The pandemic has forced companies across the business spectrum to experiment with new ways of working. It’s also confirmed the effectiveness of some initiatives that were already underway.
Pre-pandemic, the application of intelligent automation to contact center processes was establishing itself as an effective way to reduce cost and boost productivity. Now—one exhausting year later—that automation has also proven its worth in the work-from-home paradigm, which appears to be the new normal for both service leaders and frontline agents.
Many of the challenges imposed by the pandemic are here to stay, and companies that fail to extend intelligent automation to the back office risk falling behind in the post-pandemic competition to satisfy customers. If back-office teams remain hobbled by legacy systems and antiquated processes, the benefits of the contact center workforce automation revolution will remain frustratingly limited.
Assess the challenge
Today, in the absence of a standardized framework, back-office service managers are hard-pressed to know if associates are engaged in completing a task, stuck on a problem, or just plain idle. Managers lack reliable markers to benchmark how employees are spending their time, and they have little insight into employee productivity because those metrics are often tracked manually in multiple systems. Every day is like a game of whack-a-mole.
But the experience of companies that have already applied intelligent automation to their contact center operations shows that the back-office battle can also be won. Transforming reactive, ad hoc back-office processes to a proactive, automated approach will radically change employee engagement, productivity and performance across the board. But it won’t work without buy-in from stakeholders.
Lead with communication
If businesses give their teams a clear understanding of what will change, how it will make their jobs easier and more rewarding, and how it will improve the customer experience, then the transformation is more likely to succeed.
But resistance to change is natural and should be expected. Employees may fear an automated intrusion into their already high-pressure workday. AI-based technology used to track their mouse clicks and keyboard strokes sounds like mistrustful micromanagement, until they understand that the purpose of detecting anomalies is to provide assistance—not punishment—precisely where and when it’s needed.
Communication is the linchpin of all change management initiatives. It begins with providing service leaders and associates with clear messaging on how the intelligent automation transformation will proceed—before, during and after roll-out. Make it clear that an initial monitoring period will be used to establish benchmarks, which will be used to determine thresholds. The new system will allow the company to define anomalies, decide who to prompt according to each unique situation (agents? supervisors? both?) and how to phrase the message. Wary employees will embrace transformation when they learn that the message is “Do you need help?” rather than “Get back to work!”
All systems, go!
Businesses have learned some tough lessons this past year. The pandemic imposed harsh stress tests on nearly every aspect of how to run a company, exposing weaknesses and highlighting areas that require fortification to resist future stresses (which will surely come).
Intelligent automation has transformed contact center operations, boosting productivity and streamlining the work of frontline agents and service leaders. This has enabled centers to provide outstanding customer service—even when the entire team is working from home.
Companies that extend intelligent automation to their back-office teams—the unsung heroes of any service organization—will complete the transformation and reap the full benefits of the automation revolution. Both front- and back-office customer service teams will be positioned to overcome post-pandemic challenges and fulfill their role as company ambassadors and reliable bottom-line contributors.