The challenge: Cut reliance on expensive, Tier 2 associates for routine customer service requests
The client is a multibillion-dollar telecommunications and mass media conglomerate headquartered in the United States. With a subscriber base of over 15M US customers, it is one of the largest quad-play service providers in the country.
The client’s contact center operations were set up so:
- Tier 1 associates handled interactions with customers
- Tier 2 associates carried out more technical tasks across specialist applications such as their Device Configuration Portal, Number Reservation System and Feature Management Tool
A large number of routine customer service requests – such as line number porting or adding a feature to the customer’s phone – required involvement from Tier 2 associates to access the relevant specialist applications. This meant customers were left waiting while Tier 1 associates reached out to an available Tier 2 colleague, explained the problem, got the solution and relayed it back to the customer.
The goal of this initiative was to improve overall customer experience by automating these activities and achieving the right balance of digitization and human interaction.
The solution: Human associates and digital assistants working together
We deployed digital assistants – also known as bots – to support contact center associates address customer requests more efficiently. This solution allows people to focus on more complex customer needs while digital assistants pick up the repetitive, predictable tasks and quickly handle them in the background. (See the endnote for an explanation of digital assistants.)
For this initiative, we prioritized automating tasks on the specialist applications, thereby removing the need to involve Tier 2 associates.
A few examples of use cases where the digital assistant can handle the entire process include:
- Removing services from the customer’s account
- Handling initial system checks when the customer has no dial tone on their landline
- Amending field technician appointments at the customer’s location
- Refunding customers who cancel during their trial period
- Line number porting when customers switch to our client
With several thousand associates in the contact center, equipping everyone with their own digital assistant was cost prohibitive. We tackled this with an intermediate layer using platform APIs to place requests from every associate into a single queue, which any bot can then pick up. This vastly reduced the number of software licenses needed.
The initiative began with detailed workshops to determine and understand the opportunities, right-fit platform, design the deployment model and the process to fit the business case.
The next step involved conducting an “origination” workshop bringing together multiple stakeholders from the client organization: project stakeholders, program managers, business teams, subject matter experts (SMEs) risk and compliance teams, IT and support teams. This ensured everyone was clear on the program goals and understood what was expected of them.
A critical success factor is change management. When you have diverse groups of stakeholders there will inevitably be different priorities and success criteria. On this project there were operators in multiple locations working for multiple external vendors, the client’s internal IT system, several different application teams, and the business teams. Our change management team managed consultation and communications with all these stakeholders, including several workshops to get everyone on board.
Once the whole program was operational it was easy to add new activities for automation. Currently it takes four to five weeks to configure a new digital assistant. Firstsource handles all this as well as ongoing management of digital assistants.
The results: Huge cost savings and improved customer experience
- $11M annual cost savings arising from fewer transfer to Tier 2 associates
- Tier 2 associate resources are freed up for more complex activities
- Lower call-handling time as the bots carry out these tasks about 40% faster
- Initial bot success rate of 95%
- Digital assistants initially deployed in a single division, and now scaled up to three divisions
Endnote: Digital assistants explained
Here, digital assistant means a Robotic Process Automation bot that can interact with legacy IT and applications in the same way that people can. The digital assistant has its own username and password, can search records, copy information and paste it into another system, make decisions according to programmed criteria. Because it interacts with the same user interface as human associates, the automation is possible without any changes to the often fragile underlying IT systems.