Drive a reinvented customer experience with an AI-powered virtual assistant

In an age where instant gratification has become an expectation, consumers demand answers to their questions and concerns quickly, if not immediately, and businesses know that excellent customer service is vital to their long-term success. Fortunately, technology is evolving with the times and the digital revolution and artificial intelligence are helping to completely reinvent call centers.

Camping World, the number one recreational vehicle (RV) retailer globally, understands that providing exceptional customer service is key to staying ahead of the competition. The company relies heavily on its contact centers to provide unmatched customer service, but following the COVID-19 pandemic, a surge in customers has revealed some issues in its existing infrastructure. As volume and traffic have increased, gaps in agent management and response times have become more apparent.

“We are a unique business where we serve three very distinct groups of customers who enjoy the motorhome lifestyle. There is the retail side, financial services like insurance or cargo and the dealership side,” said Saurabh Shah, chief digital officer and official chief information of Camping World.

Shah also explains that pulling agents from one area of ​​the business and placing them in another requires training, and Camping World didn’t have time to conduct that training before the seasonal surge hit, especially during the pandemic labor shortage. Not having a 24/7 call center was a long-standing problem even in the off-season. When customers failed to reach a human agent, their questions and requests went unnoticed, were pushed back until the next day when a representative could respond, or were accidentally dropped altogether. This left the Camping World sales team with no visibility into the number of hits they accumulated during off hours.

“Our response times were concerning. Customers had been waiting a long time, which related to a couple of things,” said Brenda Wintrow, senior vice president of sales and customer experience at Camping World. “Obviously it was volume, but not having clear visibility into their performance and response times along with how many chats they could maximize was a problem.”

With its customers unable to reach a live human agent during call center off-hours, the retailer was forced to rethink its infrastructure, its lack of visibility and its functionality gaps. With customer interactions as a focal point, Camping World turned to IBM® Consulting to modernize their contact centers and invest in new infrastructure to improve processes and workflow automation.

Camping World needed a human-centric solution to enable the scalability of its operations and handle the increase in the number of customers looking for quick assistance.

“We must always think differently and identify what is the next best solution to serve our customers. IBM has given us options that we otherwise didn’t have with our previous technology,” said Wintrow. “IBM provided us with several scenarios including the roadmap to build their technology which ultimately allowed us to streamline our processes, build agent efficiencies and most importantly dramatically improve the overall customer experience” .

The solution, powered by IBM Watson® Assistant, seamlessly integrates LivePerson, a conversational cloud platform, and has been implemented across all web properties, increasing question coverage and phone capabilities. Connect Camping World customers with a virtual agent, allowing live agents to take care of more complex conversations. Called Arvee, the virtual agent ensures faster and more efficient response times with dynamic routing and capacity management capabilities. Arvee’s lead generation, especially after hours, was a feature the team didn’t have before and allows real-time agents to easily track and proactively follow up on customer inquiries.

Camping World started out with intents of 75 to 100 and has since been able to adjust to areas where customers were finding roadblocks and improve upon multiple iterations. IBM added new features such as SMS capabilities that allowed customers to switch between voice and SMS messaging when calling. The latest enhancement also allows outgoing SMS campaigns to reach customers and increase sales.

The two teams went one step further and integrated more improvements into the backend that expanded the capabilities of the virtual agents by handling customer scenarios, improving live agent efficiency and customer satisfaction. In addition to providing more than 30 frequently asked questions, the virtual agent integrates with Oracle and Salesforce platforms to answer customer questions and find customer information quickly and efficiently.

“Agents love the ease with which they can interact with customers using Watson Assistant. Arvee initiates and conveys a warm handover to agents,” said Shah. “Also, having access to customer engagement statistics and metrics from the dashboard greatly helps agents stay organized. It’s very intuitive.”

While the advancement of AI capabilities may lead to less human contact than ever, that doesn’t mean that phone calling is dead or that people will soon be out of work. Agents are still very much involved in the sales process and, with the time allotted, can provide superior service to customers. IBM Watson Assistant recognizes customer intent and provides callers with the opportunity to be routed to an available live agent for that conversation.

Since implementation, customer engagement rates have increased significantly and the number of dropped conversations has decreased. Customers are experiencing shorter wait times and faster responses, and agent efficiency has significantly improved. Aided by agent desktop integration and with Arvee proactively collecting customer data during text and web message fielding, live agents can handle more simultaneous chats, increasing their overall efficiency by 33%. As of March 2022, customer engagement has increased by 40% and Camping World has seen wait times drop to 33 seconds.

“When you look at the total number of chat conversations — 13,999 for retail and only 6,000 were then to be transferred to a live agent — it’s incredible,” Wintrow said. “Nearly 8,000 conversations have been answered with Arvee and through the enhanced and improved intent integration. When it reaches agents, it opens up the opportunity for more profitable conversations and upsell opportunities.”

This post was created by IBM with Insider Studios.

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