November 24, 2020
Can’t stand being on hold when you call a business to ask questions or gripe or book an appointment? Of course you can’t. No one can, not least of all because the “music” that often accompanies these waits is awful. It’s a longstanding problem that has only worsened since the Covid-19 pandemic began earlier this year.
“In today’s day and age, customers expect immediate answers to all of their questions,” says Kleid Gjataj, Principal Consultant at Mindsight. “Music on hold adds no value to the customer journey; it just adds to the frustration that the customer is already experiencing. Most common questions can be answered immediately by chat bots and virtual assistants.”
One Canadian company, Fonolo, even compiles annual lists of the Top 25 worst offenders by tracking Twitter posts from users who grouse about long hold times. The most recent rundown is topped by airlines, telecommunications providers, financial institutions and retailers. No surprise there.
But waiting a couple of hours to resolve ticketing issues or banking problems is merely frustrating and annoying. What if you need quick medical advice, or have a pressing question about your prescription drug? In cases like those, a glacial response can be hazardous to your health.
A flood of pandemic-related calls “has caused a burden on live agents and nurses, and created longer-than-average hold times for those callers who are actually in need of more urgent assistance,” explains Mark Landry of SmartAction, an artificial intelligence (AI) virtual agent provider. By deploying Rapid Response Virtual Agents, organizations can intercept and deflect callers who don’t immediately need human assistance. Burden: relieved.
Here’s how virtual rapid response agents work. The virtual agent answers your call and texts you a link to an Answer Center that has more information about your inquiry. It then hooks you up, also via text, with chatbots that address FAQs and screen queries to determine whether escalation to a human (nurse, technician, etc.) is necessary. If that’s the case, it passes the details gathered from your initial exchanges so that whoever rings you back is already up to speed.
Here’s an example of SmartAction’s virtual agent in action, as demonstrated by Landry. After giving him the latest particulars about Covid-19 treatment, a dialogue begins with the help of natural language processing. (His answers are for presentational purposes only).
VA: Would you like to take a self-assessment for Covid-19?
VA: Have you tested positive for Covid-19?
VA: Have you ever been exposed to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19?
VA: Are you experiencing any of the following symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath?
A list of symptoms appears and he checks off the applicable (hypothetical) ones. The dialogue continues.
VA: Are you in immediate distress?
Based on the information Landry provided, the virtual assistant recommends that he speak with a medical expert as soon as possible. Then it places him in a queue and estimates a callback time. After typing in his name and email address (his phone number is already in the system), he awaits a response. View this instructional video to learn more.
“The patient got the same result as a patient interacting with a human agent, but the wait time was eliminated,” Gjataj says. “AI has advanced to a point where most everyday questions can be answered by virtual agents without the wait.”
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About the Expert
Kleid Gjataj is a Principal Consultant at Mindsight, an IT Solutions and Consulting firm located in the Chicago area. With nearly 15 years of experience in both domestic and international consulting, Kleid has helped contact centers of all sizes to bridge the gap between business and technology. His extensive experience with IVR, ACD, screen pop, omnichannel, speech analytics, quality management, outbound dialer, and custom applications is grounded in understanding the critical value of the customer journey. Kleid earned his degree in Network and Communications Management and continues to focus on how contact center optimization helps businesses meet goals, increase efficiencies, and reduce costs.