Automation in the Contact Center:
It’s all in the Design
Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) is still a bit of a mystery to some of us, but it’s the ‘in thing’ and we all want a piece of it. It’s doing things in the cloud and our marketing people tell us that the inherent automation it provides is going to make our lives a lot easier, away from the constraints of legacy on-premise systems.
Any kind of automation is dependent on an architecture which is either sufficiently pliable or has been specifically designed with automation in mind.
So, what happens in CCaaS systems?
At the heart of any CCaaS systems sits an ACD whose job it is to marshal all traffic, voice, digital, social media and ensure that all these sessions are optimally managed, meaning managing service levels across all queues, no matter what their media type.
To do that we need lots of real-time information about all queues and agents. The ACD needs to know their states in real-time (i.e. be ‘stateful’) – for example this should mean knowing how long agents have been busy in a particular queue, so it can take a view as to when they might be available to handle another session, either in that queue or possibly another queue.
But developing a stateful ACD that deploys naturally as a cloud service is a very tough challenge and one that most vendors have shied away from. Much easier to follow current cloud orthodoxy and deliver a stateless model.
Is there a problem in being stateless?
Most CCaaS vendors with stateless ACDs have a ton of tools that allow contact centers to manage their agents and queues. If service levels get out of line, then supervisors are on the case immediately, managing agent assignment. Problem solved!
But that is exactly the problem! In a busy contact center, it is simply a bad idea to expect supervisors to be able to balance agent and queue activity optimally. No matter what tools are available to them, they are not capable of making the best decisions in real time.
No supervisor wants to hear this! But compare this situation with that of predictive dialing. For years, “dialer supervisors” controlled what dialers do (some still do!), until automated dialers started to appear. Most automated dialers are still short on promise, but the best are much better than the human alternative.
We have discussed this subject with several major CCaaS vendors who have a stateless ACD (even though they won’t admit it!). They make it clear that their customers need to get their forecasts right, by the day and by the hour, so that queue needs can be properly planned for, meaning no or little management required to balance service levels intraday! Don’t we all wish?! But this is not real life.
The benefits of true automation
Because the CCaaS market is (still) dominated by stateless ACDs, most actors have been slow to appreciate the benefits that true automation can and will bring. But the promise is this: understand what your agent skill set is and know the service level targets/agreements (SLAs) for all your queues, and you can develop automated procedures with a stateful ACD that will free up most of your supervisors and, crucially, also deliver a much better CX experience.
It’s time for customers to push back on vendors to see what their plans are for true intraday automation. If you would like to see how to achieve this, just watch our video showing it at work.