Voice AI: The Biggest Contact Center Automation Trend of 2023

The Ongoing Boom in Voice-led Technologies Across the Globe

Voice has always been the preferred means of communication for human beings. That’s why a shift toward voice-based technologies is making its way across generations and geographies, in particular when it comes to contact center automation trends.

In 2022, there were an estimated 123.5 million people using voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa in the United States. A survey conducted by Statista in early 2021 showed that nearly one in three (32%) U.S. consumers own a smart speaker. Consumers are using voice features for online searches, shopping, dictation, and more.

This phenomenon is noticeable across the globe. In India, for example, the number of people using voice queries on Google on a daily basis is nearly twice the global average. With higher consumer adoption of voice-led searches, the incorporation of voice technologies in CX strategies is now a business imperative.

A Deloitte study revealed that, by 2030, there will be a proliferation of voice-led technologies around the world, with 30% of sales happening via voice. Additionally, given the ongoing economic uncertainty, there is a risk in not investing in new technological capabilities during a downturn, as stressed by MIT research.

The Growing Challenges of Customer Support and CX

There is a growing demand for new voice-led solutions to deliver better customer experiences.

Until recently, IVR solutions and chatbots have played a central role while not excelling at CX. The traditional bottlenecks limit the ability of companies to properly serve their customers. Among these challenges, the scalability of support teams and cost issues are among the most pressing.

Given the plateaued capabilities of the legacy systems, companies have begun to pin their hopes on new technologies such as Voice AI, hoping to disrupt the status quo once and for all.

Here are some of the most common challenges contact centers are currently facing:

High attrition rates: Even the best contact centers are struggling to retain talent. Agents often quit due to frustration with their jobs or as soon as they are offered a better position elsewhere.

Scalability: Call volume fluctuates, going up and down depending on the season and demand for customer support. It’s very challenging for managers to scale their teams up and down according to these changes.

Weak Customer Experience (CX): The vast majority of consumers will confirm this — IVR is highly unpopular! IVR systems typically reroute customers through nightmarish flows, ending up with long wait times to speak with a live agent who can effectively solve the given problem.

High operational costs: Agent costs, infrastructure, talent hiring, training, and retention all add up, costing companies a fortune.

It’s not a surprise, therefore, that customer frustration is on the rise. Nearly 9 in 10 people say they prefer speaking to a live agent over the phone rather than navigating a pre-set menu (IVR), according to research by Clutch.

Contact Center Automation Trends: The Solutions Available Today

Here are the most prominent tech solutions available today for contact centers to automate their interactions with customers:

IVR (Interactive Voice Response) Systems: IVRs may have been game-changers when they were first introduced decades ago. Today, not so much. Most IVR systems are created to reduce call volumes or prevent callers from reaching a live agent. They do not easily differentiate between customers and their intent, leading to time-consuming flows and frustrating results. Additionally, confusing navigation menus and poor integration capabilities can lead to a big mess for the company. This is not to say that IVRs do not add value, but they do not contribute to a positive customer experience.

Chatbots: For companies looking for a cost-efficient solution, and companies whose products or services have a less linear user journey, chatbots can be an effective solution. Chatbots are particularly popular now because of the increasing demand for self-service customer support solutions. Additionally, they are easier to train than voice-based solutions, and they provide 24/7 customer support at a low cost. Chatbots can also work with audio and visual media.

However, also chatbots have their shortcomings. First of all, they miss out on two core pillars of customer experience—emotions and ease of use. It is impossible to convey emotions over text. Also, it can be challenging for many users to type repeatedly, especially if the users are not tech-savvy, older, or in atypical situations.

Voicebots: This solution, powered by Voice AI, can handle countless, human-like interactions simultaneously, enabling users to reach a time-sensitive resolution without the need to interact with a live agent. Voice AI agents, also known as Digital Voice Agents, are capable of authenticating users, looking up relevant information, and quickly resolving customer queries in just a few minutes.

Voice AI can handle many different tasks and use cases across industries—from changing a flight itinerary to booking a table at a restaurant, from filing a complaint to making an on-call payment; users can get the support they need without waiting in line while having to listen to some hideous tune.

While many people might confuse the two technologies, it’s important to remember that IVR and Voice AI are different technologies.

Augmented Voice Intelligence vs. Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa

Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant are considered to be the gold standard for voice automation; yet, it’s important to remember that these technologies are built for one-turn, simple and generic interactions. All they do is answer a question or a request by the user. That is why they are not suitable for customer support, as it requires reliance on context and the ability to handle several turns of conversation.

Digital Voice Agents, powered by Voice AI, are trained for thousands of hours on specific customer issues. They are trained to understand the vocabulary, the decision process, and the solutions to offer. Unlike voice assistants, which are designed to provide a single answer to the user’s question, Digital Voice Agents can handle multiple rounds of questions and answers. These are ideal solutions for customer-centric companies.

Listen to Skit.ai’s Voice AI Agent In Action

Why Voice-led Solutions Will Transform Contact Center Automation

A Stanford Study revealed that speech recognition software writes text messages more quickly than thumbs, stressing the ease of voice-led conversations over typed exchanges.

Chatbots bundled with Automated Speech Regognition (ASR) technology are able to transcribe the user’s speech, but they can’t handle an actual conversation. When it comes to voice interactions, only voice-led solutions can provide the ultimate customer experience.

As organizations pour millions into automated voice support, they want their virtual agents to understand the semantics of a conversation—even sarcasm. Those subtle nuances of human conversations get annihilated when we strap a readily-available ASR over a chatbot. A simple conversion of text to voice and vice-versa does not meet the standards of a voice conversation.

The attrition among call center employees is extremely high. Seamless collaboration of human and machine intelligence — as we call it at Skit.ai, Augmented Voice Intelligence — is the future of work. Voice AI is perfectly poised to augment live agents and enhance their capabilities.

Human beings prefer to do meaningful tasks that create value. By taking away a chunk of repetitive and low-value tasks, a Digital Voice Agent helps human agents focus on significant and complex tasks. Also, a Voice AI platform can provide live agents with the context of previous interactions, helping them perform remarkably better and feel engaged with their work.

Take Your First Step

How does the adoption of Voice AI impact the operations of a contact center? Here are a few examples:

  • Automation of up to 70% of phone interactions with customers
  • At least 50% reduction in operational costs
  • Over 4.5 CSAT
  • Up to 40% reduction in average handling time
  • Actionable insights and analytics to make data-driven, informed decisions

Now ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your live agents busy with zero-value, repetitive tasks?
  • Are you constantly facing challenges related to cost, compliance, or resources?
  • Do your agents feel that they could perform significantly better with the proper tech support?
  • Is customer experience a priority for your business?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, then it’s time for you to consider Voice AI for your contact center.

For more information about how Voice AI can impact your business, schedule a meeting with one of our experts using the chat tool below.

4 Ways AI Voicebots Are Transforming Auto Finance Collections

There have been a total of 13.7 million car sales in the U.S. in 2022, according to an IBISWorld estimate. Car sales have been declining since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic due to many factors, including the growing prevalence of remote work, supply chain issues, and a looming recession.

As a consequence, interest rates have been rising significantly, hitting over 6.0% and negatively affecting the number of car sales. With higher prices, bigger loans, and higher interest rates, comes an increase in delinquencies. It has become an issue for many auto finance companies to keep up with the high number of delinquent borrowers.

In this article, we’ll discuss how Voice AI (the technology behind a voicebot) can transform auto loan collections in different ways.

What Is Voice AI?

Also referred to as a voicebot, Voice AI is a technology that enables companies to automate calls with customers from start to finish without requiring the involvement of a human agent.

AI-powered Digital Voice Agents are capable of handling intelligent conversations with users. The technology understands what the user needs and helps them effectively resolve the issue in just a few minutes. Voice AI should not be confused with Outbound IVR (Interactive Voice Response), a dated technology that consumers tend to dislike.

Auto finance companies that perform collection calls are now turning to Voice AI to automate many of the repetitive, tedious calls they used to perform manually and allow their live agents to focus on more complex and revenue-generating tasks. The Digital Voice Agent engages with the borrower, verifies their identity, and collects the payment on-call, covering up to 70% of the company’s outbound call volume.

To better understand what Voice AI is, think about Siri or Alexa, but for collections. However, there is one difference. While voice assistants like Alexa can only handle one or two conversation turns, a solution like Skit.ai’s Digital Voice Agent is designed to address issues that often require several conversation turns. Just like humans need to gather the context before solving a problem, a Digital Voice Agent might ask multiple questions before proposing a resolution.

What Are the Most Common Uses of Voice AI in Auto Finance Collections?

Voice AI is just one of the many artificial intelligence trends that are taking the auto industry by storm. Its ability to automate collection calls and other common types of outbound calls to borrowers is particularly appealing to auto finance leaders looking for ways to cut contact center costs and maximize profits.

Let’s dive deeper into the four most common uses of Voice AI (the technology behind Skit.ai’s Digital Voice Agent) in auto finance collections:

Welcome calls: Lenders and auto finance companies typically deliver an initial “welcome call” to borrowers to let them know that they are servicing the loan or in charge of collecting payments. While these calls are important, they are not revenue-generating and utilize the precious time of the company’s live agents.

Skit.ai’s voicebot solution can easily initiate an outbound call to borrowers to deliver the message and then answer some of the customers’ most common questions.

Payment reminders: Auto finance agents typically spend most of their time calling borrowers to remind them of payments that are due soon or payments that are already overdue. Reaching borrowers is not always a straightforward process! Agents have to establish right-party contact, explain who they are, and remind the borrower about the payment. When the volume of loans increases, it can be challenging for managers to scale the contact center to fit the need of the moment.

Skit.ai’s Voice AI solution can offload up to 70% of the calls from live agents, handling payment reminders automatically. Skit.ai’s clients have even reported that some borrowers prefer to interact with a voicebot rather than a human agent, as it can be embarrassing for them to discuss pending payments and the risk of going delinquent. The voicebot can easily establish right-party contact, remind the borrowers of the due balance, and offer different ways to pay it off.

On-call collections: The end goal for any collector is to recover the payment from the borrower; if the borrower is willing to make the payment on-call, even better. While this part of the process is directly revenue-generating, it still takes time and resources to complete.

Skit.ai’s Digital Voice Agent has the capability to collect the payment during the call, making the process significantly cheaper for the company servicing the loan. The collection is processed through a payment gateway of the company’s choice.

Autopay or ACH sign-up: Many auto finance companies servicing loans initiate outbound calls to borrowers to offer them to sign up for autopay. With autopay or ACH, borrowers can automate payments from their credit card or bank account so that they can be processed on a regular basis.

Skit.ai’s Digital Voice Agent can easily call borrowers, explain how autopay works, and offer them to sign up on call. This is an ideal scenario for auto finance companies, as it ensures a regular cash flow.

How Do Auto Finance Collections Work?

Now that we know what Voice AI is and the main use cases in auto finance, let’s go over the main steps of a standard collection call handled by one of Skit.ai’s Digital Voice Agents.

The voicebot follows these steps:

  1. Triggers the outbound call based on pre-determined criteria
  2. Establishes contact with the borrower (RPC) and reminds them about the payment
  3. Collects propensity data and reasons for potential non-payment
  4. If the customer is interested in making the payment right away, the Digital Voice Agent guides them through the process via a payment gateway
  5. Persuades the customer to pay at the earliest, or offers alternate payment plans
  6. Feeds data to the CMS (collection management software) and provides analytics for further action
  7. Performs auto-callback on request, auto-retries, hot transfer to agent

Are you interested in learning more about how Skit.ai’s Augmented Voice Intelligence platform works and how your auto finance company can adopt it? Schedule a call with one of our experts using the chat tool below!

Tackle Agent Attrition in Debt Collection Agencies Using Voice AI

For debt collection agencies, debt recovery is a labor-intensive effort that typically relies more on human effort than capital investments. Even with the adoption of newer digital communication tools that promise to scale manual efforts, the ARM industry invariably struggles with one major issue — human resource turnover.

Across all industries, average attrition rates in contact centers vary between 30 to 40%.

It’s hard to know the exact attrition rate in the ARM industry. Agencies reported a monthly quit rate of 2.9% in 2021. Before the pandemic, in 2016, large collection agencies reported experiencing an average turnover rate of 75% to 100%, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The high attrition that characterizes the collections space makes third-party debt collection agencies vulnerable to several challenges, like loss of domain expertise, risk of non-compliance, lawsuits, and increased cost of hiring and training new talent. In the United States, with nearly one in four citizens having at least one debt in collections, recovery has become an increasingly costly endeavor.

Most Common Reasons for Collection Agent Attrition in the Debt Collection Industry 

Here are some of the most common challenges that make it so difficult for agencies to retain collectors:

  • Too Many Accounts, Too Much Work: Given the growing debt delinquency in the U.S., one can only imagine the amount of verification and debt-related communication work that can drive collectors to overwork.
  • Collectors’ Commission is Dependent on Recovery: Third-party debt collection agencies are involved when credit card issuers or creditors’ collection representatives cannot recover overdue balances. Collection agencies face thinning profit margins, and human agents’ commissions for debt recovery further burn holes in their pockets. There is no set rule or guarantee on the time the human agents need to recover outstanding loans successfully.
  • The Great Resignation: While all contact centers face high attrition rates, many people have been rethinking their careers and seeking opportunities in new fields over the last two years. This also applies to the ARM industry, where collection agents face acute stress from chasing after customers over the phone while adhering to a wide array of regulations, making attrition an even bigger challenge.
  • Empty Promises to Pay: It is common to find consumers dodging debt-related interactions. When confronted directly, they are likely to make promises to pay that may only sometimes be honored, which is another detractor for collectors to stick to their roles.
  • Debt Shame: Debt collection calls are direct and can sometimes make the debtors uncomfortable delving into the details of their unpaid loans. According to a study by Webio, people can be much more honest when communicating via text messages than in voice interactions for difficult scenarios. In the case of debt collections, textual conversations can reduce stress for both debtor and collector.
  • Efforts Often Don’t Justify Conversion Rates: When it comes to debt, the devil is in the details. To invest too much attention and time in each customer who needs a detailed overview of their loans and debts is unrealistic. It is extremely costly and leads to operational overkill, another reason for collectors’ resignation.
  • Debt Collection is Not for Everyone: Employee turnover in any field results from the nature of the job/employer and the employee’s capabilities. Working conditions, perks, quality of work, and benefits will fix the collector’s morale. But employees’ capabilities for the job determine how much they are willing to stick to it. 
  • Rapid Changes in Regulatory Framework: Many regulatory agencies like FTC and rules like Fair Debt Collection Practices Act dictate how collection agencies can approach consumers without violating consumer protection laws. It requires constant staff training and procedural approaches like obtaining debt verification requests, debt validation, forbearance, and foreclosures that rely on unique expertise. When agencies adopt a manual route or use restrictive debtor communication methods, errors and inaccuracies are expected.

 The Rising Role of Voice AI in the Debt Collections Industry

These challenges highlight the urgency for digital transformation in collection agencies; in particular, agencies are looking at automation as the primary solution to their attrition crisis.

In our previous articles, we discussed the unique capabilities of Voice AI technology in reducing contact center agent labor costs via call automation. Concurrently, Gartner’s estimates from their survey also suggest that labor expenses represent 95% of contact center costs, and adopting Conversational AI helps cut expenses by $80 billion. The customer-facing side of ARM, particularly the debt collection agencies, can capitalize on this trend to reduce staff shortages, curb labor expenses and make human resources more efficient and effective. 

Skit.ai’s Voice AI platform is at the forefront of transforming the ARM industry with its Digital Voice Agents and augmenting collection agencies’ workforce to focus on resolving complex use cases. 

Voice AI’s value-adds are in areas that impact collectors’ productivity and bandwidth which further determine talent retention in this space. Here’s the rundown of its merits that help address agent attrition challenge in the debt collections industry:

  1. End-to-end Call Automation: Voice AI helps automate 70% of calls (inbound and outbound), allowing prompt query resolution. Also, agencies can leverage automation to identify consumers, policy numbers, and other debt-related information. This reduces the effort and time it would take to call and follow up with each debtor manually. 
  2. Reduce High Cost of Collection by 1/5th: Digital Voice Agents that plug into contact centers and take over calls by holding human-like conversations can execute calls at less than 1/5th of the actual cost of manual calls. Collection agencies can lower operation costs with intelligent voice agents in lieu of collectors by concurrently calling over thousands of defaulters.
  3. High Scalability: Agencies can scale their debt collection efforts and consumer outreach by leveraging call automation and Digital Voice Agents that can handle and answer tier-1 caller queries by automating up to 70% of calls, reducing dependency on human agents. 
  4. Higher Portfolio Coverage Intensity: Collectors can cover many more debt files when they leverage Voice AI’s ability to handle multiple calls simultaneously. With minimal effort, cost and time, agencies expand their scale of reach of debt collection practices with minimal human intervention.
  5. Strict Adherence to Compliance: Fear of lawsuits or going off track by the debt collectors will be alleviated by the Voice AI platform, which is purpose-built and specific to the domain and use case. Digital Voice Agents can be tailored to hold and attend calls as per the laws governing consumers’ preference for call frequency, tone, language, and time to receive debt collection calls.
  6. Solve Diverse Use Cases: The recovery process in the collection agencies involves rigorous reviews, checking outstanding balances, sending demand and acknowledgment letters, and arranging for telephone contact. It is humanly impossible to keep track of all details, numbers, and sensitive information about different types of debt and cases at their fingertips. Digital Voice Agents can be optimized to address various debt-related queries and use cases without time, cost, and human effort constraints, reducing work stress and dissatisfaction for debt collectors. 
  7. Enhance Human Agent Productivity: Debt collectors can experience higher and faster conversion levels by leveraging Voice AI’s analytics and caller data insights. The pre-call verification, call automation (inbound and outbound), and routing features enable real-time agent augmentation, boosting productivity and performance. Also, the Digital Voice Agents are capable of intelligent call transfers to human agents only for complex cases, allowing the human workforce to focus on efforts that help retrieve debts faster. 
  8. Voice AI Calls are Free of Human Biases: Holding debt recovery conversations is a sticky collection practice that most consumers tend to avoid out of pressure, discomfort, shame, and fear of judgment. Voice AI’s call automation capability eliminates direct voice interaction between defaulters and collection agents, making collection calls free of human biases. Also, Digital Voice Agents can hold persuasive, contextually accurate, and proactive conversations and keep interactions direct and objective. This way, collection agents can experience higher work quality without job stress, dissatisfaction, and the chances of misdemeanors while talking to consumers. 

Collection agencies rely entirely on outstanding loan payments to survive. Voice AI helps collection agencies strike a balance between meeting their recovery targets and making debt collection efforts more intuitive in a way that doesn’t come at the cost of operational burnouts and resignations. Voice AI eliminates bottlenecks in debt recovery and improves the overall customer experience.

To learn more about how Voice AI can help you solve attrition challenges, schedule a call with one of our experts or use the chat tool below.

Rethinking Self-service in the Age of Voice AI 

What’s common among interactive voice response (IVR) systems, ATMs, knowledge base, mobile applications, virtual assistants or chatbots? They are all self-service options that can help dispense answers and resolve queries at lightning speed! Self-service or self-help tools and options make for an empowered customer support team and a loyal customer base. 

Self-service equals simplified customer journeys! 

In a mobile-driven digital economy, a brand’s relevance and value is measured in terms of the speed, convenience and the level of autonomy offered to their customers. Digital self-service is the central objective of today’s automated customer support, but tailored for better CX and performance. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the usage of digitized self-service by customers across demographics accelerated with sudden digital transformation (DX). With newer entrants into the market— more digital native brands, always-on, smartphone users and Gen Z customers, numerous possibilities await businesses using digital self-service in their customer support. As per the recent OnePoll study involving over 10,000 respondents from 11 countries to explore humanity’s shifting relationship with digital tech and experiences:

  • Nearly 58% percent of participants said they will continue their digital brand interactions more than their pre-pandemic levels. 
  • Most study respondents felt that the digital experience was fast and convenient, making it better or on par with the real-world, face-to-face customer service interactions. 
  • Almost 66% reportedly had a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ experience using online customer service options. 

Diving a little deeper, the research summed up the exact reasons for positive reactions:

  • Instant issue/query resolution (48%).
  • Convenience (46%).
  • Speed (45%).

These findings form the crux of self-service. In this blog we will begin our exploration on why self-service tools are truly adept in capturing customers’ interest, and meeting productivity and performance goals of brands’ customer support. 

Psychology behind Self-service

Self-service is not the same as automation. Sure, digital self-service gives automated responses to repetitive queries in blazing speed. It is not only about allowing customers to resolve things on their own but also empowering them to address them faster. The overall value of the self-service strategy is measured in terms of its impact on CX. The faster, more convenient and more cutting-edge the self-service options, the better would be the CX scores. Moreover, the intuitiveness and simplicity of self-service helps reduce customer effort while solving problems on their own. This lowers the customer effort score (CES), another key metric for frictionless CX!

An intuitive, anytime self-service strategy across the platforms or channels also helps evade a laundry list of options for customer service-related interactions and unnecessary contact with human agents.  This is integral for curbing additional contact center operations costs and allocating resources and human efforts in areas that build proactive and customer-centric impressions.  No wonder, in the U.S. 88% of customers prefer self-service for dealing with their everyday problems. The number is equal to the global average of customers that expect brands and businesses to include a self-service support portal. 

The Most Common Types of Self-service Options

Now, let’s have a look at this run-down of the widely adopted self-service support options.

  1. Knowledge Base and FAQs: Internet-savvy customers leverage business/brands’ digital presence to find their way from the search engine platform to access information in a variety of forms (videos, landing pages, texts, infographics, illustrations, audiobooks, guides, and icons) for problem-solving.   Dedicated FAQ pages that are brief and true-to-context is another form of self-service option that guides customers through specific customer service-related scenarios on the company’s website. 
  1. Integrated Contact Centers: Customer data is created across multiple channels. Integrated contact centers bind sales, contact center agents or other representatives with unified data sharing, collaboration and improved access to customer data across customer journeys and omni-channels for customer service. The intention is to boost CX and reduce the need to repeat information as customers navigate different customer service departments to solve issues on their own. 
  1.  Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Systems: IVRs have existed for more than five decades. They are customer-facing phone systems that offer (inbound and outbound) support with pre-recorded messages and self-service menu responses to customers’ text inputs. They are cost-effective, scalable, and automated alternatives to human agents. 

Move Beyond IVRs: Transform CX with Digital Voice Agents 

  1. Chatbots: Chatbots use text-based or voice interfaces that are integrated to websites or mobile apps’ chat/message window  to interact with customers. They are AI-driven and created based on the planned interaction flow chart to respond to customers in a matter of seconds. 
  1. Mobile Applications: Mobile apps with intuitive and interactive UX and UI give information to customers via dashboards, push notifications and updates in their moments of need, on their mobile devices. 

Voice AI: A Quantum Leap in Self-service 

The common forms of self-service options are the building blocks of the new age customer support. But there’s always the expectation for solutions that drive up the cost savings and operational efficiency while also helping brands’ contact centers meet their CX objectives. Imagine, if brands were able to achieve that while also offering self-service support that was voice-led, personalized, empathetic and proactively responds in real-time! For today’s automation and customer-first era, Skit.ai’s purpose-built Voice AI platform redefines self-service for optimizing customer support not only for better CX but for enhanced employee and business experience. 

Built to enable conversations that are modeled on human interactions for prompt query resolution and personalized caller experiences, Voice AI is a next level of innovation in self-service. It delivers the best of voice experiences for brands through their contact centers that go beyond the capabilities of generic voice bots. 

Voice AI is built to be domain-specific unlike generic voice-first platforms by Amazon and Google. The  spoken language understanding (SLU) layer of Voice AI helps capture short, conversational utterances and is capable of deciphering semantic details that helps identify the right intent.  

Why Every Company Must Have a Voice: Read Now 

How Voice AI Lays the Framework for Self-service 

Voice conversations are the most natural forms of human communication and still remain one of the most sought after brand-customer interactions. Live voice conversations are critical to delivering high-quality customer experience. Customers interacting with self service options such as IVRS and messaging chatbots think before inputting a text command and hit send. Voice AI is a technology built to understand the intricacies of spoken language and not limited to text. It can quickly grasp customers’ voice interactions and filter through pauses and repetitions.

The  Digital Voice Agents plug into the contact centers for automating cognitively routine work and independently resolving tier 1 customer problems. This would aid the human workforce to focus on more complex customer queries and contact centers to adopt intelligent human-machine collaboration. This way customers can stay in control and brands also get to pick the best self-service strategy for delightful CX. 

Now, let’s dig into various features of Voice AI that makes it a better alternative to conventional self-service support:

  • Natural human-like Interaction: Digital voice agents that can mimic human-like conversations and comprehend interactions at a semantic level. It doesn’t feel like interacting with IVRs. It feels like holding conversations with the brands’ contact center agent.
  • Problem Recognition: Customers navigating through the self-service option can feel like they are lost in translation because of the complex IVR loops, limited menus or options that do not cater to their requirements. Sometimes chatbots are built with an ASR layer on top of NLP. They are great for transcriptions, not conversations. They deliver the same experience as going through a rigid IVR system. Digital Voice Agents can understand the right sentiment and nuances of human conversations, allowing the customer support to accurately identify and solve customers’ problems.
  • Always-on, Human Agent-free experience: One of the core value propositions of implementing a digital voice agent is its ability to function 24/7 for the ‘always-on’ customers without the dependency on human agents. This translates to cost savings by automating high-volume, zero-value and repetitive customer queries.
  • Quick Resolution: Self-service platforms optimized by powerful AI-capabilities and strong data sets based on customers data can be used for competitive advantage. It allows fast resolution, impacting customer satisfaction and CX. 
  • Diversify Customer Service at a Lesser Cost: When more problems that are unique in nature can be handled by voice agents and automated, it helps brands’ customer service be a one-stop-shop for addressing customer queries at a fraction of a cost.
  • Smarter Human Resource Allocation: Self service options in contact centers make it easier to address trivial problems or anything that is repetitive in nature using Digital Voice Agents. Human agents can be allocated only for complex customer service issues, allowing for better resource planning and empowered customer support teams.
  • Make Self-service More human: Digital voice agents add a human touch to the overall experience without involving a human. The datasets are designed for SLU and built for domain-specific words which makes it easier to hold contextual conversation with the customers even via self-service options.
  • Hyper-personalize Customer Support: Brands can guarantee hyper personalization leveraging Voice AI’s extensive language support. It helps break spoken language barriers for enhanced query resolution and overall caller experience.

If you still have questions, refer to the infographic below for a brief comparative analysis between Voice AI and three most popular self-service tools.

FeaturesVoice AIIVR Systems Chatbots Mobile Apps 
Primarily Built for Voice Input YesNoNoNo
Analytics and insights CapabilitiesVery HighLowHighLow
Elasticity of Customer Service  HighLowModerateLow
Hyper-personalized and Contextual dialog CapabilityHighLowHighHigh
Handling time Lowest Very HighModerateLow
Quick Query Resolution Quickest Slowest Quick Quick

Our Titbits

Envisioning customer service in the age of self-service is all about setting the right priorities. With the hope of keeping up with the trends for relevancy, brands and businesses need not steer away from their cost, profits and resource management goals. That’s the core objective of reimagining customer self-service using Voice AI. Brands across industries can supercharge their CX with befitting self-service strategies to be more result-oriented and insight-driven to add a competitive edge. 

Our reflections for the future—customers never settle and self-service alone is not enough! Therefore, we believe Voice AI is the most robust and well-rounded technology to improve customer support capabilities that go beyond conventional contact centers, adding a desired level of autonomy and self-sufficiency in customer service. 

Refer to our Voice AI page for more information on actively engaging with your customers and unlocking the power of self-service.  Book a demo with one of our expertswww.skit.ai 

What Is Call Automation and How Can It Impact Debt Collections?

Let’s face it: third-party debt collection agencies often sit on high-volume portfolios of accounts, as they lack the capabilities and resources to contact all debtors. Ultimately, some agencies give up on reaching all those accounts, focusing solely on the larger ones.

ARM companies usually acquire thousands of new accounts each month, but many of those accounts might be left untouched due to the lack of bandwidth. For each account, collectors need to establish right-party contact (RPC), remind the customer of their outstanding balance, and offer ways to help them pay off their debt. More often than not, customers are not available right away, and the collector has to call them back at a different time. It’s not an easy job!

What if I told you that you could automate this entire process?

Yes, you heard that right. A conversational Voice AI solution can handle your collection calls on your behalf. Think Siri or Alexa, but for collections.

What Is Call Automation?

Contact centers in all industries — from banking to e-commerce and, of course, the ARM (Accounts Receivable Management) industry — are turning to automation as a strategy to overcome the challenges of managing both inbound and outbound calls with customers. While there are a variety of software applications out there, conversational AI technologies are booming right now. These tools are capable of handling conversations with customers without the need for any human intervention.

Gartner predicts that conversational artificial intelligence will reduce agent labor costs in contact centers by $80 billion within the next four years.

Voice AI technologies may sound “new” to you today, but they are set to become the industry standard in the collections and payments space within a few years. Early adopters will likely reap the benefits as they’ll be ahead of the learning curve.

When they hear “call automation,” many people tend to think about IVR (interactive voice response) technology. Think, “To make a payment, press 1…” In recent years, voice automation has significantly evolved with the emergence of conversational Voice AI, which is a more sophisticated technology than IVR.

A Digital Voice Agent (read: voicebot) can handle a human-feeling and effective two-way conversation with a customer, answering questions and providing context-specific information.

When integrated with your collection management software, the Digital Voice Agent can reach your customers, remind them of their outstanding balances, and offer them ways to pay via select payment gateways.

Learn more: What to Look for When Purchasing a Voice AI Solution for Debt Collections

What Does an Automated Collection Call Sound Like?

Are you curious to hear what an automated outbound collection sounds like? Here’s a demo of Skit.ai’s Digital Voice Agent calling a debtor to remind them of their due balance and collect the payment:

The Voice AI platform follows these steps:

  1. Triggers the outbound call based on pre-determined criteria
  2. Establishes contact with the customer (RPC) and reminds them about the payment
  3. Collects propensity data and reasons for potential non-payment
  4. If the customer is interested in making the payment right away, the Digital Voice Agent guides them through the process via a payment gateway
  5. Persuades the customer to pay at the earliest, or offers alternate payment plans
  6. Feeds data to the CMS (collection management software) and provides analytics for further action
  7. Performs auto-callback on request, auto-retries, hot transfer to agent

Is an AI-Powered Collector Compliant?

Compliance is one of the most common pain points for those who manage debt collections. There are so many regulations at both federal and state levels, and it’s common for consumers to file lawsuits against ARM companies, which can amount to major expenses on the agency’s part. Additionally, regulations often change, and collectors sometimes struggle to keep up with the new changes.

It’s actually easier to ensure that an AI-powered collector is fully compliant with local laws and regulations related to collections and phone calls. This is because a Digital Voice Agent:

  • never goes off-script
  • only calls customers at permitted times
  • always honors do-not-call registries
  • never resorts to threats or aggressive language

Dive deeper: Meeting Debt Collection Compliance With AI-Powered Digital Voice Agents

If you want to learn more about call automation for collections and payments, schedule a call with one of our experts or use the chat tool below.

How Debt Collection Agencies Can Rely on Voice AI To Prepare for a Recession

A version of this article was first published on the website of RMAi (Receivables Management Association International).

The U.S. economy has been shrinking, with many experts already pointing out that technically we have already entered a recession, as the economy has now contracted for two consecutive quarters. Fears of a recession have dominated most sectors of the economy over the last few months, and the ARM (Accounts Receivable Management) industry is no different.

The economy is slowing, inflation is high, and the Federal Reserve has been increasing its interest rates, and yet the data suggest that we find ourselves in a more complex and nuanced situation. Unemployment is still very low and the economy has been adding hundreds of thousands of new jobs each month, suggesting that it’s not all doom and gloom.

The latest reports, however, predict there will be a “mild recession” between 2022 and early 2023, with inflation being a major indicator of the direction the economy is headed towards, according to authoritative institutions such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

How can debt collection agencies prepare for a recession, and what do we know from previous economic crises that can guide us through the uncertain period ahead of us?

What Happens to Collection Agencies During a Recession?

Times of economic uncertainty are a mixed bag for collection agencies.

During a recession, the consumers who have the ability to be more conservative with their spending habits may choose to be more careful than usual. This might result in less borrowing. However, accounts might start increasing significantly as soon as the economy recovers.

On the other hand, for the people who already owe money, it might be more difficult to pay off their balances with jobs and income in jeopardy—leading to more defaults.

Additionally, the agency itself might need to take measures to cut down on costs. This may result in a reduction in staff, which will directly affect collection rates.

How Did the ARM Industry Fare in Previous Recessions?

Data gathered by the advisory firm Kaulkin Ginsberg shows how the ARM industry reacted to the last two major economic crises in the United States.

During the Internet bubble bursting — also known as the Dotcom crash — the ARM industry experienced a boom, with its revenue increasing from $8.2 billion in 2000 to $9.3 billion in 2001—a 13.4% increase. Between 2002 and 2005, the industry experienced continued growth at a similar rate.

The Great Recession of 2008, however, put the ARM industry to the test. The revenue fell by 14.4% from 2007 to 2009. Debt collection agencies struggled to collect payments, as consumers did not have the ability to pay off their debts. Many lenders scaled back their operations, leading to less accounts for collectors to manage.

And yet, just like in the previous crash, the years following the Great Recession were pretty good for the industry. While growth rates did not resemble the pre-recession boom, the industry still grew at an average rate of 4.16% per year.

5 Steps Collections Agencies Can Take To Prepare for a Recession

Optimize All Processes

To make your organization recession-proof, the first step is to optimize all of your internal processes and workflows. Analyze the existing processes and the customer journey and ask yourself: Can you identify any pain points? Where are resources missing and where are they abounding? Are there any workflows that can be shortened or reshuffled? Are there any tech tools to add to your stack that can help with any of the issues you’ve identified?

Invest in Agent Retention

Agent attrition in collection agencies is very high, and this creates additional expenses, as agencies need to cover recruiting, hiring, and training costs each time an agent leaves their job. Investing in agent retention is a must for agencies preparing for a recession. You want to keep your agents happy and make sure they don’t feel overly stressed or overwhelmed with calls. Consider adopting tech solutions that could take over some of the most repetitive and tedious agent workload.

Prepare for Account Volume Fluctuations

As account volume gets more volatile, agencies may experience more fluctuations in volume of outbound calls, needing more or less resources depending on the time. Agencies should develop a strong plan to address these scenarios; plan ahead even if you might not be experiencing this issue yet.

Offer Plenty of Payment Options

Once a customer is ready to pay, you should make it as easy as possible for them to pay using the method they prefer, including mobile payment apps. Collection agencies have started adopting PayPal and Venmo as payment methods, and the first data suggests that adoption is very successful.

The majority of Americans (79%) use mobile payment apps, according to a survey by NerdWallet. When looking specifically at the younger generations, the numbers go up: 94% of millennials use mobile payment apps.

Invest in Customer Self-Service

The existing data on customer service and customer experience indicates that customers expect companies to offer self-service customer care options. 39% of U.S. consumers find it very important to have access to a fully self-serve customer care option available to resolve their issues, according to a report by Emplify.

Self-service for a collection agency includes the ability to easily make payments and solve smaller issues by using the agency’s website, a mobile application, or an AI-powered Digital Voice Agent. More on that in the next section!

How Debt Collection Agencies Can Rely on Voice AI To Prepare for a Recession

Looking ahead and adopting technological solutions that can help you automate processes and improve the customer and employee experiences is one of the best ways to future-proof your collection agency, especially as we prepare for a likely recession.

Voice AI — AI-powered Digital Voice Agents to perform your outbound calls and collect payments from your customers — is becoming more and more popular and common among collection agencies in the United States.

In a recession, you not only want to save money, but you also want to ensure you maintain a competitive edge over your competitors. Looking into the adoption of artificial intelligence technologies that can automate your operations is key to securing a competitive advantage.

The benefits of Voice AI for collections include:

  • Automation: The Digital Voice Agent calls all of the customers on your portfolio and it then filters out the complex cases that need human agent intervention.
  • Coverage: The Digital Voice Agent can be scaled up according to the agency’s needs, so you can have optimal coverage of your accounts.
  • Recovery: The Digital Voice Agent can easily schedule follow-up calls, honoring the regulatory guidelines, spread over weeks/months, and ensure better recovery rates.
  • Compliance: Minimize errors and abide by existing laws and regulations by adopting a fully-compliant technology.
  • Cost and speed: Digital Voice Agents are efficient, effective, and cost significantly less than human collectors.
  • Customer experience: Offer a smooth and pleasant experience to your customers.
  • Scaling: Scale up and down as needed with just one click.

For more information and a free demo, you can schedule a call with one of our collections experts. We’ll be happy to help!

Contact Center Automation Trends: Don’t Overlook Call Automation

Running a contact center has become an increasingly expensive and challenging operation. Costs are up, agent attrition rates are high, and hiring new agents has been difficult; all of this has resulted in longer wait times and a decline in resolution rates, which ultimately lead to a poor customer experience. 

Whether their customer interactions are mostly inbound or outbound, more and more contact centers are looking into digital transformation and automation as the ingredients for a winning strategy to overcome the ongoing crisis. These technologies and solutions may look “new” today, but they are set to become the industry standard within a few years. Early adopters are certainly going to reap the benefits and be ahead of the learning curve.

As you map out a strategy to automate your contact center channels, you might face the question of which channels are worth investing in the most. Which channels should you be focusing on as you plan a digital-first approach to customer interactions?

In this article, we’ll explore the ramifications of contact center automation and explain why you should not overlook voice-first channels and call automation as you plan the future of your contact center.

Which Contact Center Channels Can Be Automated?

Contact center automation is the process of adopting technological solutions that process and respond to customer service queries automatically. Of course, many internal workflows within the contact center can be automated; but, most importantly, the channels that customers use to interact with the contact center can be automated using artificial intelligence.

Learn more: Contact Center Outsourcing vs. Contact Center Automation

Automation of chat contact channels: Chatbots are available to customers 24/7 and can easily source the answers to frequently asked questions. A chatbot is usually available on the company’s website, but they can also be integrated with popular social media and messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Automation of voice contact channels: Call automation for call centers is not an entirely new concept. It became popular in the 1980s with IVR (interactive voice response) technology and the use of DTMF responses (dual tone multi frequency). In recent years, voice automation has significantly evolved, with the emergence of conversational voice AI (artificial intelligence), which is a more sophisticated technology than IVR.

Conversational AI Is Booming Right Now

Conversational AI is one of the biggest trends to monitor right now. A new report published by Research and Markets estimates that the conversational AI platform market will reach $13.2 billion by 2027, with North America leading the market, followed by Europe and the Asia Pacific region.

The report suggests that 36% of enterprises will shift their customer support function entirely to virtual assistants—such as voicebots and chatbots—within the next decade. AI-enabled interactions allow for hyper-personalized experiences across multiple channels and platforms, while servicing customers around the clock.

Voice-led tools and technologies are booming—also thanks to the prevalence of voice assistants and smart speakers like Apple’s Siri and Amazon Echo. Deloitte estimates that, by 2030, there will be a proliferation of voice-led technologies all over the world.

In customer service, voicebots like Skit.ai’s Digital Voice Agents can handle conversations with multiple back-and-forth, contextual interactions, which have a much more natural feel and can actually lead to a problem resolution.

The Benefits of Voice Calls as a Contact Channel

Text-based contact channels — such as live web chat, chatbots, and social media apps — are particularly popular among younger users, such as millennials and Gen Z customers. Many people are used to both texting and speaking on the phone, but younger people generally prefer texting, while adult and older people prefer voice calls.

One possible limitation of chat-based tools for customer service and customer interactions in general is that they require some degree of familiarity with the chat tools themselves. Users who are not tech-savvy and are not familiar with these tools — such as older users — may find these channels more difficult to use.

Additionally, some users prefer the immediacy of phone calls, which can feel more personal and more suitable to discuss complex issues.

The Voice Automation & Customer Experience Metrics You Should Know

If you think your company might be overlooking voice calls as a contact channel, you should take a look at these statistics about voice-based communications:

  1. A report on contact centers and customer experience published by CFI Group in 2020 showed that phone calls are still the preferred customer service channel, with 76% of respondents saying that they seek customer service over the phone.
  2. A Stanford Study conducted in 2016 revealed that speech recognition software writes text messages more quickly than thumbs. According to the study, dictating a text in English is 3 times faster than typing; speech-to-text (STT) also has an error rate 20.4% lower than typing. The researchers got similar results when they conducted the experiment with Mandarin Chinese: dictation was 2.8 times faster than typing.
  3. Another study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology indicated that talking by phone or over a computer creates a stronger social bond than communicating by text or email.
  4. Smoother interactions with a company’s contact center and a faster resolution contribute to a positive customer experience; we know that customer experience contributes to fostering a customer’s brand loyalty and willingness to spend more.
  5. A study by Gartner indicated that artificial intelligence was the most prevalent technology for investment to improve customer experience in 2021. Among the most common uses of AI to improve CX, the study highlighted:

Learn more: The Unique Advantages of Skit.ai, a Speech-first Voice AI Platform

The existing data indicates that, despite the emergence of new technologies over the past decades, voice is still a winning channel. That’s why companies should not overlook voice calls, as they are still a powerful and popular channel to interact with customers.

Call automation enables a call center to take and initiate an unlimited number of calls at the same time, assisting customers in need with inbound calls and reaching consumers with outbound calls, and escalating the more complex calls to human agents. As you prioritize voice, investing in call automation is key.

Do you want to learn more about how you can adopt Voice AI? Use the chat tool below to book a demo with one of our experts!

Contact Center Outsourcing vs. Contact Center Automation

Companies all over the world spend billions of dollars on contact centers. In 2020, the global contact center market size was estimated to be over $339 billion, and that number is projected to grow significantly over the next decade.

Whenever a company invests in their contact center — whether it’s in-house or outsourced — they end up spending most of the budget on staffing, and significantly less goes to fund the technology. Even then, contact centers are dealing with major staff shortages that have caused customer service wait times to skyrocket.

In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of contact center outsourcing, and we’ll compare them with the benefits of contact center automation with innovative conversational voice AI solutions.

What Is Contact Center Outsourcing?

Over the last decade, many companies have begun outsourcing their contact center operations. Contact center outsourcing is the use of contracted labor from a third-party source or organization to manage a company’s contact center and customer service operations. These third-party sources are commonly known as business process outsourcing (BPO) and they are often located offshore.

As a result of outsourcing, staffers who do not work directly for your company will handle all of your communications with your customers; they will be the ones to pick up the phone when you receive an inbound call from a disgruntled customer or a technical question related to your products or services. Additionally, customer interactions that may be handled by the BPO may include social media (e.g. Twitter), live chat, and email.

It’s common for contact center outsourcing to take place offshore, as it’s typically cheaper to manage these operations abroad.

The Benefits of Outsourcing Your Contact or Call Center

Here are some of the most relevant pros of outsourcing your contact center:

It’s cheaper. This is not to say that it’s cheap—just that it’s cheaper than running your in-house contact center. Hiring, training and managing staffers is expensive, in addition to the expenses related to the facilities and equipment required to run the center. Unloading all of these challenges to an external organization that is familiar with this type of operation is likely to save you a significant amount of money.

It’s one less headache. Money aside, managing a contact center can be a major headache, especially when dealing with the current attrition rates, which are very high, and short-staffing issues. If you are not ready to invest the time that goes into this type of operation, outsourcing may be worth looking into.

Customer service around the clock. Offering 24/7 customer service has become the key to a successful customer experience. However, maintaining an in-house team of customer care specialists that can deliver 24/7 service is a challenge most businesses cannot handle.

It allows for some scaling flexibility. As your business grows, customer queries will grow, too, and you’ll need to seamlessly scale up your service operations. Additionally, temporary crises and unexpected events can cause query and call volume surges, which are difficult to manage for a smaller, in-house contact center.

The Disadvantages of Contact Center Outsourcing

Yes, contact center outsourcing may have its perks, but it’s not the perfect solution to all of your contact center needs. Here are some of the disadvantages:

Limited control over your contact center. Outsourcing means trusting a third-party organization to manage your interactions with customers. While as a business you often have to rely on other companies and solutions, when you outsource your contact center you accept that you will likely have limited control over its operations.

Limited knowledge of your company. BPOs typically service many companies, which means that your contact center agents may be assigned to work with other companies, as well. Additionally, because they don’t work directly for you, the agents are likely to have a limited knowledge and expertise of your company and the products and solutions you offer; by definition, the outsourced agents will be less exposed to your company and will not be able to regularly communicate with other departments within your organization.

It’s still expensive. Yes, outsourcing is relatively cheaper than creating and managing an in-house contact center, but it’s still a very large investment. Additionally, if your customer experience deteriorates because of the poor customer support, then you will end up losing customers, which will directly affect your profit.

What Is Contact Center Automation?

Contact center automation is the process of adopting technological solutions that process and respond to customer service queries automatically, boosting the center’s efficiency, bringing down costs, and offloading human agents of repetitive, tedious tasks. In this article, we are focusing specifically on voice automation, which consists in the adoption of a voicebot.

As maintaining a contact center has become an increasingly expensive and complex operation, more businesses have been looking into automation as an ideal solution to the customer service crisis. Especially for the more simple customer queries, automation can be an easy-to-implement solution that leaves customers satisfied by easily solving their most common issues.

Skit’s Digital Voice Agent is a prime example of contact center automation, as it’s an purpose-built and industry-specific AI-powered agent that can converse with customers, answer their questions, and process their requests as needed.

Does automation mean that human agents are no longer needed? Absolutely not. At Skit.ai, we are firm believers in the power of Augmented Intelligence, which sees human agents partner with artificial intelligence to provide a seamless customer experience.

Dive deeper: Voice AI — The Biggest Contact Center Automation Trend

Benefits of Contact Center Automation as Opposed to Outsourcing

Significantly cheaper. You can adopt an AI-powered Digital Voice Agent at a fraction of the cost of a team of human agents. Some estimate that businesses that adopt voice automation save approximately 50% of what they were previously spending on their call center.

Direct control over your use cases. As opposed to an outsourced human agent, the Digital Voice Agent is built with your company’s specific needs in mind. Before it’s built, you get to express all of your needs; even afterwards, you can tweak it and improve its performance or add new use cases as needed by easily using Skit’s Studio platform.

Empowering human agents. For more complex queries or issues, the Digital Voice Agent escalates the call to a human agent—while providing the human agent with the appropriate context. You can read more about how Voice AI empowers human agents in this article.

Customer verification is much faster. Human agents typically spend 4-5 minutes just to verify the identity of the customer or caller at the beginning of the call. A Digital Voice Agent can do it in just a couple of minutes, costing you less resources.

24/7 support. We’ve already pointed out the importance of 24/7 customer support for seamless CX. The Digital Voice Agent never sleeps, and it doesn’t take a single day off.

Are you curious to see how Skit’s Augmented Voice Intelligence solution works? Would you like to see a demo of our product and speak with an expert? Schedule a call with one of our experts using the chat tool below!

How Contact Centers Can Rely on Voice AI To Prepare for a Recession

The U.S. economy has been shrinking, with many experts pointing out that technically we have already entered a recession, as the economy has now contracted for two consecutive quarters. Fears of a recession have dominated most sectors of the economy over the last few months.

The economy is slowing, inflation is high, and the Federal Reserve has been increasing its interest rates, and yet the data suggest that we find ourselves in a more complex and nuanced situation. Unemployment is still very low and the economy has been adding hundreds of thousands of new jobs each month, suggesting that it’s not all doom and gloom.

The latest reports, however, predict there will be a “mild recession” between 2022 and early 2023, with inflation being a major indicator of the direction the economy is headed towards, according to authoritative institutions such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

How can your contact center prepare for a recession? How can you rely on technology to future-proof your contact center operations?

How Does a Recession Threaten Contact Center Operations and Customer Service at Large?

It’s impossible to predict what a possible recession will look like. Each past recession has been different, and the best businesses can do is prepare and future-proof their organization across all departments, optimizing their operations and cost-correcting wherever possible.

The possible threats that a recession may pose to your contact center may be:

  • Budget cuts: The overall business may have reduced profits and management might decide to cut costs across various departments. This will leave you to manage the same workload as before, but with less resources, and you might be forced to let go of some of your agents.
  • Increased call volumes: While your funds might decrease, inbound calls and customer queries might actually increase.
  • Chain reaction: As your resources become more limited and you’re unable to offer the same level of customer service as before, the overall customer experience will be affected, causing the loss of customers. This chain-reaction can spark a vicious cycle in which the contact center management may be held responsible for the loss of customers.

5 Steps Contact Centers Can Take To Prepare for a Recession

Optimize All Processes

To make your business recession-proof, the first step is to optimize all of your internal processes and workflows. Analyze the existing processes and the customer journey:

  • Can you identify any pain points?
  • Where are resources missing and where are they abounding?
  • Are there any workflows that can be shortened or reshuffled?
  • Are there any tech tools to add to your stack that can help with any of the issues you’ve identified?

Invest in Customer Self-Service

The existing data on customer service and customer experience indicates that customers expect companies to offer self-service customer care options. 39% of U.S. consumers find it very important to have access to a fully self-serve customer care option available to resolve their issues, according to a report by Emplify.

Self-service customer service allows customers to view, change and cancel their orders, make payments, request information, make a reservation, request technical support, and solve common issues on their own without the need to involve a human agent; this can be done through the company’s website, a mobile application, or an AI-powered Digital Voice Agent.

Invest in Agent Retention

Agent attrition in contact centers tends to be high. The current data suggests that contact centers have at least a 35-40% attrition rate. This trend creates additional expenses, as the business needs to cover recruiting, hiring, and training costs each time an agent leaves their job.

Investing in agent retention is a must for businesses preparing for a recession. You want to keep your agents happy and make sure they don’t feel overly stressed or overwhelmed with calls. If you have to let go of some of your agents, you should adopt a strategy to hold on to the ones you plan to keep. Consider adopting tech solutions that could automate some of the most repetitive and tedious agent workload.

Prepare for Call Fluctuations

As query volume becomes more volatile, contact centers may experience more fluctuations in volume of inbound calls, needing more or less resources depending on the time. Agencies should develop a strong plan to address these scenarios; plan ahead even if you might not be experiencing this issue yet.

Offer an Omnichannel Experience

Customers expect to get assistance and care seamlessly and across an integrated network of touchpoints, devices, and apps. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly made the importance of digital customer service and omnichannel experiences more prevalent, accelerating a phenomenon that was already taking place.

Recently, the customer service industry has begun focusing on an alternative strategy, focusing on an optichannel or optimal channel CX strategy. Each company must focus on the best channels and apps for their specific customers, products and services. No matter what strategy you adopt, customer experience should be front and center.

How Contact Centers Can Rely on Voice AI To Prepare for a Recession

Adopting technological solutions that can help you automate processes and improve your customer and employee experiences is one of the best ways to future-proof your business, especially as we prepare for a possible recession. For customer service, online chatbots and Voice AI are excellent solutions to consider.

Voice AI consists in the adoption of AI-powered Digital Voice Agents to receive all inbound calls and perform some of your outbound calls; it is becoming more and more popular among businesses and consumers.

The Digital Voice Agent is able to help customers with the most common queries and can reroute the more complex queries to your human agents. When you enable the perfect synergy between human and digital agents, you de-facto adopt an Augmented Voice Intelligence strategy.

In a recession, you not only want to save money, but you also want to ensure you maintain a competitive edge over your competitors. Looking into the adoption of artificial intelligence technologies that can automate your operations is key to securing a competitive advantage.

To learn more about how to modernize your contact center, schedule a call with one of our experts using the chat tool below!

Is Voice AI Taking Away Jobs in Customer Service? Debunking the Myth

The artificial intelligence industry is growing at vertiginous speed; a recent study valued the global AI market size at $87 billion in 2021, and estimated a CAGR of 38.1% from 2022 to 2030. Voice AI is one of the most promising technological applications of artificial intelligence.

Whenever these numbers are reported, it’s common to see some familiar headlines in the news and on LinkedIn: “AI is coming for your job,” “AI is eating up the workforce,” and so on. This narrative, however, is not accurate.

Voice AI has the unparalleled ability to shift the way contact centers function by automating countless customer interactions and lifting the weight of tedious, repetitive tasks off the shoulders of customer service agents. But does that mean that AI will take away jobs in customer service?

In this article, we’ll unpack how Voice AI affects contact centers, human agents, and operations.

Voice AI Can Solve the Most Pressing Contact Center Challenges

Rather than taking away jobs, Voice AI is more likely to take over specific tasks and activities that are currently performed by human workers.

While all types of jobs are likely to be affected in some way by automation, McKinsey estimates that only 5% of jobs could be fully automated with the AI technology we have today. Some of the fields that are likely to be most affected by AI are customer service and data-related jobs, such as data entry, collection, and processing.

Here is a summary of how an Augmented Voice Intelligence (AVI) solution can help solve the most pressing contact center challenges; below, we’ll dive deeper into each point, explaining how AVI can empower human agents.

Enhancing the Day-to-Day Work of Human Agents with Voice AI

Let’s look at the issue from the human agent’s perspective.

At a busy time, a contact center receives multiple inquiries per minute. However, the vast majority of calls and requests that contact centers receive are simple and repetitive. The work of human agents therefore tends to be tedious and underwhelming.

A Digital Voice Agent is able to sort through the inbound calls and manage those basic tasks.

The same idea applies to contact centers that mostly focus on outbound calls; a Digital Voice Agent can proactively initiate outbound calls to users at a scale that would be impossible for a human agent.

Mundane tasks that can be easily automated include authenticating callers, providing account balances, and updating phone numbers and addresses.

The Digital Voice Agent can redirect the more complex requests to the human agents, whose skills can be best used for such requests. If the caller needs to speak with a human agent, the transfer is contextual and intelligent. This way, human agents will address more interesting or pressing issues, and will feel more helpful and stimulated.

Rather than “taking away” the human agents’ jobs, Voice AI can actually make their jobs more pleasant and help them focus on more interesting issues in their day-to-day work.

Read more: Voice AI: The Biggest Contact Center Automation Trend of 2022

Addressing Attrition Rate and Call Fluctuations

Now let’s take into consideration the contact center management’s perspective.

The challenge of managing a contact center can be easily identified when looking at attrition rates. The current data suggests that contact centers have approximately a 35-40% attrition rate. This places an enormous strain on customer-facing enterprises; it takes approximately eight months to hire, onboard, and train a new agent.

According to a McKinsey report, satisfied contact center employees are 8.5 times more likely to stay at their workplace than leave within a year.

Another major issue contact centers face is the volatility and seasonality of the work.

Let’s say your contact center faces an unforeseeable situation which causes a massive surge in inbound calls. All of a sudden, you need many more agents available to take the calls. Scaling up and down so fast is not possible.

Voice AI eliminates this problem, as it’s easy to scale up and down as needed, managing call fluctuations and seasonal changes.

Voice AI Facilitates a Collaborative Effort Between Machines and Humans

Whenever a new technology emerges, people fear that it can pose a threat. Just think of the First Industrial Revolution as an example; during this time, industrialization was at first seen as a threat. A similar thing happened at the beginning of the Digital Revolution, especially with the introduction of home computers and the subsequent digitization of data.

The idea that within a few years robots will completely replace human agents at contact centers is not very realistic. The most likely path to success will consist in a collaboration between voice bots and humans.

A seamless customer experience requires a combination of efficiency, effectiveness, and empathy, and that can only be achieved with a combination of human and automated efforts—what we call augmented intelligence.

While Voice AI can help enormously to improve speed and effectiveness of a customer service response, bots are unlikely to be able to substitute the empathy needed to assist a customer with a more challenging or complex issue to solve.

In most cases, AI doesn’t learn new information and acquire new skills on its own. It requires specialized engineers who prepare the data, determine datasets, remove any possible bias, train, and update the software on a regular basis to integrate the knowledge and prepare a learning cycle. Only at that point, the AI can be used to aid human agents.

The space that Skit.ai has created is Augmented Voice Intelligence. The name itself acknowledges the importance of a partnership between humans and machines. Through Augmented Voice Intelligence (AVI), contact centers can enhance their operations and better retain human agents.

The business experience of the future is going to strongly rely on this cooperation between humans and AI.

For more information and a free demo, you can schedule a call with one of our experts.