Call Center Automation: Types, Pros, Challenges (2021 Guide)

call center automation

Call center automation helps simplify existing business processes. It’s also a great way to optimize your call center resources to 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.

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Let’s get started.

What is Call Center Automation?

Call center automation is the process of performing repetitive tasks with the help of technology — eliminating the need for human intervention.

Call centers can implement automation across various business processes. 

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. ASR also helps authenticate a customer’s identity before connecting the call to an agent.

Call centers use automation to offload routine, time-consuming tasks and improve customer experiences, which in turn boosts call center efficiency.

6 Popular Types of Call Center Automation

Here’s a detailed look at six popular types of call center automation:

1. Automated Interaction

Automated interactions refer to using contact center software like a chatbot. In other words, any form of customer self-service tool can be considered an automated interaction.

For a call center, an AI-powered (artificial intelligence) IVR is a good example of automated voice interaction. 

These tools gather information about customer intent and provide customer service agents the advantage of being familiar with a customer’s needs during a call or live chat. 

For example, an online knowledge base for customer support or an AI-powered IVR gives the agent a better context about the customer based on previous customer interactions and purchase history.

2. Forecasting Automation

Call centers collect tons of data like customer data, product information, the total number of inbound calls, etc., and use it for various analytics and forecasting. 

What is forecasting?

Forecasting uses data to understand trends in existing datasets and make predictions accordingly.

Automated forecasting helps call centers better understand their data and gain actionable insights. For example, it can tell you the best timeframe to conduct off-phone activities. 

It also eliminates the need to create strategies manually to optimize data for the best results.

3. Workflow Automation

From interacting with clients and sending emails to entering data and working on multiple applications, call center agents manage many workflows.

However, these tasks can be prone to human error.

Workflow automation enables agents to set up automatic tasks, allowing AI to handle all the repetitive and mundane tasks involved in the daily business process. 

You can use call center automation software for simple tasks like entering customer data and complex ones like following up with leads. This helps agents save a lot of time which they can invest in more demanding tasks. 

4. Automated Agent Guidance

While assisting customers, call centers agents also need to keep the compliance rules in mind. 

For example, agents dealing with payments have to mandate PCI (Payment Card Industry) standards. And 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 and improve conversion rates.

This automation solution enables agents to automate routine sales tasks, like sending announcements and post-sale emails, customer onboarding, and fulfilling campaigns.

Moreover, it also helps provide a personalized experience to potential customers. For example, it can 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.

Doing this set of tasks each day can be tedious and time-consuming. 

However, automated scheduling can help you out here with the help of AI-powered algorithms. It creates schedules considering all the above-mentioned factors and ensures that no agent is over or underutilized.

This saves a lot of time for agents, which they can spend on core call center tasks.

6 Key Benefits of Call Center Automation

Let’s take a look at key advantages of call center automation:

1. Increased Customer Satisfaction

Usually, a customer interaction over the phone begins with the on-hold music. 

But call center automation starts the interaction right away with qualifying questions and, in some cases, identifies and authenticates the customer. 

For example, an AI-powered virtual agent program can use natural language processing (NLP) and backend systems and data to handle customers’ requests within seconds. This easy and intelligent process saves a lot of time for customers, which can help improve their satisfaction.

Additionally, for cases where human intervention is required, the AI agent transfers the call to a qualified human agent through intelligent routing.

Intelligent routing authenticates customer identity, connects to the best-suited agent, and provides additional customer information like payment history. This not only means less waiting time for customers but also reduces the average handle time.

2. Resource Optimization

Whether a call center is fully automated or partially, it helps minimize the involvement of human agents and other resources.

This helps save a lot of time for agents, which allows them to work on other crucial and complex incoming calls, queries, and operations. 

Moreover, this boost in agent occupancy due to automation translates to better customer experience and monetary profits for the call center. 

3. Higher First Call Resolution Rate

Most customer issues can be resolved with the help of call center automation. 

Call center automation software can automatically connect customers to the IVR menu or voice assistants. Specifically, a conversational AI can listen to the customers’ concerns and provide the required resolution.

It uses automated intelligence so customers can act autonomously, self-serve, and interact directly with the different systems without human intervention.

This allows 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. And call center automation eliminates the need to perform these tasks.

Automation technology like skill-based routing also contributes to employee satisfaction.

How?

Intelligent routing connects a customer’s call to the best-suited agent. This increases the probability of issue resolution and improves crucial call center metrics like AHT( average handle time) and FCR.

Moreover, as automation handles simple requests, call center agents can focus on complex tasks and exciting projects — increasing their job satisfaction.

5. Improved Service Level Management

Every call center needs to meet the service level while minimizing operational costs.

But how do you deal with issues like call abandonment?

You can always hire more employees, but this will lead to an increase in operational costs. 

And operating with fewer employees to cut down costs can compromise customer service operations, leading to negative reviews.

The answer is simple: use call center automation tools.

Automated tools like conversational AI enables businesses to utilize digital channels more and increase customer reach without scaling up call center or contact center costs.

6. 24/7 Customer Service

A call center agent can only work for a limited number of hours a day. 

On the other hand, a digital virtual assistant 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 of regular business hours, you’ll still be providing 24/7 customer service.

For example, a chatbot allows round-the-clock online assistance without any human interaction. Customers can also choose to be called back when an agent resumes work. 

3 Major Challenges of Call Center Automation

Let’s understand why automating a call center can be challenging:

1. Loss of Human Interaction

Despite various advantages, automation can leave many customers displeased. One major reason behind it is that people find it hard to connect with a machine emotionally.

Though toning down the human element of your support 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 a conversation with machines, unlike with a human agent. This can reduce the emotional connection, which is crucial for customer satisfaction and loyalty.

2. Side Effects of Improper Configuration

Poor system design can affect your customer service automation system. 

For example, if your IVR makes your customers go round in circles or call routing causes redundant conversations, then automation can leave your customers unhappy and frustrated.

This simply translates to a loss of customers and a negative brand reputation.

Moreover, you should continually monitor and analyze the data flowing through your automated processes. Providing inaccurate data, even for a simple query like product price, may result in misinformed customer service.

3. Inability to Solve Complex Customer Issues

Many AI-based customer service platforms address simple customer concerns. 

For example, IVR systems use machine learning and natural language processing to understand speech and generate responses. They can provide updates about bookings and deliveries or point customers towards resources and other help channels.

However, this conversational AI can’t answer all customer inquiries as dealing with more complicated issues requires human intuition — which intelligent automation systems currently lack.

4 Proven Automation Tips for Easy Transition

Here are a few tips to help you transition to call center automation with ease: 

1. Identify the Processes to Automate

Before diving into the implementation, it’s necessary to identify the processes that you want to automate.

Automating doesn’t imply eliminating all tasks with human involvement but making adjustments where it’s required.

It also requires factoring in other aspects like:

  • Costs.
  • Repetitiveness.
  • 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 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. They might find it impersonal and daunting.

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 with the automation of internal call center processes like automated call routing. This will let you gauge the effectiveness of these changes.

3. Provide Proper Training

Effective training plays a crucial role in agent productivity and engagement.

Along with the initial training programs, you should also provide additional courses while introducing new call center technology. 

Why?

Unless your team is accustomed to the new technology and process, they won’t be able to use the functionalities to the fullest. This can lead to a waste of both time and resources, affecting agent performance.

However, with proper training and understanding, your agents will become more invested in the process — enabling them to assist the customers to the best of their abilities. 

4. Gather Client Feedback

A perfect process automation strategy is helpful for the team, appreciated by the customers, and profitable for a call center.

You can achieve this through continual testing and feedback collection. 

And while testing lets you stay on top of your strategy and keeps it running smoothly, feedback is important too. 

It helps you identify the changes that were well-received by your customers and the areas that need improvement – helping you refine your automated processes.

Wrapping Up

From internal workflows and forecasting to sales and scheduling, you can automate many processes at your call center.

And what’s more, it offers tons of benefits — whether it’s higher first-call resolution, better call center management, or 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 to transition to an automated call center with ease!

 
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