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Voice, Digital, and AI: How AI-Supported Contact Centers are Shaping Customer Service in Retail

  • With the acceleration of digital engagement, driven by COVID, companies are rethinking the customer contact center, expanding to multiple channels while streamlining work for agents.  
  • Issue resolution is at the heart of customer loyalty. Keeping a customer happy and coming back for more is one of the most profitable things a company can do.
  • Using data gathered by AI can improve agents’ work life, as well as the correction timeline for recurring issues. 


As a result of living in a COVID-world for more than two years, there has been a significant acceleration of digital transformation

Now, more than ever, companies are using multiple channels to get products to customers. The increase in retail channels, however, requires a broadening of customer service avenues. 

Contact centers are one method of communicating with customers that many retailers are adopting for the first time. These retailers are quickly learning that contact centers can make — or break — customer experiences.


From call center to contact center: Shifting demands in a COVID-world 

The days of call centers being hidden behind the scenes in the basement or back parts of a company building are long gone — so are the days of calling and waiting on hold to speak to a single person manning the phones. What were once strictly known as call centers have evolved into contact centers, communication hubs which operate more efficiently and digitally, relying on operations run by both human personnel and AI technology. These contact centers are far more robust than their predecessor and have the power, when managed intentionally, to affect and improve an entire brand.

With COVID accelerating the world of digital engagement, companies are turning to multiple channels for consumers to access their goods. Retailers are now faced with the challenge of making sure that, regardless of which channel a customer pursues, they experience highly effective, satisfactory customer service. 

“There is a direct correlation between online transactions and contact center interactions,” says Shannon. “As we see those businesses continue to grow, we’re going to see more of that.” 

Retailers need to use different forms of engagement to satisfy a wide range of customers. While 19% of baby boomers prefer face-to-face video communication, a shocking 60% of Gen Z-ers report preferring face-to-face video as well, creating a need for greater digital communication accessibility.

This explosion in digital retail is causing companies to utilize multiple channels — brick and mortar stores, online stores, mobile stores, mobile app stores, etc.— for consumers to get the help they need. In order to please the increased demand for digital interfaces, Shannon says companies need to unify and streamline their channels for efficiency and customers’ expectations.


Contact centers are vital to brand loyalty 

With the new role of the contact center and contact center representatives, leading brands are now looking to CX partners to help create brand loyalty, boost lifetime value, and increase customer satisfaction. Customer experience is a differentiator that can make or break a brand’s long-term value in the market — and a brand’s service reps are, in fact, often the difference makers.

Ultimately, as Shannon says, “Retailers need to do two things: deliver a great product and provide great service.” That great service is crucial in retaining customers. In fact, the ability to resolve customer service issues on first contact is the number one driver of consumer loyalty. 

Shannon explains that it is five times more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. Getting a satisfied customer to come back just one more time, pays for itself in dividends over the acquisition cost.

This is why onboarding the right staff and employees for a contact center is crucial for any good business practice. These agents should want to be there and take on brand ownership. Therefore, prioritizing and valuing agent training and resources is of the utmost importance. 

Not only do the right people need to be hired, but maintaining the agents’ satisfaction and alleviating as much stress as possible should also be a company priority, which can be addressed by:

  • Preventing a single agent from fielding back-to-back difficult calls 
  • Alleviating high volumes of calls for agents 
  • Limiting lengthy call queues

Taking these steps is invaluable to the company, as contact centers become the face and front line of communication for so many consumers. Like Shannon Flanagan likes to say, “Happy agents, happy customers.” 


The essential role of AI and data in cultivating positive CX

Imagine the contact center as a pyramid. Right now, the bottom, widest part is voice — speaking one-on-one with an agent — the middle is digital, and the smallest at the top is AI and ML. But the world is headed in the direction of inverting that triangle. Soon, the smallest will be voice, then digital, and the widest, most important piece will be AI. 

Making any sort of move towards AI-driven solutions is beneficial to a company as there is almost always ROI available for digital transformations, even for the smallest of steps.

To begin making that transition, companies should leave certain elements of the customer service world to automation and optimization powered by AI technology. For example, tracking orders is the responsibility of the carrier, not the retailer, which means the agent doesn’t always have access to that information. This becomes an opportunity that AI can solve. 

In fact, it was at this year’s Forrester CX event that Talkdesk introduced Talkdesk Retail Experience Cloud, an AI-powered customer service solution specifically made for retailers. This first-of-its-kind platform unifies the customer experience across multiple channels, helping brands meet customers’ needs quicker.

In multi-channel companies like most retailers, AI and analytics are used to collect data in real time from each channel to create a large, unified understanding of what’s going on and what needs to be addressed. This significantly improves the accessibility of information for agents and allows them to better solve customer issues. 

“Rather than having to aggregate the information, make an intelligent decision, then relay that information back to the client, [agents now have just one] screen with anything they could ever want to know right in front of them. That is going to do so much for the agents’ handle times, for CMPS scores, and for VOCs,” said Shannon. 

The ability to efficiently collect and present information to agents in a single pane of glass will revolutionize the capabilities of contact center agents, transforming customer experience for retail and consumer good brands. 

Learn more about Talkdesk’s recently released, first-of-its-kind industry specific solution for contact centers: Retail Experience Cloud – Call Center Solutions.