The Robots Aren’t Taking Over: AI in the Contact Center

Did you realize that only about 30% of the time contact center agents are engaging with customers is spent in real, human-to-human conversation? The other 70% of the customer journey is held hostage by processes and actions, both customer and agent-driven, that move the issue forward. Verbal information capture, manual refund processing, and endless hold queues are all great examples.

That’s a lot of low hanging fruit for automation to grab.

Artificial intelligence is no longer a pipe dream for contact centers, it’s actively changing the ecosphere. But for as long as it’s been around, “AI” has been treated like a dirty word in the industry. Are the robots really coming to take all your agents’ jobs?

Tech is Always Changing the Call Center Experience

AI still feels incredibly innovative and exciting, but it’s far from the first technological advancement that’s disrupted the way contact centers operate. Long before today’s interactive voice responders there were customized toll-free numbers, automatic call distributors, and even the origins of cloud computing.

Consider the wariness with which call centers regarded online self-help centers just a few short years ago. Over time, agents realized that empowering customers with more information upfront actually made their jobs easier. It helped limit extraneous simple-answer calls and focused the tip of the spear on more complex, qualitative contacts. Great agents love feeling freer to flex their customer service muscles rather than functioning as glorified phone trees.

Rest assured once it’s optimized, AI won’t steal agents’ work, it will enhance it.

AI is Raising the Profile of Customer Service Representatives

Artificial intelligence takes the idea of the self-help center to the next level. When implemented fully, AI won’t take the place of an agent, it will assist existing agents in streamlining and optimizing their contacts. How?

  • Parsing self-serve customer issues through the use of IVRs and chat bots
  • Using speech analytics to extract emotional cues from caller’s voices
  • Providing “just-in-time” information to agents through comprehensive database access
  • Integrating multiple agent-facing systems via smart process automation

Effective contact center hubs are a brand asset, not a cost center. When experienced agents have more time to do what they do best – provide amazing customer service – customers are more satisfied and agents are more engaged. AI allows call centers to get out of the trenches of those 70% of calls that can be solved through automation and create a more unique, memorable customer experience for the other 30%.

According to Gartner research, 81% of CMOs expect to be competing mostly or fully on the basis of customer experience by the end of 2019. When implemented well, AI improves CX from every angle, starting with engaged, satisfied customers and ending with fulfilled, high-performing agents. Tomorrow’s front-line teams are truly brand ambassadors, highly-skilled and internally valued.

How Smart Brands Are Already Using AI

The customer experience will continue to digitize. That means customer service will soon become the only human-touch your brand still has in an e-commerce world. So, who’s grabbing the artificial intelligence bull by the horns to get an edge on companies stuck in the old way of thinking?

On a macro level, some brands are using AI to do improve overall business processes. Google, of course, is dipping its toe into the waters of AI with exciting developments like Document Understanding and Product Recommendations AIs. Released in 2018, the brand’s Contact Center AI platform interacts with customers over the phone, using natural language processing to make suggestions and route problems to human agents. Piloting the new technology are respected brands like Salesforce, Avaya, Accenture, and Twilio.

AI is also helping established brands improve individual interactions incrementally, but with large scale results. Insurance giant MetLife is analyzing claims calls to microcoach agents on the more human aspects of their performance. An agent who frequently interrupts the caller, for example, might see a pop-up on their screen reminding them not to “overlap” the customer. On the consumer side, pizza chain Domino’s recently rolled out a Facebook Messenger bot that allows customers to place an entire order via emoji, saving countless calls to individual locations.

The Future of AI in the Contact Center

According to Gartner, up to 15% of all customer service interactions will be handled by AI by 2021. The new wave of technology is inevitable. Is your brand up for the challenge?

At the end of the day, AI makes customer service agents more valuable, not less. The future of CX warrants paying closer attention to training and ensuring you have the data you need to measure agent performance objectively, not subjectively. Stella Connect doesn’t just measure people performance, it helps you see how well your people and machines are working together. When one link in the customer experience chain is broken, they all are. Do you have the visibility you need to compete in an AI-powered marketplace?