Threading the CRM needle in public sector contact centres

Pegasystems Pty Ltd

By Sabrina Atienza, director of product management, Pegasystems
Friday, 10 June, 2022

Threading the CRM needle in public sector contact centres

As anyone who has worked in a contact centre will tell you, being a customer service agent can be a thankless task at the best of times, and that’s never been truer than it is in 2022.

Look to the public sector, where citizens rely on contact centre agents to solve more complex problems, involving highly sensitive data, often needing to see results instantly. It’s a problem that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, with agents striving to resolve sensitive cases relating to areas like people’s health, finances, vehicle registrations and more in the most timely and empathetic way possible.

Unfortunately, many agents do not have the tools to properly do their jobs, meaning thankless tasks are increasingly becoming impossible ones, with agents being asked to deliver exceptional service with one metaphorical arm tied behind their backs.

A recent survey by Pega uncovered that more than half of all customer service agents say they botch how they record customer requests during service calls, with nearly 40% admitting they regularly fail to understand their customers’ needs because they get distracted. Adding to this, outdated technologies hold agents back with manual, cumbersome searches, and error-prone data entry. Given nearly 40% of respondents cite slow call resolution as a leading frustration for customers, it’s clear that further support and technological intervention is required to improve these processes.

One popular tool in the private sector is self-service, as it can relieve workload pressure on agents and expedite resolutions on simple issues. However, while public sector agencies have attempted to deflect from human agents to chatbots in recent years, there’s been pushback from citizens.

It’s well documented that many Australians are wary of sharing data with governments compared to ‘optional’ customer service scenarios, due to the sensitive nature of the data they are sharing and the fact that there are no alternatives to most government services. It’s therefore even more difficult for many citizens to vest trust in a chatbot, especially given the growing suspicion of perceived ethics and diversity issues associated with AI.

As a result, workload deflection to chatbots is often short-lived as many citizens will still seek reassurance from a human agent. When AI isn’t implemented in appropriate ways and directed to the right use cases, its value is blunted and can be counterproductive to its goal: to augment agent abilities to increase productivity, employee experience, and deliver more efficient and better results for citizens.

We are at an exciting inflection point in the customer service industry and there’s a great opportunity for government agencies to take advantage of emerging technologies. Tools are available to reduce volume of manual data entry typically required of agents, while intelligently guiding them through customer conversations. These tools support the agent to resolve issues more quickly, rather than trying to remove them from the conversation. These tools enhance interactions and allow for more empathetic engagements, while providing improved efficiency and accuracy.

When considering productivity tools and AI solutions to improve agent experiences to create better citizen interactions, there are four factors that must be considered:

Real time is of the essence

Customer interactions require agents to be in the moment, and they need their technology to do the same. 87% of agents surveyed said the ability to immediately access knowledge centres in real time would improve their ability to answer questions quickly and accurately, which is also a top priority for citizens.

Agents need technology that acts as a co-pilot during conversations. This could include anything from a prompt for what questions to ask, or a recommendation for useful information to share based on the conversation. When it comes to service, every second counts, so technology needs to act in real time to add value.

AI that enhances agents rather than replacing them

In an age of chatbots and interactive voice response, customers are still seeking help from actual humans — especially when it comes to sensitive topics like those public sector agents handle. Conversational AI — when paired with a human agent — delivers a more accurate, efficient interaction, while still providing the level of empathy and trust citizens expect from contact centre agents.

Eyes up, focus on the customer

Manual data entry has been listed as one of the worst parts of an agent’s job, as it takes them out of a conversation, often frustrating their caller, and ultimately becoming a source of stress for the agent. More than half of agents (54%) say switching between applications to enter details slows them down, while 51% are bogged down by searching for information.

Solutions should listen to live interactions and automatically enter data while agents hold a conversation. These solutions can also recommend service actions and prompt questions when the agent needs further detail, without the agent needing to lift a finger. This helps them focus on the conversation and deliver better service, instead of worrying about clunky, hard-to-navigate technology.

Reduce training time, not quality

Contact centres have notoriously high turnover rates, which means organisations face a constant influx of new staff requiring training to adhere to strict guidelines and regulations, particularly in the public sector.

Instead of focusing on extensive training programs, look for solutions that offer features like real-time script adherence to help guide even the most novice employee through a customer interaction. This can take the guesswork out of conversations by providing agents with cues to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, ensuring consistent and positive experiences for both agents and citizens, while also allowing organisations to focus fewer resources on training and more on empowering their agents to deliver excellent service.

Image credit: © Olson

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