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Virtual call centers vs. call center automation: What you need now and why

Arjun Ruparelia
SaaS Writer and Content Marketer
AI & Automation | 14 min read

Call center automation and virtual call centers are not mutually exclusive. You need both a virtual call center and AI-powered call center automation tools to be future-ready. Your customers agree — latest data shows 43% of customers believe voice-based AI will change how they purchase from brands in the future. In fact, your competitors are already making the move to implement AI in their contact centers.

Voice-based AI puts call center automation on steroids. Think about it: when a customer calls, they use the to navigate options, speak to an AI call agent to resolve problems, and that’s it. No support agent required. This is possible because AI voice assistants can understand natural language and generate accurate voice responses.

Contact center leaders are increasingly prioritizing AI capabilities. Customer-facing chatbots are leading the way, with 74% of organizations currently at some stage of testing or deployment, followed by virtual voice assistants (64%) and agent-facing chatbots (60%).

- Deloitte

In this guide, we explain what call center automation is, how it works, and dive deeper into how call center automation augments your virtual center’s capabilities.

What is call center automation?

Call center automation is the use of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) to automate call center operations.

It minimizes the need for human intervention and empowers customers to self-serve. An automated system can handle thousands of callers at once, which helps prevent overloading support agents with calls during peak season. And customers can resolve inquiries without waiting on hold for a support agent to answer.

Call center automation typically requires using a combination of tools, including a conversational AI voice assistant to automate voice responses , unified communications software to automate tasks like call recording and transcription, and an ACD (Automated Call Distribution) system to route calls.

Virtual call center vs call center automation

Here’s how a virtual call center differs from an automated call center:

What call center processes can you automate?

Many call center processes are repetitive, which means they’re easy to automate. Let’s dive a little deeper into some call center processes you can automate:

  • General customer service inquiries: Support agents spend most of their day handling repetitive customer inquiries related to a password reset, new feature, or plan upgrades. Conversational AI can field these inquiries and free up the support team’s time. More advanced conversational AI tools can even tackle more complex inquiries like refund or return requests.
  • Automated call scheduling: Support agents have to manually schedule calls whenever leads show interest or customers request a callback. AI can automate these calls so agents can focus on customers with more complex or technical inquiries.
  • Data collection and forecasting: Call centers are a goldmine of customer data. Use call center software to collect customer data, convert it into insights, and make data-backed decisions. Finding the best time to follow up with leads is a great example of how you can use customer data to make smarter decisions.
  • Call routing and distribution: ACD systems route incoming calls to the right agent based on factors like preferred language and previous interactions. Routing calls based on predefined criteria helps minimize the need to transfer calls from one agent to another.
  • Call recording: Modern phone systems include a call recording feature. Transcribe these recordings using AI to analyze customer interactions and use them to coach your AI Agent.
  • Automated ticket management: Creating, assigning, and tracking tickets can derail productivity. Automate ticketing with AI so you never have to manually fill in details for every ticket.

Benefits of call center automation

Virtual call centers allow your support agent to work out of a cabin in Colorado. But add call center automation to the mix and you earn your agents a lot of their time back. Your agents will have to deal with only a fraction of inquiries since an AI call agent can address both basic and complex ones. Here are the benefits of automating your virtual call center.

Increased productivity

Research by Kearney shows AI and RPA tools can reduce agent interaction time by 40% by 2027. These technologies save your agents plenty of time through streamlined processes and fewer errors.

For example, your ACD system ensures calls are always routed to an appropriate agent. Support agents never have to waste time discussing an issue with a customer only to realize the call needs to be transferred to someone else. Reduced transfer time increases first-call resolution rates, reduces call handling times, and improves the overall customer experience.

Improved customer experience

Your customers hate being put on hold. A survey reveals that 43% of customers regard long wait times as the most frustrating customer experience. But many brands aren’t paying attention — the same survey also revealed 57% of customers have waited for support for over an hour and 26% have waited for longer than two hours.

AI-powered voice assistants can provide real-time responses to customers, save your reputation and improve customer retention. Suppose a passenger wants to rebook their flight due to an emergency. They call the airline to rebook but are put on hold because of a long queue. Not being able to rebook during a crisis is stressful. But this wouldn’t be a problem if the airline used an automated call center. An AI call agent can rebook the customer’s ticket within minutes.

The high cost of voice

30-60 seconds is the average amount of time a customer will wait on hold. Read our infographic on call center automation to learn more.

Get the infographic

Lower costs and optimal use of resources

Call center automation saves money on multiple fronts. Automation makes your support team more productive — your AI agent will handle most inquiries so you’ll need fewer agents. Plus, you never have to worry about hiring more agents and burning through cash reserves during peak season — AI solutions are scalable and carry a fixed cost.

Lower risk of human error

There’s ample room for error in the call center workflow. A support agent might spell a customer’s name incorrectly or assign a technical inquiry to an agent who isn’t experienced enough to handle those inquiries. Automated systems can automatically create support tickets and route calls with great accuracy. Fewer errors translate to a positive experience for customers and save time you’d otherwise spend correcting those errors.


Automated call centers offer greater scalability. Instead of hiring more staff during holiday season, let an AI call agent take care of increased traffic. AI voice assistants can easily answer customers who have questions about order status, returns policy, and refund status so you need fewer agents.

How call center automation works

Call center automation involves integrating multiple systems. These systems exchange data and auto-execute tasks to facilitate workflow automation. For example, when a customer calls asking about their last support ticket, the call center software searches the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system for this information and shares it with the caller, provided both solutions are integrated.

Disconnected tech stacks are a major cause for concern. According to the Intercom Customer Support Trends Report, disconnected support tools slow down 47% of support teams every week. If your support team uses more than five tools and none of them integrate, you’ll have a tough time automating workflows.

Fortunately, modern call center solutions integrate with a wide range of tools. The exact workflow differs based on your tech stack, but here’s an example of what the process could look like.

Step 1: Solve inquiries using an AI call agent

AI call agents help minimize the number of calls that need to be routed to agents. The AI call agent can interact with the customer using natural language and provide an accurate answer. Suppose you’re a car dealership. A prospective customer calls and says “I want new wheels for my son’s birthday.” An AI call agent understands the customer is referring to a new car. It will also generate a voice response in natural language.

Some companies use an IVR system that uses a predefined navigation system. When a customer calls, they’re asked to select options using a keypad or voice commands. You’ve probably heard an IVR system ask you to “press one to check your account balance” when calling a bank. If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, the IVR redirects you to an AI call agent.

Step 2: Route calling with ACD

If a customer’s inquiry requires a human agent, your workflow needs an ACD to route the call to a support agent. ACD ensures callers are directed to the most appropriate agent based on predefined criteria, IVR selections, and agent availability. While you do need an ACD system to route calls, your aim should be to minimize the need to route calls by using an AI call agent that can generate accurate responses and increase the automated resolution and containment rate .

Step 3: Over to an agent

One of the most important goals of automating your call center is to minimize the number of calls that reach the support desk. Ideally, only highly complex inquiries should reach a support agent. For example, if a customer needs help with building a custom integration for your SaaS, they need a support agent. But as AI evolves, calls routed to support agents will drop significantly. In fact, our aim at Ada is to reduce the calls routed to support agents to zero.

Support agents can automate various tasks by integrating call center tools with other apps in their tech stack, such as:

  • Computer telephony integration (CTI): CTI integrates your phone system with the computer system. Think of CTI as a link between your phone system and other apps. For example, CTI enables ACD to route calls and IVRs to function.
  • CRM: CRMs hold customer data like previous interactions and open tickets. When you call, the agent can view your details — name, registered phone number, and account type — if their CRM and phone system are integrated.
  • Workflow automation: Apps like Zapier can automate repetitive tasks like data entry and setting reminders so agents can focus on tasks that require a human touch.

Call center solutions also offer built-in automation tools to record and transcribe calls and automatically send texts to customers when a call is missed. This depends on the type of call center software you use, so choose wisely.

Step 4: Analytics and reporting

Call center automation software collects data when an agent is on a call with a customer. Feed this data into an analytics tool or the built-in analytics feature in your call center software. Analytics tools turn your data into insightful metrics that help identify trends and customer preferences and monitor agent performance.

Customer data is an asset that helps personalize interactions. We’re no longer in a world where personalization is a differentiator. It’s now pretty much a necessity. In fact, 60% of customers can tell when they receive personalized recommendations and find them valuable.

Before you think about automating your call center workflow, take a quick inventory of your tech stack. See which solutions you can integrate — data silos will keep you from realizing complete gains from your analytics solution. As a McKinsey article explains:

“Many companies have call centers that function in silos. The centers generate plenty of data, but companies don’t have a systematic approach for aggregating that data into a single source of truth so that managers can make sense of it. Other companies buy a set of ad hoc solutions and assets to solve individual problems, rather than developing a strategic approach built around a single integrated platform.”

60% of customers can tell when they receive personalized recommendations and find them valuable.

- Zendesk

Time to double down on call center automation

Let’s face it: your customers don’t want to be on hold and they want answers fast. You need an AI voice tool to make that happen. Fortunately, you don’t have to abandon your existing virtual call center system to bring in AI voice automation. Ada can help automate your call center without moving too much around. At Ada, our mission is to build an AI solution that can resolve all customer interactions with AI, so you can focus on the strategic parts of business.

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