Hand holding smartphone with live chat open.
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As more businesses look to install contact center as a service (CCaaS) functionality, the key to success will be viewing it as a human support tool rather than a human replacement tool.

Cloud-based CCaaS applications manage and track customer journeys and interactions with employees as well as other inbound or outbound customer communications. They also deploy tech tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to enhance the customer experience.

Jeetu Patel, Cisco's Executive Vice President and General Manager of security and collaboration, explained that these services help remove friction for the user while equipping the agent with important customer information.

This “mixed mode” of human interaction coupled with AI can go a long way toward improving an experience many customers find aggravating and time-consuming.  

“What you need is a bot that is smart enough to say, ‘Let me connect you with an agent who can answer that question for you.’ And that connection with the agent should be seamless,” Patel said. 

He explained a key factor is making sure the CCaaS platform can support an omnichannel experience, where customers have the option to engage in multiple places. 

“You should be able to reach assistance from any of these social network or communications channels, and if there is need for a human, it immediately and seamlessly transfers to a human,” Patel said. “This platform needs to be thought of as a human support tool rather than a human replacement tool.”

Related Article: 4 Reasons Why the Call Center Should Be Omnichannel

AI Takes CCaaS Into the Future

Patel sees automation and AI taking CCaaS in an even more proactive direction in the future, where customers can be alerted to problems before they’re personally aware of them.

“The way to think about this entire experience is not just what happens when someone calls and goes through a plethora of menu items to get connected to someone and then get them transferred three times — that is not the road to success,” he said.

From his perspective, the road to success with CCaaS means becoming proactive, anticipating problems and making sure there are multiple channels that the customer can engage in based on their preference and priorities.

Gayathri Krishnamurthy, RingCentral’s Associate Vice President of product marketing, called AI “the next wave” for the contact center, helping drive intelligence through both the customer journey and the agent journey.

AI can identify intent, provide guidance, offer predictions and be proactive — all before a customer or employee needs something, according to Krishnamurthy.

“Our customers can take advantage of artificial intelligence with open APIs that integrate with AI engines, natural language platforms and machine learning technology, which gives them options to integrate with various bot vendors in the market.”

AI Finds Use in Bots, Agent Coaching, Updating CRM Records 

Krishnamurthy explained that RingCentral sees many use cases for AI, from customer-facing bots that help people to self-serve or agent-facing bots that can feed the right knowledge to an employee in real-time.

“There is also more interest and investment in the operations side of the house with intelligent routing, by mapping personalities of specific agents to talk to certain customers,” she went on. 

Krishnamurthy said she sees automation as more of an efficiency play, and a great cost lever to remove repetition and mundane operations, giving back a few hours of the day to an agent or supervisor.

“We see automation at the agent side of the house, based on RPA (robotic process automation) technology where some of the mundane activities of updating records in CRM and other systems are taken care of by automation bots,” she added.

Future CCaaS To Offer Mobile, IVR and Augmented Reality

Other technologies Krishnamurthy sees contributing to the evolution of CCaaS in 2022 and beyond include mobile knowledge, mobile self-serve, mobile interactive voice response (IVR) and video applications like augmented and virtual reality.

Cisco's Patel pointed out that central to any successful CCaaS deployment is the continuity of interaction. When the customer needs to switch from one channel to another, there should be no loss of context.

For example, if a customer switches from a website chatbot to a phone call, the contact center agent should not need to ask for the customer’s account information again.

Patel noted that there’s still a host of technical challenges involved with integrating omnichannel contact center services, but argues boardroom attitudes towards contact centers are evolving to recognize a holistic experience, which can have a “huge impact” on brand loyalty.

“Reducing cost can't be your primary motivator,” Patel cautioned. “The mentality should be to drive the best experience. As you do, you of course want to keep a level of efficiency in mind. But don't drive it with the idea of taking out the humans and keeping the AI in there. I think you'll find it's a very disappointing experience.”

Related Article: How Contact Center Automation Boosts More Than Just Cost Saving Metrics

Final Thoughts

The future of AI in CCaaS deployment will offer a seamless omnichannel experience, a feat that will improve customer and employee satisfaction rates. While new challenges will ultimately arise, this tech is slated to permanently change the state of digital marketing.