The Gist

  • Improve CX and save money. Rep enablement technologies such as automation and AI can improve customer service efficiency and experiences while saving costs for organizations.
  • Connected reps. Implementing a "connected rep" strategy can drive contact center efficiency by up to 30%, but organizations need scalable and agile technology to ensure success.
  • Collaborative automation efforts. Collaborative efforts involving stakeholders, executive sponsors and IT are necessary to assess and automate guidance, gather feedback and improve rep enablement technology.

The deployment of rep enablement technologies from automation to artificial intelligence (AI) can boost the efficiency of customer service representatives (CSRs) and help save money while improving customer experiences.

A recent report from IT research firm Gartner predicts customer service functions encompassing a "connected rep" strategy would drive contact center efficiency by as much as 30% and help organizations struggling to find qualified talent.

However, while many customer experience leaders are trying to effectively enable reps with technology, many haven't quite figured out their strategy yet.

"Context and guidance are both important in driving performance, some of which are driven through AI, some of which are driven through simple RPA and rules-based automation," said Gartner senior director, analyst Kathy Ross.

Ross said one example of key rep enablement technologies includes utilizing technology to provide context, for example a CX platform that shares relevant, real-time insights to rep dashboards.

Trudy Cannon, director of go-to-marketing strategy for workforce management at Verint, said to be best in class and ensure the success of a connected rep, organizations need technology that is agile, automated and can easily expand to different use cases in the future. 

"When considering this technology, organizations need to evaluate if it can meet today’s needs as well as tomorrow," she said. "Can it solve undiscovered needs? And can it ensure that it empowers the rep to best serve the customer and feel confident in doing so?"

She explained while the needs of every organization may differ, the need for scalable and agile technology is consistent.

Implementing AI-Powered Dynamic Customer Rep Workflows

An example of tech-driven guidance would be a dynamic workflow that provides guidance to reps based on perceived customer intent. 

"AI is important in the later stages of the connected rep, as it really helps provide that dynamic guidance required, but leaders can get started without it," Ross said.

She pointed out improving contact center efficiency is important because time is money — it's important to become more efficient to minimize cost.

"Time spent can also be dissatisfier — our research shows that if customer contacts such as voice or SMS text take longer than customers expect, it negatively impacts their customer effort and satisfaction," she said.

Jon Aniano, senior vice president of product, CRM applications at Zendesk, added AI and automation play a critical role in providing customers with instant answers.

"Companies can use AI to deflect common inquiries and for more complex requests, route to an agent with full context so that the conversation can pick up where it left off," he said.

Additionally, brands can leverage automation to take a proactive approach to support by offering automated self-service based on user behavior and interaction history as well as displaying delays on product delivery and scheduled maintenance.

"These proactive messages can drive customer engagement and when personalized, have a direct impact on sales and conversion rates," Aniano said.

Related Article: Combining Self-Service, Chat and Phone Support: A Winning Strategy for Customer Service

Virtual Assistance for Customer Reps on Tough Calls, Mundane Tasks

Murali Nemani, CMO at Aisera, pointed out today's enablement technologies also feature the ability to supervise tough calls with users and to provide rep training based on real-time and post-call virtual assistance.

"These technologies work together with AI to create a highly efficient support experience," he said. "By leveraging learnings from current and past conversations, these systems can improve their suggestions on prompts and next-best actions and allow you to gain critical customer insights."

For a support team, having a virtual assistant helps offload large volumes of repetitive requests and allows agents to focus on higher-value tasks.

"As a result, this virtual assistant helps boost agent satisfaction, retention rates and agent productivity while enabling your team to handle more customer interactions in a shorter time," Nemani said.

Learning Opportunities

He recommended delegating more mundane and repetitive tasks to a virtual assistant, which will reduce inefficiencies across the team and ensure that you’re utilizing resources appropriately.

"It will also ensure that users receive accurate assistance immediately instead of waiting for agent availability," he explained.

Related Article: Empowering Agents to Shine: 5 Steps for Contact Center Leader Success

Stakeholders and Executive Sponsors for Implementing Connected Customer Reps

The head of the service and support organization is responsible for implementing a connected rep strategy and will be the one executive sponsor; however this leader won't be able to do it alone.

The service and support leader will need to engage an employee tools and strategy leader to determine the potential economic, customer experience and employee experience benefits gained by performing a gap analysis of their rep enablement technology.

"This responsibility used to belong to a single group within an organization, but those days are over," Cannon noted. "Today everyone at every level of the organization is responsible, and it needs to be collaborative effort that focuses on the outcome as well as customer experience." 

Ross suggested CX leaders should partner with IT to assess the current state of technology architecture and data management capabilities compared to the requirements to implement the leader’s vision.

"Develop a roadmap based on the assessment with IT, include stakeholders and engage customer service reps in the process to ensure appropriate feedback, communication, training and future development programs are in place," she said.

Automating Guidance, Gathering Feedback to Enable Customer Reps

Ross said today, many CX leaders find that they rely heavily on institutional knowledge, and to the degree that they do enable reps with tech they tend to offer their reps unnecessary information via disorganized systems.

"To best evaluate the gaps and growth areas in the current state of rep enablement technology, you must uncover where your reps are having to rely on institutional knowledge, and make a plan to automate that guidance instead," she said.

Then leadership must determine what information should be provided, which pieces are truly necessary and which pieces are missing.

"Finally, ensure you gather feedback on the experience of actually using the technology, and how it can be made more deliberate and modular," Ross said.

Nemani said to best evaluate the gaps and growth areas of rep enablement technology, businesses must understand the customer experience well.

"Identify how often customers feel dissatisfied with their support experience, how long it takes to resolve a customer request and their top requests," he explained. "After determining the need and the complexity of these inquiries, you can outline which ones need to be automated to increase efficiency and overall satisfaction."