By Judith Platz
Meeting customer needs remains the central tenet of the support industry, and it’s equally crucial for business leaders to focus on the linchpin of these interactions: our most important asset — our agents.
It’s time for a change in perspective on customer support, stepping away from perceiving it as an unavoidable expense and acknowledging it as a catalyst for generating revenue — and the undeniable truth is that there is no CX without support agents. The foundation of outstanding customer relationships lies in a resilient support team. Without fully supporting them, you risk deteriorating service quality and, ultimately, the customer bond. Strengthening the internal support teams is essential to maintaining that trust.
The Challenge of Churn
The support industry is experiencing a staggering turnover rate that, for some companies, ranges from as little as 20 percent to more than 200 percent, with many customer support agents citing some of the reasons being increased workload/stressful environment, low compensation, and a struggle with tools and software. Essentially, they’re burnt out from the long hours and stress of managing constant customer inquiries without the proper technical solutions.
This high churn rate exposes businesses to critical challenges, including missed opportunities, potential reputational damage due to inefficient support, and further strains on staffing. Recognizing the urgency, organizations are turning to technology to alleviate these challenges and enhance both the agent and customer experiences. The integration of GenAI has demonstrated significant improvements in agent performance, including a 14 percent increase in issues resolved per hour, 9 percent less time spent per chat, and 14 percent more chats handled per hour. Moreover, support agents equipped with GenAI exhibit lower attrition rates compared to those without, opening up the potential for advanced technology to reshape the industry.
The interplay between product, brand, and support experiences all profoundly impact CX. It’s essential to emphasize enhancing the agent experience as an integral part of overall support. This approach recognizes the agent’s role in influencing all three aspects, and GenAI technology naturally enhances this holistic experience. As the industry evolves into an assisted, hybrid model, leaders are responsible for guiding agents through this transformation, assuring them that AI’s integration aims to enhance their roles, making them more engaging and rewarding rather than replacing them.
Automating Customer Support
The era of transformative, next-gen customer support is here, and the solution to unlocking its potential lies in integrating and harnessing cutting-edge generative AI technologies. As with many other industries, generative AI is making serious waves for customer support and becoming a valuable assistant for support teams, providing them with the tools and assistance necessary to excel in their roles. Through AI integration, their job performance is elevated, improving effectiveness across various tasks.
Generative AI technologies are revolutionizing support operations, unlocking invaluable insights, enhancing personalization, enabling proactive support, guiding decision-making, and optimizing resource allocation. Through these capabilities, businesses can safeguard and augment revenue, gain a competitive edge in the market, and reposition their departments as pivotal revenue drivers.
Equipped with predictive analytics and a continually learning system that enhances its capabilities, predictive and generative AI alleviates the strain on overworked agents in several ways.
1. ELEVATING THE AGENT EXPERIENCE
According to a recent survey by CMP Research, retaining talent is the second most significant concern among executives in the support industry, coming right after the primary objective of establishing a seamless CX. For instance, with automated response assist, simple, monotonous tasks, and basic customer issues can be directed to generative AI virtual agents and chatbots, enabling live agents to focus on more complex issues that necessitate a human touch. These tools mitigate agent burnout, boost productivity, and have demonstrated their capacity to enhance job satisfaction and staff retention.
2. PREDICTING AND AVERTING ESCALATIONS
Effectively managing customer escalations benefits a company’s brand perception and overall employee efficiency, among other aspects. Fewer escalations minimizes stress among employees and lead to lower attrition rates and heightened employee productivity. Focusing on this area of support operations amplifies every possible experience you can offer your customers. So, how can AI help?
Predictive AI uses analytics to anticipate and flag obstacles, nipping issues in the bud before they escalate. AI, particularly machine learning and natural language processing (NLP), can comprehensively gauge a customer’s escalating risk by evaluating warning signs from recent and past support interactions to forecast potential future ones. With predictive technologies such as Prioritization Assist, agents can identify escalations before they materialize, address issues proactively, and close cases more effectively.
3. AGENT TRAINING AND UPSKILLING
Generative AI plays a pivotal role in streamlining essential tasks. The technology can train and upskill new team members using intelligent assistive suggestions. AI can also aid in cultivating soft skills and language translation for response assistance, guaranteeing that each support team member is equipped to offer efficient and uniform quality service, irrespective of language barriers. GenAI can synthesize extensive volumes of customer data and generate detailed case summaries, providing agents with a clear overview of customer activity and trends without requiring a support representative to create customized reports. By embracing these approaches, businesses elevate the agent experience, conserve valuable time and resources, and maintain agility during economic fluctuations.
4. HUMANIZING CUSTOMER SUPPORT
At the heart of the AI-powered customer support revolution lies a real-time layer of “observability” in customer interactions by analyzing extensive support data spanning cases, chat logs, and email interactions. Just as monitoring systems are integral to various other technologies, the oversight of customer interactions has been overlooked within the industry for a considerable period. The prevailing approach has been largely reactive, with attention sparked only during critical situations due to the absence of proactive monitoring and clear insight. Fortunately, natural language processing tools facilitate agents in identifying patterns, trends, and customer emotional states that might otherwise go unnoticed. The capacity to anticipate customer requirements and tailor products and services fortifies enduring customer relationships.
Future-Proofing the Agent Experience
Business leaders must show they value the support experience by investing in resources that streamline support workflows and ease agent burnout. Propelled by rapidly evolving generative AI technologies such as ChatGPT, every support interaction’s quality, and uniformity can be substantially enhanced. Predictive and generative AI’s capacity to interpret data is pivotal in addressing common customer service hurdles, such as fragmented customer data, overwhelming backlogs, and limited visibility into customer attrition. These challenges also contribute to agent turnover and exhaustion, further affecting support operations.
AI’s enhancements to customer support extend beyond service quality improvement and expedited issue resolution. They encompass refining product development and proactively averting future customer service complications, benefiting both customers and agents. This marks a significant shift as AI assumes a critical role in augmenting problem-solving capabilities and serving as the cornerstone for loyal customer relationships while improving the agent experience.
Judith Platz is Chief Customer Officer at SupportLogic.