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3 Ways Technology Meets Empathy to Solve Overwhelmed Agency Phone Lines – Nextgov

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3 Ways Technology Meets Empathy to Solve Overwhelmed Agency Phone Lines - Nextgov

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges. Federal, state and local government resources are being stretched beyond their limits as people across the U.S. seek information and guidance. At a time when most offices are closed and contact centers are overwhelmed, artificial intelligence-enabled conversational messaging channels, automation, and interactive voice response, or IVR, deflection enable government organizations to support and rapidly respond to their constituents. 

Here are three ways where fusing technology with human capabilities makes high call volumes manageable and allows humans to do what they do best: provide empathy and expertise. 

1. Deflect inbound calls intelligently.

Technology is at its best when it makes people’s lives easier. During this time of uncertainty, people will be seeking answers on non-COVID related questions. The influx of queries may cause traditional phone systems to crash. Instead of requiring contact center agents to enter basic information, such as the call reason, an AI-powered IVR application or chatbot can collect that information and answer these common questions to reduce the queue and save agents time. 

When the message or call is transferred to an agent, he or she already has the information needed to understand the issue and can focus on the conversation.    

Another approach is transferring non-emergency calls to an IVR system that responds to a list of frequent questions. Conversational technology can be an excellent way to deflect repetitive questions to AI that can act like a live FAQ around constantly changing information. This is key for directing the public to testing locations and hours and non-life-threatening emergencies, instead of them having to wait on hold. This allows agents to spend more time on the more complex and urgent issues that need the most dedicated attention.

2. Maximize messaging as a primary interaction channel.

Rather than flow everything through a voice phone system, agents can also respond over mobile messaging. Messaging is quick, flexible, and many consumers prefer to text already. On the other end, staff can handle up to four messaging conversations at once compared to one call. This provides expanded and sometimes better public support with the same number of employees. 

It also eliminates noise concerns—a key asset for remote employees. It’s an effective means of communicating with people while managing the new realities of working from home. 

3. Empower human connections.

Success also hinges on effectively hiring, training and managing employees to provide enhanced services—many of whom may be working remotely for the first time. It’s an extraordinary time when some industries like the public sector are in dire need of more resources while at the same time there are many more displaced workers looking for work-from-home opportunities. The ability to quickly ramp up support with local knowledgeable staff remotely is a silver lining in the unique situation we find ourselves in.

The best support employees have a combination of soft skills and the technological know-how to provide seamless digital experiences for those in need. Training should be shaped around a digital curriculum that simulates real-life experiences with AI-driven training modules and immediate feedback to focus on a trainee’s strengths and weaknesses as they encounter potential real-life situations. Classroom training isn’t an option. A digital approach gets agents well prepared and ready to serve real citizens quickly.

Businesses around the world are rethinking operations and technology solutions to continue supporting customers and government agencies are no different. As the crisis continues, organizations are now prioritizing short-term solutions. But if executed correctly, today’s progress could also be the foundation for tomorrow’s success. 

Andy Martin is group vice president at TTEC.

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