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The Team at CallMiner
August 31, 2021
Updated May 31, 2022
Call center innovation is key to improving call center efficiency and maintaining a competitive edge. For example, implementing the latest technologies can help call centers adapt to change, a sought-after capability for every call center in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But call center innovation isn’t solely about technology; it also encompasses innovative approaches to leadership, call center performance metrics and performance management, agent training and more.
It’s about staying ahead of the latest trends to outpace the competition and leveraging leading technologies such as conversation analytics to improve the customer experience. Ultimately, the focus of innovation is to streamline and improve processes and practices to enhance employee satisfaction, boost customer satisfaction, increase customer loyalty and drive business performance improvement.
To learn more about the most impactful call center innovations that can transform your call center KPIs and processes and improve results, we reached out to a panel of call center professionals and business leaders and asked them to answer this question:
“What are your favorite call center innovation ideas?”
Keep reading to learn what our experts had to say about their favorite call center innovation ideas.
“When I was still working for a call center company, we were practicing blended performance…”
However, this demanded a sufficient amount of time for training. The point of this idea was to teach us multiple knowledge and skills from doing inbound and outbound calls, emails and non-voice queries, and even the product knowledge for one to two products or services. I believe that was a great and very innovative idea from my previous company as it helped us to be more flexible as professionals in our field.
“Back in 2012, I was assigned in the Philippines as an Operations Manager of a US-based telco account…”
We were outsourcing call center employees at that time to save some percentage of our overhead (which is very common in this industry).
During my days in the said country, I was really impressed that the company covering our account was catering to other languages besides English.
The company itself had been offering multiple language training to workers depending on the account they would be assigned to. Perhaps that explains why that company is said to be one of the top-performing businesses in the field due to the great diversity they are offering in language.
“Call centers are businesses that have changed a lot over the past few years since they go hand in hand with technological advances, which…”
Without a doubt, have increased tremendously for the past decade. During those years, many innovative ideas have risen and made call centers a much more reliable and globalized business. From my perspective, the best innovative idea for a call center has always been making them multi-language contact centers.
It goes without saying that globalization plays a vital role for businesses nowadays, but we could say that even more for call centers since their job consists of connecting people, and nobody wants language to be a barrier.
Many call centers worldwide require their workers to have a minimum knowledge of two languages, and if you don't want to fall behind the competition, you must follow this innovation.
“My absolute favorite call center innovation is chatbot integration with live agent support…”
Chatbots are great for answering FAQs and priming the visitor with the right knowledge and ideas surrounding your company's business. A live call agent goes beyond a chatbot's capabilities with unique, personalized responses in the right tone of voice.
Yet there's often too much overlap and repetition between the two phases of the customer's journey. The user shouldn't have to re-explain things they already 'told' to the chatbot. By streamlining the information gathering process between machine and human operator, companies can grow their success and put valuable time back into the hands of their call center agents.
“The callback feature is a gamechanger in the call center industry…”
The most dreaded experience that customers can endure is waiting in line for several minutes, missing their turn to talk with an agent, and ending up having to again. In this scenario, customers are likely to remain angry despite getting their problem resolved.
The callback feature allows customers to drop the call and wait for agents to call them when it’s their turn to speak. Customers can do more productive tasks rather than waiting for their turn, boosting customer morale, satisfaction, and happiness.
“The top call center innovation is to encourage self-monitoring to secure better results…”
Many people are awkward with the whole ‘big brother’ feeling of being observed from the outside. If you’re looking for a new method for how to enhance quality scores in a call center, consider investing in real-time data software, which lets agents track their own stats and feedback from the customers in real-time. Agents will take control of their stats and might even get involved in a little friendly contest with themselves or one another to stay committed.
Lilia Gorbachik is a product manager.
“I envision call centers will consume more and more data from different sources (other companies’ systems, news, etc.) and…”
Use AI capabilities to predict the load and personalize messages and outreach. For example: ‘Dear Anna, you order XYZ pizza on Fridays. Do you want to place an order now?’
Another example is analyzing the news to predict the contact center load increase. If there is a security breach message in the news, which leads people to call the company to make sure their data is secure and wasn't leaked, the contact center schedule will suggest adjustments. Or, call centers might get the weather prediction (such as an upcoming hurricane possibility) and then prepare the notifications for people. A human just reviews and approves the message. The overall trend is to take care of the customers before they even know they need something.
“Omnichannel is a hot trend in call centers right now…”
Omnichannel is about offering clients the option of a range of channels beyond just voice. The important thing for any brand is to provide a consistent customer service across all channels.
Ideally, each customer will feel they are communicating with the same agent across the various channels. We recommend that call centers invest in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to allow agents to personalize each call with relevant information.
“This question should be addressed from a people-centric perspective…”
How can you motivate call center personnel performance when it can be difficult to assess performance on a short-term basis?
I believe call center managers have fallen into the trap of ‘coaching by chocolate,’ a Pavlovian approach which exclusively focuses on extrinsic motivations.
I have attempted to combat this issue by tapping into the employees' intrinsic motivations and ‘refilling’ their sense of purpose. People find purpose through a meaningful company vision that appeals to them personally and subsequently motivates them to work harder for your cause.
“The classic call center is coming to an end…”
We are looking more and more at a hybrid model across various channels. More customers than ever start their research online. You require a comprehensive chatbot to effectively utilize this change. This chatbot should utilize AI and ideally recognize the customer based on their sign in on your website. If the support task can’t be solved by the chatbot, the bot needs to escalate the task to the call center itself. Which should recognize (and expect) the call based on the chatbot interaction already. These goals are much easier to achieve if you are using a virtual call center, which your UCaaS (unified communications as a service) provider likely offers.
“My favorite innovation is AI…”
AI is quickly developing technology to read individuals’ eyes and if they are engaged in web calls/training. This will be a major support to virtual employee training.
“My favorite call center innovation idea is outsourcing the operations…”
This strategy is the default these days, but years ago, it was an innovation. The idea of leveraging offshore talent to perform call center duties is a win-win strategy. It helped companies save on employment costs, and employees from offshore outsourcing locations were provided jobs to provide for their families.
Outsourcing completely revolutionized the call center industry. It will always be my favorite call center innovation idea. It changed call centers for the better.
“To increase conversion rates, it is essential to A/B test faster than all your competitors…”
Constantly be testing and improving every step of your sales funnel. This means that your call center scripts should be tweaked constantly to see if you could raise the conversion by even a fraction of a percent. The faster you can test, the faster you will find the best results, and the faster your business will grow.
Dimitris Tsapis is the Head of Marketing at Retail CRM Cloud.
“As many brands are currently adopting an omnichannel approach to marketing, do the same with your customer support…”
Try to have customer support on as many channels as you can (where your customers are active). Since what is most frustrating is if a customer reaches out but gets no response.
Be empathetic and listen – to improve customer satisfaction you need to make your customers feel like you hear and understand them. By paying attention to what they are saying and showing empathy towards them, you not only provide a genuine and helpful customer experience but also gain valuable feedback.
“One of the best things you can do to innovate a call center is implement technology to lessen the workload for your operators…”
The absence of software means contact centers are often left behind with inefficient processes, overworked operators, and most importantly, disconnected customers.
The right technology lets you customize, guide, and create dynamic customer journeys that will manage the heavy lifting, leaving your advisors to focus on providing expert advice and support.
At FM Outsource, we base our searches for technology partners on a key criterion: if the client is dealing with an operational emergency, are we able to react in real time? Based on this barometer, Gnatta presented the best solution for us.
We use Gnatta software to automate three key pillars of our model – prioritization, routing, and data collection. Automating these processes means our operators have more time to help customers with their inquiries, rather than spending hours of their day completing laborious tasks which can be handled by a machine.
Our rule of thumb for automation is if a task relates to the administration of a contact, then let the technology take care of it. We want our operators’ sole focus to be on helping the person on the other side of the conversation.
“My favorite call center innovation idea is to turn your customer service managers into workforce management people…”
Workforce Management gets the right people, in the right place, at the right time using practices like forecasting, planning, scheduling, tracking, reporting and analysis.
Large contact centers know that not much moves or happens without the consent of workforce management. It can be frustrating to both agents and supervisors to request time offline and be denied due to staffing requirements according to your intraday plan (which shows staffing needs every 30 minutes).
To get around this, I made customer service managers workforce management people, and they had no idea. I did a couple of things:
“In 2002, Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s introduced a radically new way of constructing a winning baseball team…”
One which allowed them to compete with big market clubs despite Oakland’s substantial capital disadvantage (their budget was $76M less than the New York Yankees that year). They did it by upending long-entrenched practices in scouting and trade strategy, obsessing over only the metrics (on base percentage) that led to real outcomes (scoring runs), and casting aside long-held assumptions about player evaluation.
I see a lot of parallels between how the Oakland A’s disrupted baseball and how the call center industry needs to be disrupted. In a world where we’re bombarded with data, it can be tempting to focus only on those metrics that we can easily track and control, like Time to First Contact (TFC) and Average Handle Time (AHT). I believe the key to innovating the customer support industry is by maniacally focusing on the true driver of value in customer support: customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is the ‘on base percentage of customer support’ – most meaningful business outcomes influenced by support interactions are underpinned by that one metric. Unhappy customers churn more frequently, engage in fewer repeat purchases, and actively share their poor experiences with others, likely affecting sales by depressing acquisition.
The challenge for support leaders is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all blueprint for satisfying a customer, so support organizations need to have a balanced, flexible approach in order to respond to inevitable changes in customer preferences and business conditions. For example, imagine your CFO tells you costs are a big priority this season and asks you to strip 20% from your run-rate. How would you accomplish that without disappointing your customers or hurting your internal morale? Similarly, imagine one of your call center partners wins a big new client and loses focus on your business. What levers could you pull to keep delivering high-quality service to your customers within your budget? Or, what if your new product gets up-voted on Product Hunt and you find your 5-person operation being overrun with questions from new clients? Having the flexibility in your operations to be able to adapt quickly to the unknowable is key to a successful CX operation.
So, how is this accomplished? I argue you should take a portfolio approach with your call center partnerships, designing purposeful redundancy into your network, and creating the structure for healthy competition among your contact center partners. I encourage customer service leaders to cast aside assumptions about BPO pedigree and judgments about which contact center had the best RFP responses or deck, and instead focus on the important metric: actual performance. With a network of BPO partners at your table, competing every day (not just at RFP time) for business based on what you have defined as the most important business outcomes, you will find, like the Oakland A’s, that your budget is able to accomplish more than you ever imagined.
The events over the last year have proved just how important it is to be able to deliver better outcomes for less cost. We’re at the dawn of a new era in the BPO industry – one where real tangible outcomes will be expected from partners, not just adherence to surface-level KPIs. The BP(2.)O evolution is underway, and contact centers that don’t adapt the way they engage with businesses will be left in the dust.
“A system like AirCall is an ideal system for smaller companies looking to move into creating their own call center – a completely cloud based customer support system…”
The AirCall app features every traditional call center tool without the requirement of purchasing a massive amount of expensive equipment or spending a fortune in startup costs. AirCall allows customer service staff to work from anywhere and work through an app. It’s the ideal system for a small company looking to expand into the customer service world because it eliminates any real risk that could be normally associated with investing in setting up a whole call center.
“Daily call center agent feedback and education…”
Based on calls they have had with clients, all call centers should offer agent coaching. There is something even top agents have to learn. With self-coaching, recorded calls are delivered for scoring, coaching, and even updating to the agents themselves. Coaching sessions are held at the workstation of the representative, not the manager's, and they can be as much as 300 percent more effective.
While innovative, this method is also highly efficient in agent training. Agents are often harder on themselves when given the opportunity to evaluate what they have done right and wrong before a manager expresses their own assessment. In fact, using audio recordings and self-coaching, we provide daily feedback to all our agents. It provides our partners with a faster and more positive atmosphere.
For a 30-minute evaluation, it is no longer enough to bring your agents in to meet with their managers or a quality coach on a monthly or quarterly basis. You have to become more hands-on and provide more timely education in order to breed excellent customer service agents. This emphasizes the daily value of what they do and makes them feel more appreciated.
Bishal Biswas is the CEO and Founder of Word Finder.
“Build a multilingual setup…”
To stand out among your competitors, I suggest you have agents who can speak different languages or agents from other linguistic backgrounds. The idea is to have agents who can speak languages that most commonly are spoken in your country so that you can provide efficient customer service. When your customers are dealt with in their native language, they will be more than happy to return and get help from you and be satisfied enough to rate your services as very satisfactory. I am also working to make my agent pool multilingual to improve my customer service and suggest others do the same.
“Although technological advances have changed the call center industry throughout the last decade…”
You will push it much further with innovations in other human resources and call center systems. Implementing these technologies from the contact center would help the center boost the quality and experience you offer, while also helping to cut costs. So being a customer service expert, I’ve come up with innovative and creative strategies your call center can implement for that purpose.
A blended agent is generally considered to be able to accommodate both inbound and outbound calls. We offer more dynamism to blended agents to be innovative and creative. Here, they are made up of teams of delegates who are cross-trained to perform diverse roles. This way calls based on skillset and need can be delegated to officers. Cross-training enhances efficiency and therefore lowers the probability of exhaustion and tiredness among workers. You're also minimizing attrition by ensuring that the agents are qualified in various divisions within the call center. You would also be able to decrease the agent count. Since wait times are down, client inquiries are handled quicker.
“One of the most valuable ideas I saw implemented in a call center was real-time call monitoring…”
While many call centers rely on recordings and review calls after the fact, having a manager at hand during a call does a number of things. It provides assistance to a customer in an immediate sense, relieving frustration for both caller and receiver, and it also offers more in-depth and valuable training.
“It's important to invest in your top employees…”
Because your staff is on the frontlines when it comes to communicating with customers, they should be taken care of accordingly. This is not only essential but a necessary component to making sure that they perform to your organization's standards.
You also have to make sure they are happy and engaged by compensating them with promotions and career opportunities. This goes in line with saying that keeping employees happy ensures they keep your customers happy.
Having a streamlined process when it comes to your business's operations is another important element. You can do this by utilizing technological advancements to your advantage and investing in communication systems that help to simplify call center processes. This helps boost the overall productivity of your employees and improves your employee's quality of work as a result.
Restructuring core performances with KPIs in mind is also crucial. Because results are mostly performance-driven, it's important to understand that volume drives a business's growth. Call volume is easily a metric that should be measured and its increase encouraged.
What call center innovation ideas do you plan to implement in your call center operation?