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Monday, July 23, 2018

Is the Terminator our Eventual Fate? AI in the Contact Center

Artificial intelligence is the future of customer service and the CX world is excited to grab the opportunity by the scruff of the neck. As many analysts and professionals have already deduced, AI will change the way contact centers work. 



AI like many other new technologies has a lot of misconceptions since it is in its infancy stages. So it would be important to expound on what artificial intelligence is at its core. While humans and other animals use “natural intelligence”, machines use artificial intelligence where every data input makes it smarter; like learning new chess moves after a match. This is called “machine learning” and is combined with “natural language processing” where AI analyzes written language to maximize its abilities. This is how AI can categorize queries from chatbots and answer accurately or transfer the customer to the right agent.


How AI can be Used in Contact Centers

CX managers will be delighted to hear that speech technology has evolved and virtual assistants can now communicate with customers. There is an increased adoption of virtual assistants that are backed by AI-powered speech technology according to a speech by Jon Arnold of J Arnold and Associates at Enterprise Connect 2018.

Google, for instance, have developed speech recognition AI that is 95% accurate. At such high accuracy rates, we can confidently say that speech recognition AI is ready for the market and CX managers can take advantage of this. Another advantage of speech recognition is that it converts large sets of unstructured data into structured data that can be enforced in sentiment analysis where new customer trends can be identified. Other benefits of this conversion of data include quality monitoring, compliance with internal procedures, boosting the efficiency of call centers and recording calls.

Contrary to popular opinion that AI will replace call center agents, AI can actually help the agents. First off customer facing AI, be it chatbots or speech bots, will handle routine tasks and free up the agents’ time to handle more complex queries. This makes call centers more efficient and it is easier to meet key performance indicators (KPIs) for call centers.

Another reason to employ AI is that it can accurately give customers the right information negating the need to call in the first place. Agent facing AI can also supply call center agents with enough information to sort out complex issues. Additionally, the AI can listen to calls and analyze the impact on the customer i.e. how well the issue has been resolved and the effect on customer loyalty.


The Maturity of Current AI

Right now, we are in an era where customer expectations are rising by the day which has forced CX managers to use AI to fill the void. However, AI hasn’t matured as such and most companies are only dipping their toes in. Most companies are trying their hand at chatbots and there are currently more than 100,000 Facebook Messenger chatbots in operation today. A recent report by Gartner revealed 55% of companies have already started investing in AI or have plans to adopt the technology by 2020. A new trend has emerged where companies are rushing to promote their brands on social media.

This has led to the adoption of real-time chatbots (like Facebook Messenger chatbots) to communicate with new and existing customers. We can now see AI rapidly changing customer service through automation where the AI can respond to customer queries with greater speed and accuracy than humans can achieve. AI has matured to the point where it is used to identify customer issues, behaviors and patterns and process this data. This, in turn, enables the company to identify customer preferences, resolve issues before they appear and offer alerts of personalized offers and promotions.


The Future of AI

When contemplating the future of AI, the sky is literally the limit. This can be evidenced by advanced digital assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa. Users like them so much that CX managers are forced to integrate such virtual assistants in their customer journey.

At the same time, other benefits are accrued such as cost reduction, a boost in productivity and streamlining processes. Customer facing AI is increasingly being used to take control of repetitive tasks that previously took up the majority of agents’ time. Nowadays, chatbots can resolve 10 – 35% of customer queries without the assistance of a human agent and this number is expected to rise.

CX managers can attribute higher accuracy of issue resolution to AI and chatbots; call center agents are left with time for more complex issues which boost their confidence and sharpens their skills. As of now, AI is reactive but in the future, chatbots can be expected to predict customer questions and give accurate answers by analyzing the conversation. This leads to a higher personalization of the customer journey leading to increased customer retention.