The virtual call centre
Reality or a pipe dream?

4th January 2018

With approximately 15 million people worldwide now owning Amazon Alexa devices and 5 million Google Home devices sold, the use of 'voice' as an interface of choice to carry out tasks is becoming more commonplace. Tech giants have been leading the charge, pouring huge investment into 'conversational' tools; Apple is set to release its 'home pod' Siri-based voice device in early 2018 and Facebook is working on a voice speaker and video chat tool.

Meanwhile, in the CDL Incubator, the latest project cycle is seeing a dedicated team create a virtual call centre 'proof of concept' with a number of key features, including caller authentication, processing information requests, mid term adjustments and renewals confirmation.

The project recognises that the majority of questions asked over the phone are routine queries, meaning that the prize to be gained through automation is significant efficiency improvements.

Are consumers ready?
Voice-automated devices have the ability to make companies more accessible to consumers by offering a simple to use, 'always-on' service which allows customers to access information using just their voice, such as making lists, hearing weather forecasts and playing songs.

Take-up of voice activated devices indicates growing demand for consumers to access organisations from the comfort of their own home. The insurance industry needs to keep pace with other sectors by using voice as an effective interface to access policy information.

Is the industry ready?
Working with customers, CDL has undertaken extensive analysis of insurance-related interactions over the phone, identifying three broad tiers of call types. At the most basic level, around a third of calls are routine, information look-up type questions, which are straightforward to automate; things like requesting confirmation that documents have been received, requesting proof of No Claims Bonus or updating contact details. At the more complex end, around 15% of questions are prompted by bespoke circumstances which are most likely to require more experienced, human customer service handling skills.

In between these two extremes are a range of multi-step or more involved queries, such as mid-term adjustments, queries about policy coverage or the workings of telematics policies, which are more complex but nonetheless logic-based and therefore ripe for automation. 

How ready is the technology?
Natural Language Processing (NLP) devices are advancing towards human parity and can improve the speed and productivity of interactions which were previously orchestrated by humans in call centres.

The growth of cloud-based technologies is also paving the way for developments that make the prospect of a virtual contact centre more than just a pipe dream.

With investment from tech giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook and innovation from the likes of CDL, a 'virtual call centre' could be just around the corner and promises to offer a 'win-win' for retailers and consumers; the greater the potential for people to access information and complete tasks by interacting with technology, the greater the potential for retailers to drive efficiencies in their contact centres.