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Call Center Automation

This article was published on June 13, 2024

The popularity of call center automation has been growing in recent years — and that’s no surprise. Given its potential to deliver a substantial boost to operational efficiency while also increasing customer satisfaction, it’s easy to see why more and more companies are embracing it.

 

The good news is that automated call systems are now affordable for all businesses, regardless of size. So, let’s take a look at how they work and how you could benefit by adopting one.

Photo of a call center agent typing data into her computer while taking to a customer on her phone headset. A small row of purple "sound waves" run across the frame representing communication.

What Is Call Center Automation?

Call center automation involves using technology to handle some of the more mundane and repetitive tasks that need to be done in a call center.

This includes basic actions such as answering calls and determining whether or not they need to be routed to a human agent. Often, the automated system will be able to resolve simple customer queries via the use of self-service options, reducing the need for live agents to deal with these more straightforward issues.

The Technology Behind It

The basic working principle of these automated systems has remained the same since the earliest versions were first launched. That’s to say, they follow specific algorithms using large pools of available data and integrate with other business systems to deliver seamless customer service.

But thanks to recent advances, call center automation technology has become increasingly sophisticated over the last few years. Modern automated call systems leverage machine learning, Conversational AI, and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to enable a much richer customer experience.

For instance, modern call center automation services can perform sentiment analysis on calls to analyze how a customer is feeling. This information can be used to establish which calls should be escalated. Over time, this function helps call centers meet goals such as reducing churn and increasing customer satisfaction.

Benefits of Call Center Automation Solutions

Call center process automation delivers a wide range of benefits for companies. Here are a few of the most common ones.

Reduced Costs

First, it can lead to substantial cost savings. That’s because automating repetitive tasks frees up your staff to focus on more complex tasks that only a human can do, such as building good relationships with your customers.

What this means is that you can achieve more with less. You can deliver top-tier customer service with a much smaller human team, saving on labor costs. There’s no need to have a large number of agents working different shifts to cover calls constantly, because the automated system can deal with many of the calls according to the rules you set for it to follow.

Increased Efficiency

There are a few ways using automated call systems gives efficiency a boost. For one thing, customers don’t need to wait as long to have their queries resolved. Nobody loves having to wait around for an answer, so the more you can do to reduce waiting times, the better.

In addition, automated systems can use intelligent routing to ensure the call reaches the right agent if human intervention is required. You can set the system up to use skills-based routing so that whatever the customer’s issue is, they’ll be directed to an agent who can help them first time.

For the customer, this avoids the frustration of being passed from agent to agent and having to explain an issue over and over again. But from the company’s point of view, it’s also great because it means all available resources are being used as efficiently as possible.

Better Availability and Flexibility

The ability to provide always-on customer service is essential, as customer expectations are now higher than ever before.

Traditionally, this was a particularly difficult challenge for smaller organizations. A new start-up or a small company serving a niche market might not always have the resources available to provide 24/7 customer service — something that can put them at a serious disadvantage to their competitors.

But with an automated call system, this isn’t a problem. You can deliver the kind of top-quality service your customers expect at any time of the day or night. And, if it’s a problem that does need a human touch, your automated system can arrange a call-back — meaning the customer can avoid joining the queue again during opening hours.

Improved Customer Satisfaction

Implementing automated call technology leads to higher levels of customer satisfaction because it’s an excellent way of addressing customer pain points. 

Vonage’s Global Customer Engagement Report 2024 compiled data from 17 markets across the world, surveying 7,078 customers aged between 18 and 74 to discover their attitudes toward how they interact with customer service across a variety of channels.

The two most common customer service frustrations — both mentioned by 63% of respondents — were long wait times to speak to an agent and having to contact customer service multiple times to resolve an issue.

Given that nearly 75% of consumers also said they would stop buying from a company if they repeatedly experienced problems like this, it’s easy to see why businesses need to address customer frustrations as a priority.

Automated call systems are ideal for this. They help cut wait times to an absolute minimum and, thanks to intelligent routing, ensure customers reach a suitable live agent who can resolve their issue quickly.

Improved Employee Engagement

It’s not just about the customers, though. Automated call systems can also give the employee experience a boost.

Being able to offload boring, repetitive tasks to a machine is great news for your live agents. Instead, they can focus on resolving more-complex queries and fostering richer relationships with customers instead of getting stressed by data entry.

The fact that modern automated call systems have multiple ways of delivering in-call assistance to agents also makes your employees’ lives easier. They’ll have all the information they need at their fingertips and can easily access assistance in the event of a particularly tricky call coming in.

Challenges of an Automated Call Center

Automation in call centers provides a solution to many customer frustrations, but it does come with some challenges of its own. The good news is that they’re all manageable, but let’s look at what they are so you can prepare for them.

Balancing Human and Machine Interactions

Delivering a seamless customer experience isn’t always easy. It’s even trickier when the subjective experience of interacting with humans vs. machines can be so different. So how do you balance the two?

One way to address this issue is by making the most of functions like intelligent routing and predictive data analysis. These help ensure that the customer never feels their journey through the process is disjointed.

Another useful approach is to make sure customers have multiple options for contacting you. When you put several channels in place for customers to use, you empower them to make their own choices.

Finally, there should always be an option to speak to a person — some customers simply don’t like self-service options, and you’re unlikely to persuade them. Luckily, thanks to automation handling a lot of other tasks, your agents will have time to provide the personal touch.

Photo of a call center; we see a side view of a row of working agents in a darkened room, their faces illuminated by the monitor screens in front of them. Vonage article
Say Hello: An Introduction to Call Center Software
The purpose of call center technology is simple — to help connect customers with your business. Learn about the basic features of call center software and some tips for finding the right system for your business.

Not Suited to Handling Complex Issues

One of the key points about balancing human and machine interactions is that it’s crucial to identify when to use each one. While an automated system can deftly handle straightforward transactional tasks such as checking an account balance or registering a change of address, it’s not suited for everything. Whether that’s an emotionally charged issue (loss of a bank card, or dealing with contracts after a bereavement, say) or simply something quite detailed, some problems need a human to help.

Fortunately, escalating queries to a live agent is easy to do with modern automated call systems. They’re designed to lighten the load when call volumes are high by resolving simpler queries automatically, while making sure the more complicated ones reach a live agent who can bring human judgment to the table.

Reluctance From Staff

Change is often difficult, so it’s not surprising if you experience some pushback from employees when you decide to introduce an automated call system.

It’s important to be empathetic to the fact that your agents might feel anxious that their roles could be replaced by a machine. On top of that, putting new systems in place inevitably comes with new working practices and tools that can be difficult to adapt to.

It’s critical to face these issues head-on. Reassure your employees that the new system is all about making their lives easier, and explain exactly how it will do that. Also, be clear about what training and support you’ll be making available to help them transition to using the new system.

What To Look For in a Call Center Automation Solution

Choosing the right call center automation solution comes down to assessing your business needs. Here are a few of the core functions many organizations find useful in their day-to-day operations.

Virtual Assistant

virtual assistant uses NLP and AI to establish the intent of each call as it comes in. It then decides what the most appropriate course of action is for dealing with the call.

This can be especially useful when call volumes are particularly high. It helps cut down on customer waiting times and makes sure all queries are handled as efficiently as possible.

IVR

Adding an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) solution to your system empowers your customers to choose their own path. When they call, they’re presented with a menu of options they can select from using either voice response or tapping their phone keypad.

It’s excellent for helping customers deal with simpler queries via self-service, but it also works in tandem with the rest of the automated call system to route more complex queries to suitable live agents.

Call Management Features

You should also make sure the solution you choose has a wide range of additional call management features available. Some of the most useful are:

  • Call parking: Places an active call in a “parking spot” that multiple users can access. It can then be picked up by the next available agent.

  • Call tagging: Determines the origin of inbound calls. Users can add unique identifying tags to different numbers.

  • Spam shields: Checks for phone spam and flashes up a warning on caller ID when it finds it.

  • Simultaneous ring: Puts calls through to multiple devices at the same time to make sure important calls aren’t missed.

Workflow Automation

One of the most important features of any call automation system is that it has to work seamlessly in tandem with other applications to ensure your overall workflow is smooth. This is most easily achieved through big-picture automation.

Look for solutions that offer the integrations you need to dovetail with your other processes. For instance, if you use Clio legal software, the Vonage for Clio integration lets you track billing, clients, and cases easily by logging data from any device.

Similarly, the Apptivo integration is perfect for optimizing your sales efforts, allowing you to create quotes and track opportunities in sync with your call center data.

Predictive Workforce Scheduling

Effective workforce management is vital when you’re managing a busy call center. Being able to cope efficient;y with the ebb and flow of call volumes is a core element of your everyday operations.

A modern automated call center solution should be able to analyze all the data from your contact center infrastructure to help you predict how many live agents you need at any given time, so all your customers’ needs are met.

Call and Voicemail Transcription

Having the option to receive AI-powered automated transcriptions of calls can be a game-changer. It means you can access any conversation at any time, and makes it much more straightforward to carry out refined analysis and advanced reporting. 

Visual voicemail is just as handy. When you receive a voicemail, the automated system transcribes it and sends you an email with the transcription of the voicemail as the main body text and the recorded message itself included as an audio file attachment. It makes it much easier to sort through your voicemails rather than having to access them one by one.

Text and Voice Analytics

You can learn a lot about what people are thinking by analyzing how they communicate. Subtle factors like the vocabulary they choose and their tone of voice reveal a lot about their state of mind. But it’s not always easy to notice that when you’re trying to focus on resolving the practicalities of an issue.

That’s where sentiment analysis comes in. It’s an AI-powered analysis of a customer’s speech patterns used by automated systems to generate real-time insights in-call. Using this information, a system can change the priority given to a call or alert a live agent to the caller’s mood.

Automated Scheduling

Being able to set your system up to execute tasks according to an automated schedule is a terrific way of creating streamlined workflows that deliver results.

You can combine operational data from multiple channels to inform the best possible schedule for outreach campaigns, as well as dealing with inbound queries. This allows you to unify and optimize all your processes, from sales generation to email marketing, so they all work together effectively.

Marketing and Sales Tools

If your contact center isn’t just an inbound call center but also focuses on outreach, you’ll need to consider which marketing and sales tools you need.

An auto-dialer is a great place to start. This function speeds up the process of placing outbound calls by automatically moving to the next number on a list and calling it on behalf of your sales agent.

Agent Assistance

Finally, some systems can detect key phrases that a customer speaks during a call and pull relevant related data to show to the agent. This can help speed up call resolution by making sure the agent has everything they need to deal with the customer’s issue without having to check other databases.

Adding Automation to Your Communications Solution

Vonage Business Communications platform offers a wide variety of the features mentioned above. Of course, you probably won’t need every single one on the list. But being able to select features that are a good fit for your organization is crucial, particularly for small-to-medium-size companies looking for excellent value for money.

From call transcription, through voice analytics, to multiple integrations with established tools like Salesforce and HubSpot, you’ll find VBC and our marketplace can deliver everything you need to create the perfect automated call system solution for your business.

Learn more about how Vonage can help drive better customer experiences.

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