Should artificial intelligence in the Contact Centre be feared, or embraced? Will it make your team sink, or swim better than before? It all depends on your approach to integration and implementation.
We’re firm believers in the benefits of implementing AI side-by-side with human contact centre reps. When you’ve got the technology to help team members serve your customers better, there’s no doubt you’ll watch the investment pay off.
AI fears and concerns
Artificial intelligence and bots have become something of a monster ever since Stephen Hawking famously warned that it could spell the end of the human race. Specifically: “It would take off on its own, and redesign itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”
He isn’t alone. Elon Musk says it could be “our biggest existential threat,” and “we need to be very careful.”
Existential threats aside, of more immediate concern to the contact centre industry is AI in the form of ‘bots’ – software that automates the functions normally performed by contact centre operators.
Can AI really replace real-life human reps?
According to a recent blog post from KomBea, a company that produces a range of products for contact centres, “In early 2016, The Economist predicted the death of call centres from the hands of rising technology.”
Indeed, The Economist was not unequivocal. The article was mainly about the Philippines call centre industry, and concluded: “New technologies are poised to abolish many call-centre jobs and transform others. At best, jobs will be created more slowly in the Philippines and India; at worst they will vanish. And it is likely that nowhere else will be able to talk its way out of poverty as they have done. There might never be another Manila.”
Scary stuff. But such sensationalist views tend to be based on the assumption that we’ll eventually move towards full, 100% automation.
Full automation – a false Holy Grail
This blogpost from Nearshore Americas, however, describes the concept of the fully-automated contact centre as a “non-existent Holy Grail”. They cite costs as the main hurdle preventing complete automation from becoming a feasible reality – but this is where we disagree.
With some of the biggest names in tech working hard in the artificial intelligence space (think: Amazon, Google, and IBM), you can be sure that AI technology is only going to become more accessible in the coming years.
So if it isn’t the cost factor that makes us believe full automation isn’t the right goal, what is?
The human touch
According to Business Insider, 77% of customers still prefer to speak to a human being when they need guidance and support.
The personal touch is what makes your company accessible, empathic, and appealing. No-one likes to deal with a faceless organisation. Being able to relate to your customers on an emotional level is the first step in creating memorable customer experiences. Knowing that you can pick up the phone and speak to a human being if the digital process or robot is confusing or inadequate, is reassuring.
This article “How Artificial Intelligence is Used in Customer Experience Automation” outlines the two primary models used for incorporating automation into customer service: the “bot-only” model and the “bot-assisted agent” model. The consensus is that bot-assistant hybrids are more effective than bots acting independently, if there is seamless transitioning between bot and human agent.
When designed and integrated correctly, automation can improve customer experience in several ways, such as:
- Providing a wider range of communication options and the opportunity to engage with more and newer generations of customers
- Allowing customers to engage via channels that are more convenient for them, such as using speech recognition while driving
- Delivering automated responses to provide a more efficient acknowledgement of enquiries and not leaving customers wondering what’s happening with their issue/enquiry
- Opening up a wider scope of phone transaction options using voice biometrics
- Reducing queue times and reserving higher-cost resources (i.e. humans) to manage more complex customer issues
We believe that automation should enhance, not supplant, a customer representative’s ability to serve and affect the customer’s experience.