An AI-driven future has arrived
AI was a bold idea, then a niche technological interest, and then – in what seemed like the click of a finger – it was everywhere.
AI has arrived and it is about to change everything. Eminent scientists are saying that AI could be as transformative as the industrial revolution. No sector or industry will be immune to its impact.
Where is AI at the moment?
- In healthcare, it’s helping to personalise treatment options and accurately diagnose disease.
- In retail, it’s creating tailored offers and helping businesses streamline operations.
- In manufacturing, it’s modelling future demand and creating leaner, fitter supply chains.
It’s doing much more, and contact centres are being impacted as much as anyone else. The AI revolution is helping contact centres create better customer experiences and make more effective use of agent time and expertise.
In the rest of this article we’ll discuss the impact of AI in contact centres, and highlight the need for organisations to take a holistic view of this revolutionary technology. When departments collaborate to create seamless AI integration, the whole business feels the benefit.
AI is already in the industry. Leaders in the sector need to be aware of what is available and what AI can mean for their contact centre.
Perhaps the most obvious incarnation of the technology in contact centres at the moment is AI-powered chatbots. Adding AI to traditional web chat services gives them wings.
AI chatbots can scan huge amounts of information almost instantly, personalising conversations and finding better solutions to a wider range of customer queries. Thanks to machine learning, they can even refine their abilities over time.
One of the chief benefits of this is greater digital deflection. That means AI-powered chatbots can handle a far wider range of queries and complete far more tasks than traditional virtual helpers. By doing so they reduce the number of inbound calls to contact centres, reducing costs and freeing up agent time for more complex issues.
But AI-powered chatbots are also a boon for customer experience. In one survey 80% of customers said they wanted more self-serve options, but they also wanted better self-serve options. AI-powered chatbots give them exactly that, with personalised exchanges (thanks to CRM integration), and natural, human-like conversations.
Speech analytics is an AI-powered technology that automatically scans customer interactions for valuable insight.
For example, it can analyse customer sentiment, alerting you to issues with products, services or campaigns before customers jump ship. Previously, you may have listened to a small percentage of customer call recordings for quality control purposes. Now, speech analytics will do it for you, in a fraction of the time, and for every single conversation.
It can also produce actionable insights around agent performance and highlight gaps in knowledge at an individual or team level. It can even help to ensure regulatory compliance, such as the latest FCA consumer duty act introduced in July 2023, by flagging conversational trends and detecting risks.
Speech analytics can do all these things and more, and by doing so help you optimise contact centre operations to improve effectiveness, productivity and cost-efficiency. In short, it improves your data-driven decision making, with benefits for your entire organisation.
Despite these benefits, there is some scepticism around AI. People naturally ask if it really will be as revolutionary as proponents claim, and what negative impacts it may have.
These are perfectly reasonable questions, though it’s also true that many of the technologies we take for granted today were viewed with suspicion when they were first invented.
- In the late 19th century, the new fangled telephone was described in the US as “a device of the enemies of the Republic”.
- In 2007 the iPhone was dismissed as “a luxury bauble.”
- In the early 20th century, the aeroplane was called an “interesting toy” with “no military value.”
Much anxiety around AI is focused on its treatment of data. Typically, an AI tool might scan mountains of personal information to identify trends and patterns in consumer behaviour that create real business insight.
But what happens when it has squeezed every drop of insight out of that data set? It’s an important question, because your AI application may know the personal details of a great many people, and that’s especially true in a contact centre setting when hundreds or thousands of customer interactions happen every day. What if it learns to use that information in other ways?
This sounds like sci-fi, but there is a major debate around data privacy and protection in an AI-driven world. One solution is ‘machine unlearning’, a new field of AI that is focused on the right to be forgotten. That has led to the first Machine Unlearning Challenge, in which participants compete to create unlearning algorithms. The models must be able to forget sensitive information completely, to comply with strict regulations.
Acknowledging that we don’t know what will be coming down the line, James Revell, Director of Contact Centres at Whistl UK, posits that “AI could take the repetitive and the mundane while pushing the more valuable human interactions which we’ve seen we need through Covid more than ever, looking after vulnerable customers, people who are on emotional customer journeys for whatever reason, we need that human.”
Data protection is one thing to think about when implementing AI in contact centres, but it’s only one of many.
- How will the data that drives AI be sourced, stored and integrated?
- How will it flow across disparate systems?
- How can the patterns and trends AI identifies be turned into actionable insight?
- For that matter, what do you want AI to achieve?
All these are questions for both customer experience (CX) teams and IT departments. Leaders in both areas must collaborate to ensure successful AI implementation. An AI tool is only as good as the IT ecosystem that feeds and supports it.
CX teams need to be clear on the purpose of AI in the organisation and the kind of tools that will be used to meet it. IT teams must be part of the conversation from the outset, so they can advise on the infrastructure and integration required to make the most of any AI deployment.
When collaboration happens, AI solutions will align with existing contact centre processes, and enhance customer satisfaction. CX leaders can share feedback with IT teams, so that tools are tweaked and refined based on real customer challenges and pain points.
With that kind of potential, there’s no doubt that AI is coming to a contact centre near you. It may already be there. If you’re not at least thinking about AI implementation, your competitors probably are.
AI is simply too powerful to ignore. AI-powered chatbots, speech analytics, automation and machine learning are all going to change the way contact centres operate in the months and years ahead.
They will make them more efficient, by handling an ever-wider range of routine customer interactions and freeing up skilled agents for complex or sensitive calls. They will also improve customer experience, by analysing data for valuable insight and improving self-serve capabilities.
AI can do a lot more, but its benefits will only be fully realised when CX and IT teams collaborate on implementing, integrating and refining the most useful and appropriate AI tools.
In all this, MaxContact can help. Our contact centre software already includes powerful AI driven features like chatbots and speech analytics, and we’re continually adding new functionality. We also ensure that our AI tools integrate with your current systems, so that information is widely shared and easily available.
In a nutshell, MaxContact offers a seamless and cost-effective way to join the AI revolution. If you’d like to know more, contact us or book a demo today.