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Intelligent Voice Assistants and the Future of Contact Center Service

Intelligent Voice Assistants are changing the way agents communicate with customers on contact center platforms. For years, it’s been possible for consumers to handle their finances online, whether purchasing stocks and bonds or transferring money to others. However, while physical bank branches still litter the landscape, many people, particularly in the younger generations, go months or even years without talking to an actual human teller. The coronavirus pandemic accelerated this shift: overnight, old-fashioned ways of doing business became impossible while new conveniences, like online banking, became necessities. This sudden jolt left many financial organizations’ security practices vulnerable to fraud and exploitation – especially in the contact center.

Tough Times during the pandemic and the Role of Intelligent Voice Assistants

According to a November 2020 Forrester Research report, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic individuals surveyed in contact centers experienced a 42% year-over-year increase in call volume, 57% reported increased fraud attempts, and 53% said fraud was making a greater impact on their bottom line as a result of the pandemic. Newly implemented policies like remote work kept contact centers up and running, but rapid and unplanned change coupled with a higher number of calls meant that combating fraud was more difficult than ever.

To make matters worse, honest consumers faced long wait times, tedious and unreliable knowledge-based authentication questions, and the rigamarole of traditional identity verification procedures.

As our world opens up and we begin to navigate the new normal, our preference for – and frustration with – virtual customer service remains.

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Change is needed.

Virtual Assistants Offer Real Help

Intelligent Voice Assistants (IVAs) are one way that businesses can make consumers’ lives easier, reduce the burden on contact center agents, and demonstrate a tech-forward and innovative approach. A contact center IVA uses artificial intelligence to enable self-service.

Akin to Siri or Alexa which are tuned for customer service, IVA goes a step beyond with AI-powered voice authentication technology that can recognize characteristics and inflections in each individuals’ voice. This enables the IVA to accurately identify someone based on their unique voice. In fact, the technology is getting sophisticated enough to interpret whether the speaker is agitated or excited.

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The most obvious benefit of an IVA is the convenience. For instance, in a system without an IVA, a caller may be kept on hold, then still have to complete a series of identity verification tests once they reach an agent. This is not an efficient use of time for the caller or the contact center. With an IVA, authentication can be completed before an agent gets involved, allowing them to quickly focus on helping the caller instead of data gathering. Win-win for everyone.

And, while many customer service enhancements incur major upfront costs, the efficiency and speed of IVAs mean that they actually save money in the long run.

New Tasks for New Tech

Because today’s voice assistants are becoming so capable, some calls may even be resolved exclusively by an IVA. For example, a bank or credit union can use a modern IVA to quickly collect relevant information for a house mortgage or car loan application. It could even be set to auto-approve applications below a specific value, depending on the customer’s banking history.

While automatically granting a bank approval might seem like an ambitious use of an IVA, the simple truth is that consumers, many of whom have grown ever more confident about voice assistants, are likely to welcome the experience. We found in our recent survey, 43% of consumers stated that they used voice technology on a daily basis; a full 70% are weekly users. Confidence in voice extends to customers’ financial lives: 54% of consumers surveyed would appreciate the option to interact with ATMs through voice alone.

Security Optimization

Intelligent voice assistants aren’t just convenient; they’re secure. While only the savviest contact center agents may recognize signs of fraud when talking to a caller, voice authentication within IVA security provides superhuman power. A real human voice, unedited and unfaked, can reliably replace the traditional password. An IVA can interpret subtleties of a voice that the human ear can’t parse, enabling it to flag recordings, edits, and audio deep fakes.

Conclusion

Using an IVA in a contact center environment is a win across the board: Customers are happier, data is more secure, and the organizational bottom line decreases. IVAs may be a relatively new tool, but customers already trust and understand them. For customer service and contact centers, Intelligent Voice Assistants are not just a possibility for tomorrow, they’re a best practice for today.

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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