How AI-Powered Call Centers Can Help With Your Digital Transformation Efforts

When people talk about how AI is changing the buying journey for consumers, most are likely to mention chatbots or search-recommendation algorithms instead of phone calls. Many see the phone call as an analog experience: a customer calls, gets questions answered and, hopefully, completes a purchase. What’s frequently neglected is the digital journey that drives calls and the AI that may be quietly working in the background to connect the digital journey, the phone call and the customer to improve the entire buying experience. In fact, AI is transforming how companies view the call center altogether.

This is easily overlooked as companies have been frantically revamping their digital marketing efforts to capitalize upon surging online sales during the pandemic. What many marketers don’t realize is that phone calls with human representatives have become more important as customers look for assistance in making big-ticket online purchases. According to our company’s internal data, call volumes either held steady or rose for many industries during the first half of 2020 and through 2021. Whether customers are looking to buy new water heaters, insurance or cars, many still want to talk with an agent for expert advice after doing initial research online.

Such phone calls increasingly go to contact centers staffed by representatives who work remotely. The move to remote contact centers has also driven their operators to move away from dated on-premise technology and adopt cloud-based call management and analytics tools. Though many of their hands were forced in this regard, the flexibility and faster innovation from cloud-based SaaS contact center solutions inevitably presented itself as an opportunity to derive more valuable first-party data from phone calls to provide better buying experiences for customers.

There is also a huge opportunity for marketers to harness AI-driven insights using first-party data from phone calls that can connect the dots and provide full visibility in fragmented customer journeys that jump from digital to the phone and back again. Customer conversations represent a treasure trove of data that can help create a virtuous feedback loop with digital marketing decisions. But such data will remain undiscovered if companies fail to harness solutions that can deliver the necessary conversation intelligence.

Whether you’re a veteran marketer trying to get a better handle on customer data insights or a longtime call center operator looking to fast-track your digital transformation, the growing convergence between digital marketing and call centers is a towering wave on the horizon that you cannot afford to ignore.

From Call Centers To Cloud Contact Centers

For businesses to take advantage of AI-powered analytics in the call center, it’s important to first understand how they have evolved in recent years. Windowless call centers staffed with hundreds of headset-wearing workers were already beginning to resemble holdovers from the 20th century even before the pandemic forced many remaining call centers to send their workforces home.

Traditional call centers have also long since transformed into multichannel contact centers where human agents field customer queries through text messages, emails and social media along with taking phone calls. The shift to digital platforms that can manage all these different customer queries has spawned contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) hardware and software solutions that are either implemented on the premises of a physical contact center building or through the cloud — with the cloud contact center solutions offering more flexibility for remote workers and the capacity to quickly scale up if needed.

But the power of the human voice remains paramount in customer communication amidst all these changes, especially as the pandemic has accelerated the trend of customers shopping online for big-ticket purchases. According to our data, at least 80% of customers said they felt more confident in their big-ticket online purchases by just seeing a phone number displayed on e-commerce sites, while 87% said that talking to a person on the phone made them feel more confident in committing to online purchases.

Riding The Wave Of First-Party Conversation Data

The increasing importance of phone calls in the buying journey also makes them a critical source of rich first-party customer data. The importance of catching the wave of first-party data coming in from contact centers has only grown, especially as other sources of data may dry up in the not-so-distant future. Popular web browsers such as Firefox and Safari already block third-party cookies from tracking people’s online browsing habits, and Google has delayed that moment of judgment for such cookies on the Chrome browser only until 2023.

Tracking cookies and other sources of third-party data were never the cleanest in terms of quality, but plenty of marketing teams have become accustomed to using them. New privacy regulations following in the footsteps of Europe’s GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act may also limit access to second-party data if companies become more hesitant to hand over their customer data to others.

Given the way that the data privacy winds are blowing, marketing teams must learn to make the most of the first-party conversation data flowing through contact centers. Those that do adopt conversation intelligence solutions will find themselves benefiting from being able to optimize marketing campaigns and keyword bidding, create highly targeted ads for customers while refining their messaging, and even discover potential problems with e-commerce platforms that are driving customer calls for help.

As the world reopens and businesses shift back into growth mode, the most successful companies have found that they can stay afloat by meeting their customers wherever they are, whether that’s online, on the phone or in the store. Of course, this complicates the buying journey and makes it significantly more difficult to provide a great experience at every touchpoint. It also makes the need to utilize every bit of first-party data you can get your hands on to provide that experience or risk losing them to competitors that can. Taking a “wait and see” approach right now is akin to turning your back on the ocean — you’re going to get knocked down by a wave that you’ll never have a chance to ride.

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Original post: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/10/18/how-ai-powered-call-centers-can-help-with-your-digital-transformation-efforts/

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