the interaction immediately with the help of interactive voice response systems. It asks qualifying questions and, in some cases, identifies and authenticates the customer.
For example, an AI-powered virtual agent program or bots can use Natural Language Processing (NLP) and backend systems to handle customer requests within seconds. This easy and intelligent call center process automation saves a lot of time and can help improve customer satisfaction.
Additionally, for quality assurance and cases where human intervention is required, call center software uses intelligent call routing to transfer the phone call to a qualified human agent.
They also provide additional customer information like payment history. This not only means less waiting time for customers but also reduces the average handle time.
2. Workforce optimization
Whether a call center automation software is fully or partially automated, it helps minimize the involvement of human agents and optimize resources.
Workforce optimization helps call center agents to save a lot of time by automating less important tasks and allowing them to efficiently perform important tasks like:
- Handling incoming calls.
- Answering customer queries.
- Managing operations.
Moreover, this boost in agent workflows due to automation translates to better customer experience and profits for the call center.
3. Higher first-call resolution rate
Call center automation software can automatically connect customers to the IVR menu or voice assistants. Specifically, conversational AI bots can understand simple customer issues and provide the required resolution.
It uses workflow automation so that customers can act autonomously, self-serve, and interact directly with different systems. As a result, callers get an exceptional customer experience without needing human intervention.
This then allows call center agents to take up more calls and resolve complex queries, which increases the First Call Resolution Rate (FCR). And higher FCR means greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.
4. Increased employee satisfaction
No one enjoys doing the same tasks, even if it’s something as simple as sending promotional emails. Call center automation eliminates the need for agents to perform these tasks.
Automation technology, like skill-based routing, also improves workforce engagement.
Intelligent routing connects a customer’s phone call to the right agent for quality assurance and reduced average handle time.
By minimizing the time spent on less important tasks, automation frees up agents’ time allowing them to focus on important tasks, which increases job satisfaction and productivity.
Moreover, as automation handles simpler customer support requests, call center agents can focus on complex tasks and exciting projects — improving workforce engagement and increasing job satisfaction.
5. Improved service level management
Every call center automation software aims to offer an exceptional customer experience yet minimize operational costs.
You can improve your service level by using call center automation tools that allow customers to utilize self-service options to perform basic tasks that do not require human intervention.
For example, self-service IVRs uploaded with pre-recorded messages can answer common customer queries and provide faster customer service.
Automating customer interactions can free up agents’ time, allowing them to focus on more complex calls and increase the service level.
Using automation tools like a bot or conversational AI enables businesses to optimize their resources, automate workflows, and utilize omnichannel strategies to increase profitability and customer reach without scaling up call center or contact center costs.
6. 24/7 customer service
A call center agent can only work a limited number of hours daily.
In case of unavailability, an agent can miss out on important customer calls and can only call back the dialer once they resume working.
On the other hand, a digital virtual agent doesn’t require breaks and leaves. Automated customer service can function whenever you want.
So even if you configure the tool to accomplish basic tasks outside regular business hours, you’ll still be providing 24/7 customer service.
For example, using a chatbot can offer round-the-clock online customer assistance without needing the help of a customer service agent.
These benefits of call center automation are certainly compelling. But before you implement it in your call center, there are some shortcomings you need to look out for.
Let’s have a look at some disadvantages associated with call center automation.
3 major challenges of call center automation
Here are some difficulties you can face while automating a call center:
1. Loss of human interaction
Despite various advantages, automation can leave many customers displeased. One major reason is that people find it hard to connect emotionally with a machine.
Though toning down the human element of your call center operations strategy can save you time and resources, it limits the relationship with your customer.
They don’t get any personal attention and can’t strike up a conversation with machines, unlike with a human agent. This can reduce the emotional connection, which is crucial for customer satisfaction and loyalty.
2. improper configuration
Poor system design can affect your customer service automation system.
For example, if your IVR makes your customers go around in circles or call routing causes redundant conversations, automation can leave your customers unhappy and frustrated.
This simply translates to a loss of customers and a negative brand reputation.
3. Inability to solve complex customer issues
Many AI-based customer service platforms can address simple customer concerns.
However, conversational AI can’t provide an answer to every customer inquiry.
Complicated issues like order processing, payments, dealing with customer complaints, conducting market research, etc., are tasks that require human intuition — which may be beyond even the intelligent automation systems.
Want to switch to call center automation but avoid these issues?
Check out these helpful tips that can make your transition easier.
4 proven automation tips for easy transition
Here are a few tips for switching to call center automation easily:
1. Identify the processes to automate
Before diving into the implementation, it’s necessary to identify the call center processes you want to automate.
Automating doesn’t imply eliminating all tasks requiring human involvement but making adjustments where required.
It also requires factoring in other aspects like:
- Effects on the entire workflow.
- The extent of decision-making, and more.
But as you align your goal with customers’ needs, you’ll be able to identify the exact call center processes that need to be automated.
2. Implement a gradual transition
While the main goal behind automation is to simplify workflows, you should also keep the customers’ needs in mind.
Not all customers might be on board with a sudden shift to complete computer interaction.
To them, self-service and being unable to speak with a customer service agent might feel like an impersonal and daunting experience.
That’s why you should transition to automation gradually. You can introduce change slowly and in small segments at first.
For example, you can start automating inbound call center operations like call routing. This will let you gauge the effectiveness of these changes and offer the best customer experience.
3. Provide proper training
Effective training plays a crucial role in agent productivity and engagement.
Along with the initial training programs, you should provide additional courses while introducing new call center technology.
Unless your team is accustomed to the new call center technology and process, they won’t be able to use these functionalities fully. This can lead to a waste of both time and resources, affecting agent performance.
However, with proper training and understanding, your call center agents will become more invested in the call center processes — enabling them to assist the customers to the best of their abilities.
4. Continual testing and client feedback
A perfect automation strategy is helpful for the team, appreciated by the customers, and profitable for automated call centers.
You can achieve this through continual testing.
Through continuous testing, you can streamline your call center operations regularly to ensure they run smoothly.
You can also ask for regular customer feedback that will help you identify which changes were well-received by your customers and the areas that need improvement.
This way, you can update and refine your automated processes.
From workflow automation and forecasting to sales and scheduling, call center automation software can help simplify multiple processes easily.
Call center automation offers many benefits — higher first-call resolution, better call center management and round-the-clock customer service.
However, you need to ensure that your entire team has a good understanding of the automated processes. Go through the tips mentioned above and switch to automated call centers with ease!
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.