There’s been a lot of hype surrounding this topic of artificial intelligence and robotic process automation in Aussie contact centres, some good, some bad. It all comes down to perspective and which side of the phone you’re sitting on. For example, many people who have built a career in customer service are worried that the use of AI in call centres will render them obsolete and contribute to mass job loss. Whilst this is certainly a possibility, it is fair to say that it is a long way off before people are replaced by computers altogether. The fact is, people, want to speak to people, and now, AI in a call centre isn’t quite sophisticated enough to replace human interaction entirely.
Then there are contact centre representatives who value the use of AI voice agents and chatbots, as they are getting much better at ensuring that callers get through to the appropriate department with relative ease—that, and AI can handle the more trivial tasks such as receiving or setting up payments, leaving the human operators to deal with the more detailed enquiries.
In any case, if you’re familiar with the Terminator franchise, and you’ve heard the way that some people speak to customer service operators, perhaps allowing the machines to take over isn’t the wisest of ideas. All joking aside though, there are indeed many benefits that come with implementing AI in the call centre environment.
The Benefits of AI in Contact Centres
Predicting customer behaviour / identifying trends
AI will be able to collect invaluable analytical data for review, allowing contact centres to easier predict customer behaviour, thus tending to their requirements more effectively. In addition to that, it can help contact centres to improve their overall ‘best practices’ predicting various consequences and recommending a specific course of action.
Of course, the one drawback with this is that the acceleration of identification will result in less demand for human interaction. So, whilst this could be great for contact centres in terms of saving money, it isn’t great for those who rely on contact centre work to provide for their families.
Improving or replacing IVR processes
Whilst IVR (interactive voice response), has gone through leaps and bounds in recent years, it remains the source of much frustration for many callers who would like to speak with a customer service representative. For example, if the customer has a rather thick accent or for whatever reason is unable to speak clearly enough, the IVR technology can lead to mistakes (i.e., ending up in the wrong department), the customer simply going around in circles, or repeating the words: “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. Please state one of the following options”. This will only further add to their frustration and could result in the loss of a client.
However, with AI being rapidly refined and developed in areas such as natural language processing and machine learning techniques, it can easier understand simple statements and requests as opposed to offering the client a set of options.
Navigating the company website
Another form of AI that is taking the world by storm at the moment, is IM (instant messenger) chatbots. You will have come across a website where a little window pops up in the corner asking ‘how can we help?’ These are very sophisticated bots that appear to be humanlike in the way that they respond to messages and are well-versed in getting the customer to the appropriate section of the website with ease. This is great for the simpler informational requests, however if the AI is unable to accurately answer the enquiries, they can simply re-route the customer to a live chat advisor.
Bolstering self-service tasks
Whilst 9 in 10 people feel that there should always be an option to transfer directly to a live operator, there are many who are happy to take care of basic day-to-day tasks without having to speak to anyone. This is where AI can really thrive, improving self-service tasks such as making payments, transfers, setting up direct debits, and more.
Of course, it is still important for AI to reach its true sophisticated linguistic processing potential in order to improve customer satisfaction in these day-to-day interactions. If the AI can be as true to life as possible, feeling human in nature, then it will improve the overall quality of the service being provided.
The more AI is used, the more information is collects, thus learning and becoming more advanced in its process. There will come a time, in the not so distant future, where AI operators will be able to outperform human operators in terms of accuracy. A robot will always be available, they will never have an ‘off-day,’ and will be able to source information immediately. This will invariably make the human operators’ jobs far easier, removing the need for them to trawl through CRM systems to gather specific information. Instead, the AI systems will be able to provide it immediately.
The ideal solution would be to have AI operating in the background, essentially acting as the silent ‘third person’ on the call, pulling various informational requests up on the screen for the operator, saving the need for them to navigate their computers and allowing for faster resolutions.
Monitoring and improving advisor performance
This is another huge benefit that AI can bring: being able to monitor and thus improve overall advisor performance. The way in which this would work, is by monitoring the interaction using RTSA (real-time speech analytics). This AI can monitor stress levels, clarity of speech, and how closely the operators are sticking to their scripts. The fear is that this will lead to even more micro-managing (in an industry that already has a relatively high turnover due to performance pressure), though it will almost certainly result in improved quality of care.
In addition to that, the AI can also identify when certain content or information which has been missed out by the operator and subsequently offering them a set of reminders to ensure that the customer receives the best possible service. It could also make recommendations on various courses of action so that the operator can take definitive action on the spot, rather than having to consult a supervisor or manager for advice on how to proceed, thus reducing the amount of time a customer must spend on the phone.
Contact centres will thrive
So long as contact centres remain true to their employees and reward top performers, there shouldn’t be any need for AI to replace human interaction all together. Certainly, by the time we’re all cruising around in flying cars, there could well be AI that functions and interacts with flawless precision. However, in the meantime, it simply isn’t sophisticated enough to outperform and replace a good old’ chat with a genuine human advisor.
However, the benefits that AI continue to bring to contact centres can only improve the overall experience and help them to thrive. In fact, the use of AI is irrefutably beneficial to live operators’ jobs. Again, they handle the smaller tasks and are continually arming operators with faster and more accurate information. This is invariably transforming contact centres into what some industry leaders are calling ‘experience centres’.
Of course, we understand the fear that contact centre advisors have, especially if they enjoy their jobs and have found a career that they are happy in. But again, the likelihood of them being replaced entirely is a long way off.
Given the undeniable benefits of the implementation of AI in contact centres, it certainly isn’t going away. In fact, the AI call centre market will grow from $800 million where it currently stands to $2.8 billion by 2024. This suggests that we can expect to find more AI in contact centres, though in a much more sophisticated and useful manner. Again, as more and more companies embrace the use of AI, our software will continue to learn, grow and develop, thus making life easier for everyone involved—especially the customer.
There is always going to be fearmongering and a tendency of negativity towards AI in industries that provide millions of jobs around the world. However, we believe that the rise of AI in contact centres can only be a good thing and that the demand for human interaction will always take precedence over the convenience and affordability that AI might propose. AI and human operators will fuse together, streamlining operations and providing a much cleaner, faster, and more efficient customer service for all.