How AI is reshaping the customer center

Customer experience is the new competitive battleground.

Everyone can remember their worst customer service interaction. As consumer choice proliferates with e-commerce and direct-to-consumer brands, customer experience is the new competitive battleground. 72% of businesses say that customer experience is their top priority, and a key player is the customer service agent.

The contact center industry employs over 16 million agents worldwide with an annual spend of over $250 billion. With the shift from single to omnichannel communications, the pressure is on for contact centers to be responsive across all mediums in the age of the modern consumer.

"The contact center industry employs over 16 million agents worldwide with an annual spend of over $250 billion."

The recent pandemic has further squeezed this ecosystem, as contact centers went dark overnight. With less than 20% of centers running in the cloud, some organizations have resorted to shipping physical phones to agent homes to ensure that service stays on. The exposure of these weaknesses, combined with the increased adoption of a hybrid workforce, has made companies realize the strategic imperative of upgrading their contact center functionality through automation and workforce management solutions.

Since publishing our March post on the modern customer experience, our team spoke with over 20 customer experience professionals to understand their current thinking and challenges. A few themes emerged from our conversations, but they all shared a common thread–increased investment in contact center technology is necessary to increase customer satisfaction and enable better agent performance.

“This call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes.”

While omnichannel is the new normal, voice is where the highest value conversations still reside. As customer demands have increased, agents are routinely over-leveraged and under-supported, with turnover as high as 30% annually. Agents often feel overwhelmed by the volumes of interactions and unprepared to handle complex requests. This is through no fault of their own. Insufficient training leads to on-the-job training and low agent morale or burnout. It’s no wonder that this can translate into customer frustration.

"While omnichannel is the new normal, voice is where the highest value conversations still reside."

“This call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes” is a well-known phrase for most consumers. What may be less well known is the “may” usually means “never.” Quality Assurance is, as one agent described, “the worst but most necessary process in the team today.” The standard process involves having a QA team member sit down with an agent, listen and review a recorded call together with the agent, and then provide feedback in a spreadsheet. Due to the manual nature of this process, a standard call center will only review a handful of calls per agent, per month (approximately 2% total). Conversely, this means that companies are not aware of what customers are saying 98% of the time. Recent advancements in AI and automation can change this paradigm.

Enabling agents with Voice AI

Two years ago, when we met Observe.ai’s CEO, Swapnil Jain, we were immediately intrigued by Observe’s mission to improve the customer experience through voice. The team has developed a “Voice AI” engine, purpose-built for call center interactions, which can automatically transcribe and analyze 100% of call center interactions. Teams can now review every call and provide notes in-line to continuously improve agent performance. The platform integrates easily with the leading call center software providers, and surfaces actionable insights for managers, enabling them to dig deeper into the most meaningful customer insights.

"The team has developed a “Voice AI” engine, purpose-built for call center interactions, which can automatically transcribe and analyze 100% of call center interactions."

Artificial intelligence will be an increasing part of the call center industry, and Observe’s Voice AI can play a key role. We are excited to invest in Observe’s Series B alongside Menlo Ventures and Next47. As part of the round, Upal Basu will join as a Board Observer to partner with Swapnil and the entire Observe team to help shape the future of the customer experience.