Transforming Customer Service Starts With Voice AI

Philipp Heltewig, a visionary leader in conversational AI experiences, is the CEO and co-founder at Cognigy.

The voicebot revolution is in full force, and voice AI for customer service is taking flight. Voice has already woven itself into the fabric of our personal lives, putting pressure on enterprises to step up their game.

The extreme demands placed on contact center and customer service teams during the pandemic accelerated emerging voice-based AI solutions into prime time, and businesses aren’t looking back. Waiting on hold, wading through phone trees and having to repeat information—sometimes private information—are aspects customer service organizations aim to transform.

Customer experience (CX) will be the big winner of the current voice tech bonanza. The faster and more completely customers’ needs are solved, the more positive the experience. Conversational AI is the bridging innovation to make it easiest for customers and businesses to communicate.

Start a conversation, not a transaction.

“How can I help you?” There’s something about hearing the words that gives them a certain weight, whether it’s a live agent or a virtual one.

As a consumer, it’s become second nature to command and interact with Alexa or Siri—to set a reminder, look up a fact, take a selfie, or voice a text. Why not expect that same capability from businesses during customer help experiences?

With automation-first service, your call is answered immediately. Second, there is no phone tree, you speak in simple language about what you need. Third, the virtual agent is actually able to assist you with the information you are seeking. Fourth, the virtual agent knows its limits and is able to hand off the call to a human agent. Fifth, you don’t need to repeat anything. Sixth, no long waiting periods.

That’s the power of voice-enabled conversational AI.

Delivering a great voice experience, wherever the customer is.

Contacting customer service is often stressful right out of the gate—from applying for a home mortgage to travel changes—and they want help as quickly and easily as possible.

Talking is instinctual and it’s usually the easiest way to engage. Additionally, for those who are unable to physically type and text, speaking is the hands-free alternative.

Voice AI offers contact centers and customers the best of both worlds: A natural and hands-free—and multilingual—verbal interface, plus the speed and 24/7 convenience of a smart virtual agent.

Lufthansa Group is a shining example of a company that navigated the high customer expectations, daily changing regulations and high-cost pressure during Covid-19. By consolidating its customer service provisions into a single AI-powered customer automation platform, its business units were enabled to take control with minimal IT support to build multilingual voicebots and chatbots to support their customers. Ten thousand customers a day and over 1 million conversations per annum rely upon Lufthansa’s virtual agents to get it right.

The power of agents and AI working together.

AI-powered virtual agents are designed to engage in dialogue with customers. Add in voice technologies and sentiment analysis learning and you have virtual voice agents trained to pick up on customers’ inflections, intensity and tone, and adjust the conversation accordingly or proactively move the conversation over to their human partner if needed.

But automation can only take us so far. While AI is the enabler of better experiences, people are the key to delivering a complete end-to-end CX. When humans and AI team up, customers and businesses will win.

For this reason, the next wave of AI solutions focuses on empowering agents. Automating common requests using AI virtual agents to minimize repetitive work for agents is the first step. Let’s take this to the next level. For more complex inquiries, when the virtual agent hands the conversation over, AI assists the agent with finding the answer, instantly provides a response and proactively suggests or “coaches” the agent on how else to help. This symbiotic relationship gives agents the confidence to sort out requests accurately in record time.

E.ON, an electric utility company, for example, is masterfully managing a portfolio of 30-plus voicebots and chatbots, serving customers and employees through more than 100K conversations per month. The possibility of serving customers wherever they are, 24/7, has massively reduced the workload on service centers and reduced operational costs while offering a better service. E.ON Group won CogX Best Innovation Award 2022 in the category Consumer Chatbot for their chatbot, Robin, which has enabled customers to speak with a virtual agent or a live agent, thus enhancing the customer experience.

Rethinking the customer experience.

AI-enabled smart devices are all around us and voice technology is already embedded into day-to-day living, from asking Alexa/Siri/Google Assistant for today’s weather forecast to turning on smart ovens, lights and speakers remotely at home. Voice technologies have matured significantly. It’s time for enterprises to take advantage of these advancements and bring more accurate and human-like conversations to customer service.

Business leaders are rethinking customer service, starting in the contact center where innovation has been slow to be adopted, searching for voice solutions that can scale and grow with the business, provide accurate conversational understanding and consolidate multiple platforms.

In the thick of our CX transformation journeys, conversational AI is a means for bridging the limits of automation as well as the gaps in workforce management. Now is the time to explore how voice-based conversational AI is flipping the script for the future of customer experience.

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