Credit management teams often struggle with the costs of handling inbound phone calls. A fact made all the more tragic since the vast majority of calls concern very simple questions. What if you could free up personnel by automating call handling?
How much do I owe? Can we set up a payment arrangement? How can I pay? Can I pay later? Credit managers are no strangers to these questions. On a daily basis, many customers in arrears call and repeat the same questions all over again, resulting in overwhelmed and overworked call centres.
In recent years, it has even become a trend for companies to hide their phone numbers and guide customers to find the answers themselves via Q&A pages, knowledge bases and chatbots. The result, however, is that more often than not, it takes customers longer to find the answers they need, which in turn is detrimental to the overall customer (and brand) experience.
Damned if you, and damned if you don’t. For collection departments, balancing customer needs and overhead costs has long been a difficult trade-off. Until now.
Is call centre automation the answer?
Imagine the following: you’re calling a company’s customer service department to ask about an order, a payment or to make an appointment. Would you rather talk to a human being, or a digital assistant?
Wait a minute. Is that hesitation I’m sensing? What if I told you, your call was a complete success and all your queries were answered. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t mind at all.
Can this be done? Sure it can.
Many of the lucky few sitting in the audience at the 2018 Google I/O conference were stunned by the level of realism on display, as the Google Digital Assistant called a hair salon and successfully made an appointment, on behalf of a person.
Technologies such as Google Duplex and others, are going to enable the next big innovation in the realm of customer service.
The evolution of IVR
We are witnessing the coming of age of interactive voice response systems (IVR). After seeing voice assistants come into bloom as stand-alone devices, we are now re-applying the tech to improve call centre IVR experiences.
The history of voice recognition and voice assistants goes back more than 100 years. Throughout history, there have been various attempts and approaches to voice recognition. The first of which, was probably Radio Rex. The children’s toy from the early 1920’s used an electromagnet that had been tuned to the same frequency as the vowel in the word “Rex.” When a person shouted “Rex”, the dog would be pushed out of the dog house, as if responding to the call of his owner.
Ever since, there have been various attempts and iterations such as Audrey by Bell Labs (1952) and the IBM Shoebox released by IBM in 1962.
Once voice recognition technology had evolved enough, we started seeing its application in speech-to-text dictation software.
A major breakthrough in how we interact with voice recognition systems, is their ability to adapt to our input and interact with us on a more conversational level. This brought on the rise of voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant.
Nowadays, truly advanced voice recognition is increasingly found in all sorts of high-tech applications, from language learning apps like Duolingo to artificial intelligence chatbots like Replika.
Why voice technology will improve call centre efficiency
As a fintech business, our core business is profit. We spend a lot of time crunching numbers and speaking with managers in various verticals about their pain points and bottlenecks. A recurring source of concern, is the required financial and human resources to properly process incoming calls.
Large B2B companies often struggle with the costs of handling inbound phone calls. On average, an incoming call costs about €5 to be handled by a person. For a large enterprise handling thousands of calls per day, that number quickly adds up. The unflattering truth, however, is that the vast majority of inbound calls concern simple questions that can be answered just as thoroughly by the technology that powers today’s most popular voice assistants.
At Alphacomm, we’ve developed a new way to tackle this old problem. By leveraging our decades of experience in customer service systems as well as the latest breakthroughs in voice recognition, we are soon launching an automated voice activated customer service platform for use in call centres.
Introducing the Alphacomm ‘digital assistant’
Once implemented, call centre staff will no longer need to handle repetitive questions such as ‘how can I pay’ or requests for payment arrangements. Our platform will be able to joyfully answer the phone with a script along the lines of “Hi, this Company X, what can I do for you today?” The customer will start talking and based on the input received, the voice will detect the reason for the call, conduct a positive ID check and proceed to either provide the customer with the answer to the query or if necessary, direct the customer to a live agent.
Dubbed ‘digital assistant’ for now, the new solution ticks a lot of boxes. For starters, businesses will no longer need to hide their phone number to prevent their staff from being inundated by phone calls. We’ve calculated that implementing the digital assistant will result in an average reduction in call load of about 30% to 60%.
This is especially beneficial as most customers still regard the phone as the preferred service channel. An added benefit of the increased call volume is that it also makes it easier for customers with low literacy levels to get in touch with customer service.
The efficiencies gained from automating a call centre translates into higher productivity as well as improved customer satisfaction. The offloading of easy calls onto the automated system means that call centre staff are free and better able to handle the more difficult questions from customers who really benefit from the extra personal attention. Moreover, companies will be able to do all that while also significantly lowering their operational costs.
Implementing Alphacomm’s digital assistant allows debt collection agencies and financial departments to:
- Be available to customers 24/7
- Automate the answering of repetitive questions
- Automate payment arrangement requests
- Dramatically reduce costs
- Improve service level (successfully handled calls)
- Provide a better customer experience
- Handle large volumes
The launch of the digital assistant is part of Alphacomm’s mission to humanize the dunning process and provide customers with multiple self-service tools that help them pay easier, so businesses can get paid faster.
Our digital assistant roadmap
We’re helping collection agencies and finance teams offer their customers a greater digital experience. Part of this experience, is the ability for customers to create a payment arrangement by speech! After the initial launch of the digital assistant as an inbound service, we’re going to expand its functionality through frequent, rolling updates. The next milestones in our roadmap include integrating the digital assistant in our outbound calls services as well as embedding it within landing pages and email.
Customer service voice assistants are ready for primetime! Are you ready to lower costs and boost results? Get in touch for any questions regarding our digital assistant and how it can truly transform your business.