The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly placed an extraordinary amount of pressure on businesses in practically every sector. Companies have had to pivot and adjust to a new way of working, with a rapid switch to remote teams and virtual workforces - many in a matter of days.
The reality is, as we emerge from the current situation, it is inevitable that there will be a lasting impact from the changes that have had to be made. The landscape for business has been altered for good.
We have already seen many businesses forced to cease all discretionary spending, pause recruitment plans indefinitely, cut marketing spend while still demonstrating a strong return on investment, and yet still make decisions on how best to drive and generate pipeline.
While the negative aspects of the current situation impacted by Covid-19 and the associated economic downturn are clear, there is another shift happening in the workplace that is actually driving opportunities for growth, increasing visibility into the buying process, and helping enhance customer experience.
This change is the increasing introduction of intelligent automation into the workplace, otherwise known as augmenting the workforce with Artificial Intelligence (AI). Intelligent automation is being increasingly introduced as a means of assisting marketers and revenue-generating teams who are under growing pressure to do more with less. But what exactly is an augmented workforce?
An augmented workforce describes a working environment in which staff works alongside, and in collaboration with, Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVAs) to drive better business outcomes. IVAs are the next generation of intelligent automation helping organisations scale human interactions that attract, acquire, and grow customers.
IVAs engage prospects and customers in natural, two-way conversations to determine interest and drive towards the next best action. IVAs automate many of the more straightforward, mundane and repetitive tasks that people don’t want to do or don’t do well - such as inbound outreach to qualify leads, gauging interest to buy additional products or services, or politely but persistently collecting overdue payments.
The challenge of driving attendance
This in turn enables staff to focus on more higher-value tasks, thereby improving overall productivity, performance and increasing job satisfaction.
The demand for AI-driven technology is clear, with a report from Capgemini identifying that 74 per cent of organisations view Intelligent Virtual Assistants as an important enabler of successful customer engagement.
In today’s current climate, a clear use case for augmenting a workforce with IVAs is in marketing and sales to help follow-up with leads generated from the growing number of digital marketing activities; from paid search and content syndication to webinars and digital events.
As marketers and salespeople shift to a world that is all digital, all the time, they need to find a way to maximise these investments. This is where an IVA really makes a difference.
For many organisations, driving attendance to webinars or digital events is a challenge; the lack of persistence and inconsistency of personalised messages over multiple touchpoints fail to engage targeted contacts to register for events. Or even worse, the latency of following up with both those who registered and attended undermines sales ability to find more sales-ready opportunities.
Using IVAs for both these scenarios can greatly increase the participation pre-event and engagement post-event. In fact, our research has shown that a lead contacted within 30 minutes of an event has 21-times greater likelihood of qualifying than those that are not. With more digital investments, leads will be generated at a greater pace.
Marketing and sales teams will struggle to provide enough coverage that drives conversion. IVAs can add instant capacity to any marketing and sales team.
As already highlighted, the telecoms sector is one industry where augmenting the workforce through the use of IVAs is having a significant impact. The most transformational examples of this are in front-end office functions such as marketing, sales, and customer success where there are big opportunities to scale the business and accelerate revenue across the customer journey.
Realising the positive potential
A prominent example of this in practice today is CenturyLink, the third-largest telecom company in the US. CenturyLink provides broadband, voice, video, advanced data and managed network services, and has been using IVAs to drive leads through its sales funnel.
At the start, CenturyLink tasked Conversica’s AI Assistants with following up with smaller prospects that hadn’t previously been assigned to a human sales rep. The results of this outreach were almost immediate, with the initial outreach leading to 300 calls being scheduled for four of CenturyLink’s sales reps. This was quickly followed by a regular cadence of leads.
The results of this have been truly transformational for CenturyLink’s entire operations, with the augmenting of its workforce meaning the company now contacts 90,000 qualified leads every single quarter. In turn, this has increased job satisfaction among the sales team and driven an 8-1 return on investment each month.
However, it is also important to consider the benefits of an augmented workforce in terms of helping to retain your existing customer base. In this current economic climate, organisations are tightening budgets, reducing marketing spend and still needing to deliver an optimal customer experience. Solutions are therefore needed to fill in the gaps.
IVAs can aid with this by facilitating customer communications and interactions with existing customers in an empathetic, personal and informational tone, such as updates on any changes your company has had to make to its current hours of operation as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the present situation has required a great deal of flexibility and adaptability for businesses in practically every sector, we will eventually settle into a new normal. Business leaders know that the decisions made today will have a lasting impact moving forward.
Now, perhaps more than ever before, is the time to truly realise the positive potential offered by augmenting the workforce and putting the groundwork in place to benefit businesses looking to survive today, revive tomorrow and thrive in the long term.
Rashmi Vittal, CMO, Conversica