The service sector has been experimenting with automation for some time now. It is a logical step, considering that the technology behind automation improves customer interactions in many ways. Artificial intelligence (AI) has now spread into our sector too, opening up endless possibilities. But what exactly does this mean for contact centres?
Disruptive technologies are nothing new, nor is the fear of having your job taken over by a robot. But is that really something that people in our line of work need to worry about?
While we agree that artificial intelligence will have a substantial impact on contact centres, we believe that its main role will be to assist agents, rather than replace them.
Artificial intelligence predicts and anticipates customers’ needs and/or problems based on the context, so can offer them the support they need with simple requests. However, if a problem is more complex and thus more time-consuming, a contact centre agent is better placed to resolve it. By acting as a virtual assistant, AI gives contact centre agents more breathing room and enables them to work more quickly and efficiently without compromising on the customer experience.
Artificial intelligence as a Swiss army knife for data
AI can be described as a kind of ‘Swiss army knife’ for data. It scans through all the (dynamic) data for patterns. Once these have been identified, natural language processing and machine learning come into play: the patterns are translated into a language that can be understood by both people (writing and speech) and computers, enabling them to adapt more quickly to changing circumstances.
Contact centres are veritable gold mines of data. One practical way in which AI can play an active role in the life of a contact centre is by processing telephone calls between customers and contact centre agents. In the past, the content of these conversations was thought to have relatively little value, but now AI can seek out patterns in the factual data and convert them to knowledge, making it easier to evaluate conversations and improve on them.
Will artificial intelligence replace contact centre agents?
It seems very unlikely in times like these, when soft skills are becoming ever more important. Most people still prefer to speak to a real person, or failing that, to interact with a real person in a chat session. Moreover, most technologies are still unable to interact appropriately in a customer service environment.
As such, AI is best used behind the scenes, as a support system for human beings. It gives contact centre agents the tools they need to assist customers even more efficiently and helps them to provide an even better customer experience. And that is exactly why we use it.