Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the buzzword used to describe just about everything automated, when in fact, it’s not. The term AI can strike fear into the hearts of contact centre employees who think it will replace them.
In fact, it is quite the opposite. People will always value a human conversation more than an automated message. In our fast-paced world, there’s room, and the need, for both.
But before we explore this topic further, it’s important to define Artificial Intelligence – what it really is, and is not.
In the digital world, automation has evolved to perform a range of repetitive tasks faster and with more consistency than could ever be achieved by humans.
Common automation includes bots, chatbots, robots and AI – and they’re all technically a little different.
What is a bot?
A bot is a simple automation pre-programmed by humans. Think of the Google bots that trawl and index websites.
Another common use for a simple bot is to present customers with a list of options they can click to move the interaction to the next stage. You see them on websites, in chats and messenger apps. You know it’s a bot when you don’t give the right answer Eg:
- Question – Would you like help with Sales or Customer Service?
- Your Answer – Operations.
The bot will likely be programmed to respond “Please select Sales or Customer Service”.
It’s the simplest form of automation, and the cheapest to implement. Ideal for delivering self-service, moving people into the right service area, or providing information.
What is a chatbot?
Chatbots are a more advanced automation with a Natural Language Understanding (NLU) engine, although they still require the input of programmers to function. They can understand a much broader range of language than a bot, which allows them to interact to some extent. They can ask questions, interpret responses, and execute actions.
Codify Academy uses a cognitive chatbot called Bobbot to answer questions by prospective students. People can ask conversational questions rather than just typing in a keyword. Since implementation the Academy has seen a 10% increase in course enrolments.
Below is an example of a chatbot used to provide tech support for simple queries, and consequently free up the support team to deal with more complex issues.
What is robot process automation (RPA)
In the Contact Centre environment, we refer here to Robot Process Automation (RPA) rather than robots. Technically speaking, robots are a physical form of an automation – a machine. Think R2D2 or a robotic vacuum cleaner.
RPA works behind the scenes — in contrast to the customer-facing chatbot – doing repetitive mundane tasks. See our article Process Automation: This Robot Won’t Steal Agent Jobs, it Will Make Them Better for more details on the use of RPA in contact centres.
A typical example would be when a contact centre advisor is on a call with a customer, and needs to enter and re-enter the same data on the customer’s account repeatedly. This type of repetition can be time-consuming, annoying for both parties, and result in mistakes. Here, RPA can be deployed to enable the agent to enter all the data into all the fields and across all associated systems with just one single entry.
What is artificial intelligence (AI)?
AI takes automation to the next level, by incorporating human intelligence into machines using Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning. It’s kind of like a clever robot that speaks like we do and keeps learning new things all the time.
Standard automated systems follow rules programmed by a human operator, while AI is designed to learn and adapt on its own.
When you add AI, chatbots learn and scale from their past experiences and give almost a human touch to customer interactions. They can make real-time decisions based on the context of the discussion and past data, all whilst interacting.
One example of clever use of AI in the contact centre environment is real-time speech analytics. The software analyses advisor and customer speech to provide live feedback to advisors. It can monitor what is being said, stress levels, script adherence etc while the call is in progress, and prompt the advisor with helpful cues or missing information.
Automation augments the advisor’s role, not replaces it
The fears that all these types of automation will replace a human contact centre team need to be laid to rest, for the foreseeable future anyway.
According to Gartner, “25% of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020, up from less than two per cent in 2017.”
What it means is that the job of a contact centre advisor is becoming more varied, with automations taking care of the routine questions and repetitive back-office tasks; elevating the people on the phone to be problem solvers.