Over the years there have been many attempts to reduce call center costs with the help of automation. Unfortunately, they’ve been mostly unsuccessful. IVRs that made customers furious even before they were routed to a customer service representative. Bots that could only understand speech when the caller was shouting one word over and over again. The cost reduction existed only in theory as in the end all calls had to be handled by agents.
Nowadays, with the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning, automation can save money while keeping the most important metrics like customer satisfaction intact. Does it mean that AI-powered virtual agents can take care of 100% of cases? No, but they are perfect for the repetitive customer interactions that often make up 60-80% of calls that are handled by call centers. This way customer service agents have time to focus on issues that need human involvement.
Here are 6 ways AI-powered automation can help optimize call center costs:
1. Lower cost per call
Most customer interactions over the phone are repetitive. “When will my parcel arrive?”, “What’s the return policy?”, “I see error code 6 on my washing machine, what does it mean?”, “I want to complain about…”. Even though these questions often don’t take long to answer, they come in large numbers. High volume means you need to hire more staff if you don’t want your customer satisfaction (CSAT) levels to plunge.
Virtual agents are perfect for the job. They can take an infinite number of calls, and answer the same question for the hundredth time without a hint of annoyance.
You might be thinking: “What about the customer experience?”. Tools like Talkie help you train your AI virtual agents before they go live and anytime after so you don’t need to worry about the quality of conversations. Virtual agents can provide a step-by-step instruction, collect information, and answer questions while sounding as natural as humans do.
The cost per call of a virtual agent is significantly lower than of a human one. If you outsource the repetitive customer interactions, you can be sure to see a noticeable reduction in call center costs. Depending on the size of your business, the cost per call for human agents could be from $6 to even $15. Virtual agents cost a fraction of that. Complex cases are still routed to human agents, but the volume of calls handled by them is much lower.
2. Lower turnover and staffing costs in contact centers
Recruitment, onboarding, and training of new employees come with high initial costs no matter what business you’re running. Working as a customer service representative is stressful due to constant interaction with often emotional customers. This as well as the repetitiveness causes high turnover in call centers.
When virtual agents work hand in hand with customer service reps, with “robots” taking care of the mundane, human agents get to solve cases that require complex critical thinking that machines don’t have. These cases are simply more engaging and create an opportunity for professional growth. Customer service agents become specialists in their fields, not just intermediaries between customers and machines. With a development path and more interesting day-to-day tasks, the turnover is lower, saving thousands of dollars on the employee recruitment and onboarding processes in call centers.
3. Shorter average handle time with automated call center
Sometimes a call about a broken refrigerator can turn into a conversation about the latest movie the customer saw. Customer service reps need to stick to the script but also can’t just interrupt the caller (having in mind the CSAT score they need to achieve). This results in a longer talk time in your call center, and customers waiting for a long time before they get connected.
With AI-powered agents, it’s not a problem anymore. They can take thousands of calls at the same time, so customers don’t need to compete for the support team’s time anymore.
More importantly, customers don’t need to wait on hold when a virtual agent is looking for an answer; as it already knows all the answers. If the virtual agent has been properly set-up, trained, and/or integrated with other systems it will pull the right information immediately. Shorter average talk time combined with a lower cost per minute results in a significantly lower cost per call.
4. Reduced after call work in call centers
Human agents often take up the role of translators between customers and the software used by the company. Customer service reps get the information from a caller and manually put it into the system. If the case is easy like scheduling an appointment, it can often be done during the call. But if there are more questions e.g. data collection for insurance purposes, the after call work makes the agent go offline for a long time.
Virtual agents can be integrated with existing systems. There is no after call work for them, as everything is saved automatically and pushed to CRM or another system used at your company. They are always available, so you pay only for minutes virtual agents spend on the phone.
5. Reduced costs of high customer satisfaction levels with AI virtual agents
Customers want answers fast and don’t want agents to make mistakes. The higher you want the customer satisfaction levels to be, the more you need to spend on salaries and training.
When you use a virtual agent, the response time is cut down to seconds. For a lot of callers not having to wait on hold for a long time is what makes a great customer experience. For virtual agents it doesn’t matter if 500 or 10000 people are calling at the same time – they are always answering immediately.
While AI voice assistants take care of low-level cases, human agents can provide the best experience for your VIP clients. Using a team of human and AI-powered agents, the cost of achieving the same customer satisfaction levels is lower than using just human agents.
6. Reduced business continuity costs for call centers
Staffing prediction algorithms can give you an idea of how many employees you need based on past data, but they won’t give you a heads up for unforeseeable events. Hiring staff overnight is very difficult, and definitely very costly. If you already have virtual agents at your service, they can scale to an infinite level. During unforeseeable events, you will only need to take care of the higher costs of more conversations handled. No more problems with annoyed customers that aren’t able to reach you.
AI virtual agents have very little similarity to the ineffective systems that have been used for years in an attempt to automate customer interactions. Now, virtual agents can be up and running in days and not only reduce call center costs but also increase efficiency and make high customer satisfaction levels easier to achieve.
They reply in seconds, have shorter handle time, and scale up and down depending on your business needs. You don’t need to worry about hiring temporary staff during traffic peaks anymore.
Lastly, virtual agents make a great addition to your existing human team, taking the burden of repetitive interactions so customer service reps can prove themselves with cases that need a human touch.