Call center artificial intelligence (AI) is currently one of the biggest growth areas for technology and has the power to be one of the most economically disrupting for businesses, entire industries and even whole countries. What’s happening now? What’s coming? What does it mean for your business? AI is already rapidly transforming customer service, business interactions and the call center industry. Sometimes we already may not even know whether we are interacting with a human or a robot. This technology will certainly continue to be a major factor separating the leaders from the rest in every type of industry. So, what’s new in call center AI? How is it being used? What does it mean for the future of call centers agents, and you?
Applications for Artificial Intelligence in Call Centers
Every single type of organization can benefit from great integration of AI in communications departments. This applies to:
● Solo entrepreneurs
● Startups and small businesses
● Large corporations
● Government agencies
● Marketing agencies Every industry must be on top of these emerging technologies and best practices in order to survive and thrive. These new technologies for call centers may be especially important for those in:
● Real estate
● Health and medicine
● Utilities (including mobile phone service and internet)
● Mobile apps
● Brick and mortar retail and ecommerce
● Travel and hospitality
What’s New in Call Center Technology?
Bots, Bots, Bots
Facebook chatbots, IVR for phone customer service, and live chat bots on websites are all examples of the bot invasion that is taking over many roles that used to require human call center agents or in house staff. Many of these are great for providing information. Though real problem solving abilities are still in the works.
Natural Language Processing is a big part of AI. It is also one of the biggest areas we’ve already seen progress in. We no longer have to just use touch tone, ‘press 1’ functions which are really irritating and inefficient, if not discriminatory. The best AI now allows users to interact with full natural sentences, not just trigger words like “yes.”
Speech Analysis & Predictive Analytics
Most of those outside of the tech firms pioneering these new frontiers really have no clue as to how deep and far this goes. It is both scary and amazing. With better equipment, more big data, advanced machine learning and improved algorithms, phone technology can really do wonders in analyzing speech, and predicting. Tone, speech patterns, individual words, and previous interactions (or lack of them) are all making new things possible for organizations and their call center departments.
How is Artificial Intelligence Being Applied in Call Center Environments?
Learning about Customers
Each interaction and recorded call can now be used to learn more about each unique customer, and human behaviour. Machines are learning, but they still need more data to educate themselves.
According to Forbes, predictive analytics and speech recognition tech can now guess when a caller or user may be lying, and work to prevent fraud by escalating the ticket or flagging an account with an alert.
Staff recruiting, training and turnover is an area of massive expense and waste in the call center industry. Now, instead of just letting new hires listen into previous or live calls, they can actually interact with this same technology through simulated interactions with customers. They can fail and learn in the virtual arena, before going live. This is not just about improving customer experience and the bottom line, but about retaining the best talent too.
Directing Callers to the Right Type of Agent for Each Customer
Bots and IVR can do some of this work. Smart systems also recognize speech and are reportedly able to read age, frustration levels, speech patterns and other factors to connect each user with the optimal call center agent to solve the problem or provide the best experience and outcome.
One of the main things IBM has been working on has been the seamless integration of bots to humans with IBM Watson and Live Engage. The majority of incoming queries may be able to be solved by AI today, but humans aren’t obsolete yet, and getting that transition right is critical.
With how soul crushing and crazy making current phone gateways seem to be designed, many could easily argue that they are purposely setup to discouraged and prevent users from getting through to companies or getting answers. AI absolutely has the potential to change this dynamic. It can give people more of what they want, and at a critical time when AI and tech is still causing more problems and frustration than it may fixing in some industries.
From HR to labor costs, to scaling customer acquisitions and improving retention, call center artificial intelligence has the potential to generate billions in annual savings. With the phone and customer service being the make or break point where customers are lost, along with their lifetime value, and online reviews, those with the best integration of the best AI tools stand to wield and immense advantage in their industries.
The Future of Call Centers
AI and other automation technology definitely has the ability to vaporize millions of call center jobs in the next couple of years. It is just a matter of how many and how fast. The jobs most at risk today are likely in-house phone agents who represent the most inefficient uses of company dollars. They need great partner companies and vendors to master these new features. Formal call centers will be somewhat insulated for now, as they have the finances to bring in the best tech, use it to deliver better results for clients, and make it affordable to access for more client users. Ameyo sums up the future as: Big Data + Natural Language Processing + Machine learning = Smart & Predictive Contact Center Software The ultimate deal closer in the future will likely be the seamless integration of the big 3; Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant with this tech, as well as automotive digital assistants. Still, for now we need humans. We need them to:
● Aid machine learning
● Create great scripts
● Build in the right words
● Interpret the data
● Provide the personal touch until robots can
This new tech is not yet seamless and perfect in application. It’s like a child still developing. The bots will blow it. Companies will blow it in application. CIO says that “according to a BI Intelligence Customer Service Report, it takes 12 positive customer interactions to make up for just one bad one.” To achieve that, and maintain great experiences in the interim, it will take humans, and existing technology like voice broadcasting and ringless voicemail drops to make sure there are enough positive interactions to cover the slip ups.