IVAs Have Proven Themselves Mission Critical During COVID-19 Surges

by | Sep 18, 2020

With a wave of increased inbound call volumes and a squeeze on contact center capacity from the COVID-19 pandemic, intelligent virtual assistants have quickly become a critical aspect of call centers’ response to the outbreak.

When companies pivoted their contact center workforce to work from home (WFH) to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, workflows changed. Leonard Klie from Speech Technology Magazine reports the pandemic had a massive impact on inbound call volumes, “the pandemic led to dramatic increases in contact center volume, with the number of inbound conversations more than doubling for many support teams.” Because of COVID-19 complications, agents were handling some calls topics they had never received before as well. This perfect storm was poised to overwhelm call centers, but many found the solution — intelligent virtual assistants, or IVAs.

“The perfect storm was poised to overwhelm call centers, but many found the solution — intelligent virtual assistants, or IVAs.”

Fast Solutions

Innovative new IVA solutions are helping contact centers around the world handle COVID-19. Modern automation delivers significant benefits, especially in the current climate. One of the most significant benefits of IVAs is their speed.

Instead of overwhelmed call centers making callers wait on hold, self-service tools like Zappix Visual IVR handle the high volumes that live agents would get bogged down by because IVAs can process straightforward requests faster than a human can. IVAs instantly deliver solutions to common customer service needs when customers call customer service. Requesting order status, account management, form submissions, and other common customer service use cases have never been solved faster than now thanks to digital self-service like Zappix.

IVAs make interactions with agents faster as well. Businesses can use IVAs to authenticate callers and gather critical information while customers wait on hold and push that information directly to agents, who can deliver the faster, more convenient experience customers desire. The added information makes experiences more enjoyable for callers and empowers CSRs to provide the best possible service.

Secure Solutions

Contact centers moving their agents to WFH found additional benefits to deploying IVAs to assist their agents. Customer service agents working from home during COVID-19 have needed new ways of handling sensitive information like payment processing and other tasks. Modern self-service tools let agents deliver the empathetic, human interactions they’re trained for while allowing them to pass the final payment process off to secure self-service to complete a successful resolution.

PCI and other critical compliance issues can become complicated for businesses and agents working from home using new or hybrid workflows. By providing agents with a simple, straightforward solution to compliance, contact center leaders allow their talented reps to focus more energy on customers instead of having to manage yet another change to their training and operations.

Complimentary Solutions

Ultimately, IVAs do what the name says — they assist agents. Contact center agents excel at delivering empathetic, human experiences to consumers calling about complex, stressful situations. Their skill and expertise provide interactions that even the most advanced automation can’t match. When agents get bogged down in simple, straightforward, tedious calls, the ability to deliver powerful interactions where agents’ skills are really valuable diminishes.

IVAs and digital self-service tools deflect these tiresome, repetitive tasks away from agents. Tools that deliver end-to-end automation and completely contain these tedious interactions empower agents to focus only on calls where their skills are most valuable. As call volumes increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, these tedious tasks are only becoming more overwhelming. Freeing agents with successful automation takes the most repetitive interactions off their plates and empowers them to deliver the best service they can to the complex interactions where their skills bring the most value.

The COVID-19 pandemic created a perfect storm of complications for contact centers. The outbreak dramatically increased inbound call volumes, reduced contact center capacity, complicated agents’ workflows, interrupted compliance efforts, and set the stage for long hold times and overwhelmed contact centers. Companies have been talking about digital transformation for years, but this pandemic accelerated every timeline and forced call centers to invest in intelligent virtual assistants. The benefits paid off, helping live agents and contact centers adapt to our new reality.

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