Contact Centers: Why Voice AI is King for CX

Contact Centers: Why Voice AI is King for CX

Britta Reque-Dragicevic
August 17, 2021 4 min read

Voice AI technology has become mainstream for millions of consumers as they’ve adopted personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri to assist them in their daily lives — more than 500 million people alone use Google Assistant and the numbers across all the leading voice assistants continues to grow.

Speaking to devices and expecting a virtual assistant to respond immediately with accuracy and clarity is now part of what customers expect from technology. As Voice AI has matured, it is proliferating across every industry and revolutionizing customer experience (CX). While chatbots have been around for a while and garnered mixed reviews by customers, Voice AI is set to provide a better, more natural human-like experience.

If it’s done right. 

As with any technology, the tech itself is not a promise of a better experience. Success lies in how humans choose to strategically use it. Voice AI has the potential to substantially improve customer experience if it is thoughtfully adopted in ways that truly deliver faster, accurate, and good-enough-to-be-accepted-as-human experiences. We’re seeing this play out right now in the contact center.

Voice AI is a hot investment

In the last year, companies have spent nearly $2 billion on conversational AI technology for the contact center, and this number is expected to double in the next five years, reports Opus Research. Conversational AI (aka Voice AI) is joining forces with human agents to improve CX by taking on Tier-1 issues, improving first contact resolution, and freeing up agents for escalations that require an empathic human connection that builds trust with customers. 

The benefits of Voice AI in the contact center come at a time when contact centers are stretched thin by what is now unpredictable terrain — forecasting has become increasingly difficult if not impossible due to sudden spikes and surges in call volume and uncertainties of agent availability. 

Contact centers that have moved to the cloud have the advantage of an easy work-from-anywhere transition when needed, but the unpredictability still makes scheduling challenging. Customers have experienced longer hold times or failed to get a response — which leads to an increase in churn. It is reported that 91% of customers that are unhappy with a brand will just leave without complaining and 47% of consumers have switched to a different brand due to bad customer service. 

Voice AI offers contact centers the boost of extra help as a first line of defense right when the technology has matured enough to be economical. And, with it, we’re seeing a multitude of Voice AI vendors for brands to choose from. Voice AI is indeed the new King for improving CX, but just adding a conversational AI tool to the contact center suite will not guarantee customer satisfaction.

Not all Voice AI is equal

It may be tempting to implement Voice AI as a quick fix for call deflection, cost cutting, and to guarantee every customer call is answered without the need for call backs, but without ensuring that the technology delivers an experience customers find positive, it can do more harm than good. 

For example, if a customer calls and the Voice AI answers but is just a few seconds slower than a human in its speech, the customer will lose patience and find the experience negative. Yes, they may be getting their call answered and the issue may be resolved by the machine, but that lag in response time makes the interaction feel too slow and only reminds the customer that a human agent could have conversed quicker. Likewise, if a Voice AI quickly understands intent but cannot decipher a more complex context (say the customer asks a question and makes a comment about how their day is going), the customer will feel they’re not understood, leading to negative sentiment. 

For Voice AI to truly improve CX, it must be able to provide as nearly-human of an engagement as possible — responding in an organic way to the full context and speaking at a speed that mimics human speech. If AI leaves customers wishing they should have just talked to a human agent, it’s failing to improve CX.

Choosing a Voice AI solution that customers will love

There is no question that to stay competitive and differentiate on CX contact centers will implement Voice AI. As they vet vendors, the following are CX questions to ask: Does the Voice AI sound convincingly like a human? 

  • Is there a lag in the Voice AI’s response times when speaking? 
  • Can the Voice AI interpret and respond appropriately to complex contexts? 
  • Does the Voice AI require the customer to “learn” how to interact with it or does it elevate itself to the level of the human?

Aside from these CX criteria, Voice AI should integrate easily into your core contact center and key systems. It should provide an elastic layer of service that allows your contact center to stretch up and down, scaling as needed 24/7 without having to add agents. It should fully resolve up to 90% of all Tier-1 issues and free agents to focus on more complex resolutions. 

Voice AI is the new King of CX for contact centers if it delivers experiences that feel easy, pleasant, and fast to customers.

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