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AI in Call Centres: How Will AI Impact Customer Service?

Unless you’ve just returned from a very long vacation on a very isolated island, you’ll probably know a thing or two about ChatGPT already. 

ChatGPT and other generative AI technologies are suddenly everywhere. News of the latest developments have crossed from the technology press to 10 o’clock news. Workers worry that AI may take their jobs

More positively, there’s hope that AI could make work life more interesting, by taking mundane tasks away from workers and freeing them up for more creative roles.  

At the moment, nobody is quite sure what a future AI world might look like. 

What we do know is that AI is a catch all term for a group of technologies that create insight from data. They attempt to do what humans do, by scanning information for trends and patterns and pulling out useful information from mountains of noise. They can even ‘learn’ to become better at what they do over time. 

There are many benefits of AI, but speed and accuracy are two that often come up. AI tools can carefully scan huge volumes of data in seconds, and unlike humans they don’t need coffee breaks or holidays. 

What do these AI developments mean for contact centres? It might mean chatbots handling straightforward queries with no human input. It might mean powerful AI analytics scanning mountains of call transcriptions for important customer insight. There are other potential uses too. We’ll dig further into AI’s use in our industry in the rest of this blog. 

How can AI help you to deliver best-in-class customer service? 

So how can AI help your contact centre right now? Before we dig into that, it’s useful to know what we mean by ‘best-in-class’ customer service.  

For a start, we almost certainly mean rapid (and, if possible, one call) resolution. The faster a customer’s query is resolved, the better they feel. Great customer service also comes from insight: the more we know about a customer, the more completely we can meet their needs. Customers want to self-serve if possible, and talk to a sympathetic and knowledgeable voice if they have a more complex issue.  

AI can help in all these areas. “We’re using AI to provide customers with better information and we’re using a chatbot to provide better data to our agents to help them resolve issues more quickly,” says Sofia Puccio, CX Management Information Lead at Curve, in our latest podcast

 
“So, instead of speaking with someone and waiting for them to get back to you, we’re using AI to ask the right questions, depending on the issues customers are experiencing. This means our agents are more confident because when they receive the case, they have all the tools they need to solve the issue.”  

Here’s a deeper dive into the impact of AI in contact centres. 

Freeing up human agents to focus on complex calls 

The idea that AI will replace human agents is a common misconception. It may take some call centre roles eventually, but good agents will always be required. Instead, AI will free those agents up for more sensitive, complex and interesting work. 

AI can do all sorts of clever things, including handling basic queries (see chatbots, below), making sure calls are accurately routed, and harnessing speech analytics for useful real-time information. 

But these features help human agents do better jobs. By taking away mundane tasks (payments or account queries, say) they free up agent time for more complex calls. Skills-based routing makes sure agents get the calls they’re most qualified to answer. Real-time information allows agents to engage in more personalised and bespoke conversations. 

“AI could take on the repetitive and the mundane interactions while pushing the more valuable or emotional calls – with vulnerable customers, for example – through to human agents,” says James Revell, Director of Contact Centres at Whistl UK, in our podcast. “We still need that human engagement.”  

Deliver lifelike customer experiences with virtual agents 

Traditionally, chatbots were used to answer a limited number of predefined routine queries, based on the identification of keywords. They had to pass anything else on to a human agent.  

But AI chatbots are far more powerful, using Natural Language Processing (NLP) and speech recognition to understand nuances in speech, so callers can talk to them in a natural way. They also scan previous interactions across channels, to personalise interactions. They can instantly search huge databases of information for the most appropriate response. Best of all, they use machine learning to continually refine their answers, and can be taught to handle more complex enquiries over time. 

Turn your conversations into insights 

AI-based speech analytics gives you a window into the minds of your customers. It can alert you to problematic conversations and dissatisfied customers, so you can act before they jump ship. It can give you insight into what customers really think about your service or products. It can gauge sentiment both from what customers say and how they say it.  

Speech analytics automates the process of listening to customer conversations, creating insight from the language they use and identifying the words and phrases agents employ that get the best results.  

The Building Blocks of AI in Contact Centres Speech Analytics, Chatbots, Insights and Data

AI-powered features you can use today 

If some of this sounds a bit sci-fi, rest assured that much of it is available right now. MaxContact’s powerful contact centre software is already making use of the latest AI and machine learning technology. 

Speech analytics 

Our speech analytics offers powerful real-time and post-call AI-based analysis of conversations, sentiment and productivity, helping you and your teams understand the root causes of dissatisfaction, and trends triggering changes in contact volume.  

At the same time, it lets you significantly improve compliance by highlighting high-risk or low-quality calls, while improving agent performance and raising contact centre productivity. 

Chatbots 

Our AI-powered chatbot transforms all your communication channels into effective self-service solutions. By automating first-line support, customers resolve issues through digital channels in the first instance. It also simplifies the resolution of basic or repetitive queries. 

What does the future of AI look like in call centres? 

That’s what’s available now, but what will the near future look like? The potential for significant productivity and customer satisfaction gains means contact centres can’t afford to overlook the promise of AI.  

Increasingly, AI will drive more tailored and efficient customer journeys, and automate each step of the path. It will guide customers through support processes, help them to self-serve and resolve a far greater percentage of queries without recourse to human agents. 

But it won’t replace the need for real people altogether. Instead, it might usher in a fundamental change in the role of contact centres. “It is very difficult to find people who can take the intensity of those emotional interactions (with vulnerable customers, for example), with adaptability and very finely tuned social skills – those are very precious commodities,” says James Revell. Or to put it another way, good people will always be needed. 

Embrace AI to help deliver customer excellence 

As we’ve seen, AI is not a technology contact centres can choose to ignore, because it has the potential to help drive efficiency, productivity and better customer experiences. As the AI revolution continues, more and more of the interactions we have with customers will be informed by AI or, in the case of standard exchanges, taken over completely by AI-based technology. At the same time, powerful analytics and machine learning will provide more nuanced and valuable customer insights, and agents will have more time to focus on complex or sensitive calls. 

MaxContact already uses a suite of AI-driven technologies in our leading contact centre software, and we are developing more all the time. Book a demo today

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