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Intelligent Automation, Contact Centers, and Rebel Cows

Roland Alston, Appian
April 24, 2018

The three-dimensional billboard (on I-95 just south of Richmond, Virginia) had a message seemingly written by two life-sized cows standing next to a cage with a scary, red-eyed, beast inside.

The sign above the cage warned: "Eat Chikin or Weel Let This Thing Out." (Full disclosure: I'm a fanboy for Chick-fil-A.).

As I pulled into the Chick-fil-A drive-thru at the next exit, a worker immediately came out, took my order on an iPad, then scanned the payment via my mobile app. Another worker brought my order to the car. And I was back on the road in a flash.

The Customer Experience Gap

There's a parallel in high-performance contact centers that seamlessly integrate automation and human labor to optimize the customer experience.

Unfortunately, this is precisely where many contact centers stumble.

And so, we end up in a situation where businesses spend $1.3 trillion to handle 265 billion customer service calls per year. And, yet, despite this massive cost, disgruntled consumers spend 10-20 minutes on hold per week.

Meanwhile, research reveals that 73% of organizations say improving the customer experience is a strategic priority. But only 1% deliver excellent customer experience (CX), according to Forrester.

To make it even more challenging, today's consumers are more mobile than ever, meaning there are multiple channels through which the customer experience has to be delivered. Consumers can use as many as six channels, with nearly 50% regularly using more than four, according to researchers at Marketing Week.

Great CX Drives Top Line Growth

It's not an accident that the revenue growth rate for CX leaders in cable and retail surpassed bottom dwellers by 24 and 26 percentage points respectively, according to Forrester.

In the same study, CX leaders across a broader range of industries collectively scored a 14 percentage point advantage in revenue growth.

So, the most successful organizations are able to convert CX optimization to revenue. Perhaps this is why:

    • 31% of contact centers will adopt video chat within the next two years.

    • 33% plan to invest in robotics and process automation in next two years.

    • 56% plan to invest in artificial intelligence.

So says Deloitte in their 2017 Global Contact Center Survey.

The Intelligent Contact Center

In the age of digital transformation, a contact center built with yesterday's technology is like a train wreck waiting to happen.

If you're stuck with legacy contact center software that can't quickly deliver information to your agents, in the right context, across multiple channels, it's time to upgrade your technology.

That's the appeal of the Appian Intelligent Contact Centerô Platform (ICC). It's tricked out with native and integrated artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. It's also backed up by an ecosystem of strategic technology partners focused on boosting agent productivity, and making customers feel like their time is valued.

ICC gives contact center agents a contextualized view of every customer interaction via Appian's case management functionality (Records).

On a related note, Appian was recently named a Leader in the "Forrester Waveô: Cloud-Based Dynamic Case Management, Q1 2018" report, which says the ultimate potential of case management is "understanding the worker's and customer's context, providing real-time guidance, and enabling future case planning."

Something else to consider. Modern contact centers use sentiment analysis to monitor customer interactions. Fans say that this is a good way to track customer experience and drive loyalty and customer engagement.

For the sentiment analysis crowd, ICC comes with native AI sentiment analysis and integration with major cloud-based, cognitive, and machine learning services. The beauty of all of this capability is that it makes it easy for contact center agents to take the best next action, based on the context of customer interactions.

This kind of intelligent automation can work wonders in the contact center. Case in point: Target Group.

"We deliver and run contact center solutions for many of the largest financial services institutions in the world," said David Williams, Head of BPM at Target Group. "Using Appian, we achieved an 80% reduction in customer service processing time through a custom remediation program solution that we built and delivered in just 2 weeks."

Creating Customer Value

The thing about intelligent automation is that it enables contact center operators to build great customer experience, not just talk about it.

It's all about creating value for customers, empathizing with them, and delivering service that meet their expectations. So says Clay Richardson, digital innovation expert and co-founder of Digital FastForward.

"And part of that is about using various technologies in your BPM platform in different ways," says Richardson. "But the main idea is that you have to move past process as your primary focus for design."

He continues,

"Whether you use BPM technology, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or other complementary technologies,Öwhen it comes to digital, the focus should always be on the customer and the customer experience."

The Staggering Cost of Poor Service

If you Google customer experience, you'll find millions of conversations about the importance of driving it, leveraging it, enhancing it, and taking it to the bottom line.

Even as far back as 2014, Gartner found that 89% of companies were talking about competing mostly on the basis of customer experience.

And, yet, the cost curve for unhappy customers is going through the roof.

Businesses lose an estimated $62 billion per year because of poor customer service. That's up $20 billion since 2013, according to researchers at NewVoiceMedia.

And the cost of poor service? It's staggering.

To put the problem in perspective, brand switching caused by poor customer service cost companies a whopping $1.6 trillion, according to the experts at Accenture and that's just in the U.S. alone.

Oh, and the 68% of customers who switch brands? They won't come back.

On the flip side,

86% of customers who receive excellent customer experience are likely to purchase more stuff from you, according to the Temkin Group, compared to just 13% for unhappy customers.

Transforming the Contact Center with Better, Faster, Service

Major insurance provider Aviva turned to Appian to boost the performance of their call center. As the largest insurance company in the United Kingdom (UK), Aviva is a global brand with operations in 16 countries and over 36 million customers.

For front-line customer care employees, resolving a single customer service request could mean accessing numerous systems. So, Aviva used Appian to combine these systems and build a unified view of the customer.

The result: Aviva saw a nine-fold improvement in customer service response times.

"When a customer calls," says Paula Whitwell-Lumsden, UK Customer Operations Strategy & Transformation Director, "our front line advisors can launch a screen in Appian. And build customer records that surface every policy that a customer has with Aviva."

"In the past," says Whitwell-Lumsden, "our advisors would have to access and navigate anywhere from 12 to 22 systems on a daily basis. Now, they're down to one system, which is Appian."

With Appian's case management (Records) functionality, Aviva was able to eliminate the need to maintain separate systems across their call center operations.

And the customer experience payoff was remarkable. With some processes, Aviva is now nine times faster in terms of service delivery. Also, by combining Appian with robotic process automation, Aviva was able to free up customer advisors to spend more time with customers, and less time on routine, repetitive, low-value work.

Omnichannel Visibility: Key to Great CX

You don't need a "Best Practices" study to know there's no shortcut to great customer experience. You can't do it without omnichannel visibility and context across all of your customer touchpoints.

What if you were able to see exactly what callers did online, how they interacted with your website? Or where things went sideways? What if you could provide a consistent customer experience across multiple channels?

Not having omnichannel visibility and context is not the kind of problem you want to have when you're on the hook for contact center metrics such as first-call resolution rates, agent churn, and customer lifetime value.

Considering the hundreds, if not thousands of disjointed processes, systems, apps, solutions, etc. at any given organization, is it any wonder, then, that many organizations struggle to keep pace with customer expectations.

Sound familiar?

So, how do you get ahead of fast-moving digital expectations?

And how can you possibly stay there, with the incredible pace of change?

Two words come to mind: INTELLIGENT AUTOMATION.

The Chick-fil-A Takeaway

Rewind to the Chick-fil-A billboard.

it's easy to assume that brands established in the pre-digital world can't come out on top. But it's possible.

The trick is to integrate automation and human labor to optimize the customer experience.

Chick-fil-A can teach us quite a bit about this.

Yes, the brand dates back to the 1960s. But their social media and word-of-mouth buzz? It ranked number one in 2017, ahead of digital juggernauts like Starbucks, Papa John's and Domino's.

Oh, and the rebel cows up on the highway billboard?

They couldn't be happier.

One last thing:

If you're interested in seeing the future of customer service and digital transformation in the contact center, be sure to check out Genesys CX18 in Nashville, May 1-4, 2018. (Full disclosure: Genesys is a technology partner of the Appian Intelligent Contact Centerô Platform.)