As customers, we take for granted that technology works when we want it to. When we order food on Grubhub, a delivery driver soon appears with the order. When there’s heavy traffic, we trust our GPS apps to find an alternate route.
All of this happens instantaneously, but it wouldn’t be possible without the technological infrastructure of several systems sharing information and working in tandem. That information sharing is made possible by an API, a type of interface that has major implications for advancing customer service in the contact center.
What is an API?
API stands for an application programming interface. It sounds complicated, but it’s simply a means by which different applications can talk to each other.
Think of the old-fashioned “telephones” you’d make as a kid with two cans and a piece of string. If each can represents a different application, the API is the string that connects them.
Though most of us never think about APIs, we use them daily. They’re what enable us to use Facebook instead of a username and password to log into other applications. They allow us to make hotel bookings via a third-party site like Expedia. Any time to or more applications work together, you can be confident an API is to thank.
APIs in the contact center
We talk a great deal about how forward-thinking contact centers must take an omnichannel approach, meeting customers on the platforms of their choosing. APIs are what facilitate this blended architecture.
In a modern customer service center, messages arrive not only via phone, but also by text, live chat, email, Facebook messenger, Tweet, and more. Agents must respond promptly to all of them–but it’s neither practical nor feasible for them to do so on all of those diverse platforms separately.
Instead, APIs connect third-party systems in one view so customers can contact the company on the platform of their choice and agents can respond using a single system they’re familiar with. APIs make the multi-channel contact center experience possible at scale.
Here are three ways customer service teams can leverage APIs in the contact center to advance customer service.
1. APIs go hand in hand with automation
Automation is key to more efficient customer interactions. It allows agents to offload repetitive tasks, easing frustration and freeing up more of their time to work on customer issues.
Automation happens “behind the scenes,” but how? Just as with the examples we mentioned earlier, much of it is the result of APIs. Here’s what that might look like in practice.
A prospect fills out a form on your website to request more information. An API links your website with your CRM and the prospect’s data is automatically used to create a new customer record. Another API links your CRM with your automatic dialing system, placing the customer into a queue for outreach from an agent.
Instead of a human having to go through all of the leads on your website and categorize them for follow-up, the process of inputting data and queuing it up for action is automatic. This allows agents to focus on providing the best possible service on the resulting call.
With APIs, we can also make the process one step further on the back end of the call, automatically assigning follow-up tasks, creating a report, and feeding the data to a metrics-tracking system for further analysis.
2. APIs enable deeper personalization
Contact centers compile a massive amount of data. There’s the data your customers give you directly, like their name, address, and billing information. But there’s also a surplus of additional data out there to be leveraged, like their behavior on your website and their interactions with your brand on social media.
APIs can pull all of this data from unlimited sources together in a single view. From there, it can be used to provide highly personalized messaging and interactions. The implications of this are far-reaching.
If a prospect spends an extended amount of time using the self-service options on your website, for example, you might use an API to flag them for personal follow-up from an agent. If they’ve previously contacted you on social media and are now calling in by phone, you might use your previous interaction to inform a dynamic script the agent can use during the conversation to proactively ease their frustration.
APIs give us the ability to personalize interactions on a level that wouldn’t be possible with manual data gathering alone.
3. APIs create scale
APIs are incredibly valuable because they let you plug functionality in quickly. This is especially valuable contact centers because the low-code/ no-code option facilitates a seamless addition of new channels and workflows. The API calls do the heavy lifting that would have once required massive capital investment.
Take SMS support, for example. If you wanted to add text messaging capabilities without the help of APIs, you’d have to build the infrastructure to send text messages yourself. This could easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Instead, an API lets you virtually plug and play with existing SMS technology so you’re able to connect your customer database and start sending text messages almost immediately. The up-front cost is comparatively low and the additional costs don’t balloon as you grow like they would in call centers of the past.
By automating tasks, executing personalization at scale, and interacting with our customers on the platforms they prefer, we can provide better service and achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction. APIs in the contact center makes all of these things possible.