AI is changing the world of the contact center. It seems like something new, but we have been developing AI for many years to change the model.
Although artificial intelligence (AI) may seem new to many, it is something that has been around for more than 70 years. In 1950, Alan Turing, in his paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence, famously asked the question, “Can machines think?” In 1955, computer scientist John McCarthy coined the term “artificial intelligence” to describe the process of building and training intelligent machines, and Eliza, the first chatbot, was developed by MIT in 1966. AI and voice assistants is not something that has been developed in a hurry, but has taken decades to get to the point where it is.
Today, contact center managers are very interested in AI and are eager to see how it can work in their organizations. With more employees working remotely due to the pandemic, companies want to see how they can better support customer experience teams, even when agents aren’t within the formal office format. Instead of a simple text-based chatbot, they are interested in how an AI virtual assistant can interpret human intent and speech patterns more effectively. AI technology can solve a number of problems, far beyond simple yes or no answers, and AI-enabled virtual assistants can even help replicate the in-store experience, provided their roles are carefully considered.
Contact center managers are very interested in AI and are eager to see how it can work in their organizations
But, it is essential that technology is used as a tool that works alongside people. A recent study on customer loyalty states that brand loyalty is based primarily on the ability of companies to solve consumer problems at the first contact. Most customers prefer to speak to a human, but at the same time, they want their basic requests to be addressed more quickly than is usually possible in person. AI technology can help alleviate this pressure on staff, as AI-powered assistants can answer those questions and perform the most common functions. This frees staff to focus on tasks that require more complex examination.
The analytical capabilities of AI enable faster and more efficient processes, as can be seen, for example, in banks, since they receive thousands of queries a day. AI robots could easily take care of the routine administrative details of the mortgage application process, leaving human staff more time to deal with the complex decision factors of a mortgage application.
More virtual assistants does not mean fewer jobs.
People can often worry a bit about their jobs being replaced by AI-powered assistants. But is that really a danger, even in the very long term?
The answer is no. The work of agents has been transformed from call managers to trusted advisors capable of expertly guiding the customer journey. In this sense, AI will always work better together with humans, assisting us and not replacing us, as has happened with technological development throughout history.
This is because human conversations are deceptively complex, something that is easy to underestimate because we take it for granted. Anyone who has learned a foreign language in their adult life will know that it is surprisingly difficult, and that many hours must be spent mastering the right vocabulary, tenses and language options.
The fundamental rule is that humans should always guide the AI and give the system corrective actions, since it will not know how to serve customers as well as an agent alone. Organizations can trust their contact center partners, who don’t have to be data scientists or software engineers, because they have a better view of the questions and answers that need to be given and are dealing with customers directly.
There are many things that are still more suitable for human contact. For example, throughout the pandemic, organizations have had to have many difficult conversations with customers, in particularly unusual circumstances. Thus, human connection and empathy will always be an integral part of customer service and, therefore, an essential element to build customer loyalty.
Susan Ysona is Vice President of Marketing, EMEA and Asia Pacific at Talkdesk. She brings 20 years of experience to the role, having previously led marketing functions for industry and cloud technology companies across Europe and globally. Ysona works to understand the needs of the contact center community and enable companies to drive better experiences for their customers. Prior to joining Talkdesk, Ysona led digital marketing for Meta’s communication and collaboration platform Workplace.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism