A Call Deflection AI Assistant Tackles High Call Volumes due to COVID-19

By 4 Minute Read

A good call deflection solution that leverages the power of a digital AI assistant, powered by conversational AI, helps contact centers and helplines respond to a surge in customer calls amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has created major repercussions across many industries as they deal with spiking customer concerns, cancellations, refund requests, or information updates. Whether it’s an insurance company answering questions about travel or health insurance coverage, or airlines and hotels managing cancelations and refunds, the unprecedented global spread of the Coronavirus has put consumers and businesses into a spin. Customer service, helplines, and contact centers are facing higher than normal volumes of incoming calls and chats, putting pressure on their agents, their systems, and their ability to respond and deflect incoming calls from their queues. 

In Washington State, calls to the Coronavirus hotline were experiencing 20 minute wait times and then being dropped as call volumes spiked. In the UK, call volumes to the NHS 111 line jumped by a third compared to this period last year.  Hold times of 4+ hours and dropped calls are not uncommon as concerned consumers try to change or cancel bookings, check the status of their insurance cover, or make other urgent requests.  

For many, the response is to add more staff to handle consumer requests. In some cases, this is feasible, albeit costly. However, in other cases, adding more agents may not be possible at short notice and with cost concerns. 

Many US airlines have sent mass emails to their customer base asking those who don’t have flights within the next 72 hour time period to wait until closer to their trip time before calling their customer service line. This helps them flatten the peaks on incoming call volumes so they can prioritize the customers with more immediate needs. 

With call volumes surging for many contact centers, a solution that can firstly shift customers from a voice to a text-based channel and secondly deflect some of them to self-serve via your website or mobile app may be just what is needed. It doesn’t have to be a complex, costly or time-intensive solution, but it can be extremely effective in managing the additional volumes more cost-effectively and giving your customers the information that they want to allay their concerns.

The Simplicity of Call Deflection: Shifting incoming Voice Calls to More Efficient Digital Channels

Think of this scenario. Call volumes are out of control, agents are frazzled, and customers are anxiously waiting long periods before they can speak to an agent. What about sending them a bot that they can engage with to address their queries?  If the bot satisfies their immediate needs then there’s no need for agent involvement but there can still be a path to human handover for customers that require further assistance.

By shifting customers from the more costly and less reliable voice channel to a more efficient text channel, you open up more potential for automation, out of hours accessibility, and thoughtful call deflection. 

Whether your IVR is based on legacy technology or is a modern cloud-based solution, the concept of shifting customers from an inbound voice channel to a messaging channel is possible. We know, because we have done this for a client who considered this impossible with their legacy on-premise IVR system. Spinning up a solution took a matter of 2 days but allowed them to successfully deflect calls, automate the response, and still have a path to live chat.

Sending out an AI Assistant to Deflect and Automate Customer Service

Once a customer is willing to engage via a messaging channel, sending a bot or virtual assistant opens up a whole path to automation.  Once the customer opens the AI Assistant and starts to engage, the bot can handle simple requests, point them to the place on your website to find information, or help them transact in a self-service manner. All this can happen without the need for them to engage with an agent unless they specifically request this or the bot escalates to an agent.

An AI assistant can simply be used to point a customer to the COVID-19 FAQ page or it can be a more extensive customer service bot that offers multiple capabilities, beyond just simple FAQ responses. The point is that this is a highly effective way of deflecting incoming calls.

Listen to this webinar recording to see how the AA Ireland quickly deflected over 11% of their incoming calls and took the pressure off their live agents as they handled increased customer requests during the crisis. And it only took less than 2 days to build and deploy this call deflection solution.

Check out this short demo video to see how a call defection virtual assistant can work:

In times like this, where an influx of concerned customers needs to be handled, call deflection using a virtual assistant makes a lot of sense. It takes the pressure off contact center agents but it also introduces an automation path, one that can help customers out of hours as well as in hours. The bot can even be integrated with your live chat systems so that the bot works in parallel with live agents when needed.

What’s more, creating and deploying a simple virtual assistant that can help with call deflection and serve customers in a more efficient but effective way doesn’t have to be as complex, expensive, or time-consuming as you may think. 

Working with your existing customer service technology such as the IVR and Live Chat, a simple AI-powered bot solution can be designed and implemented to channel shift from voice to text and to deflect incoming calls. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complex, but it can be highly effective. 

And if you have no AI assistants in production, fear not. In a short period of time, you can launch a very simple bot that can train over the course of a week or so to start automating your AI customer service. Day one it may not be too clever and may just quickly handoff to a live agent but by gathering the training phrases from customer chats, the AI bot can be made progressively smarter and add capabilities so that after a week it can start automating to become more self-sufficient and take more of the burden from your live agents, allowing them to handle more complex customer issues.

To learn more about very quickly deploying a call deflection solution that alleviates the pressure from your contact center agents and serves your customers more efficiently, contact our experts.

If you’re looking for more ways to automate customer engagement read our blogpost,  “How AI Assistants Take Automation to a Superior Level”

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