AI to Alter Call Center Dynamics
Artificial intelligence is making its mark on various kinds of workflows, enabling more automation and even improving its capabilities over time as it learns from different situations. Call centers are among the workplace environments poised to benefit from AI technology. And improved customer service, recommendations, and scheduling are among the applications to which AI is being applied.
“From better purchase recommendations, to smarter customer service that predicts what a consumer is actually trying to do, AI promises to fundamentally transform entire businesses and industries,” said Scott Horn, CMO at customer engagement solution provider 7. “Investments in AI are paving the way for a personalized world where every interaction matters, and every company can benefit."
IBM (News - Alert) Watson famously competed on and won Jeopardy! several years ago, and now this technology is used in many commercial applications. AI is also already present in such well-known applications and solutions as Amazon Alexa, Apple (News - Alert) Siri, and Google Assistant, which leverage natural language processing to recognize voice commands; Facebook’s deep learning facial recognition algorithm, which can instantly identify a person with nearly 98 percent accuracy; and Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify (News - Alert), all of which use machine learning to understand how each item in their catalogs relate to the other and each customer’s preferences.
However, until recently, AI solutions were beyond the reach of most companies. In introducing Einstein a few months ago, Salesforce explained that’s because implementing AI requires bringing together massive and diverse data sets, creating specialized predictive models to extract value from the data and continuously learn from it, having infrastructure and DevOps support to keep all of these processes up and running, and doing complex integrations.
“Companies like Salesforce, which have committed more than $4 billion specifically to this effort with its latest product Einstein, will lead the way,” said Justin Thompson, vice president of strategy for customer experience software and research firm MaritzCX. “Providing intelligent insights and recommended actions against customer sentiment, engagement, and future behavior will be first. Predefined outcomes related to conversion and retention will be the initial goal, and AI will move beyond telling what drives it to recommend how and when to drive it.”
Thompson added that chatbots and more intelligently leveraged IVR applications are getting better at adopting and integrating AI to enable greater efficiency gains and better utilization of frontline employees or digital interactions. As a result, he said, the necessity of typing numbers on a phone to a guided path, or even having the IVR repeat everything back to you, will soon go away.
Joe Gagnon, chief customer strategy officer at Aspect (News - Alert) Software, added that chatbots and conversational digital interactions are moving beyond the curiosity phase and into normal operations. According to the company’s research, 58 percent of customers said they would prefer their customer service interaction to be through a text or messaging app.
“The expectation is that simple to moderate requests should be satisfied without needing to contact a customer service rep,” Gagnon said. “There are many benefits that come from this new interaction model, including freeing up contact center agents to spend more time on higher-value, more complex, activities resulting in better service, and a dynamic shift in how the contact center is staffed and managed going forward."
That is expected to result in more efficient use of human resources and more intelligent scheduling in call centers. And some believe it will lead to higher call center employee engagement because workers will be able to focus on more interesting efforts as opposed to repetitive tasks.