The Robots are Coming: Could Contact Centre Agents Be Replaced with AI?

Disruption is everywhere in the modern work environment. Already, the average office meeting has been transformed with digital whiteboards, video conferencing, and the possibility of future solutions in virtual reality.

To some extent, these disruptions have been incredibly useful for the marketplace, making professionals more productive and efficient in their jobs, while paving the way for a future of remote workers. However, there’s a threat underneath all this efficiency that has caused certain employees to start sweating. After all, why would we need to pay human beings for work, if their tasks could just as easily be completed by robots?

The March of Machines in Contact Centres

We’ve already seen some significant changes in contact centre environments thanks to new developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning. There are now companies in the marketplace, like Five9 and 8×8, that allow contact centres to evaluate the conversations they’re having with customers in real-time so that AI bots can make suggested responses when communication starts to go south.

In a world where a robot can potentially tell you how to interact better with human beings, it’s easy to start feeling concerned that the average call centre agent may quickly become obsolete. However, it’s worth noting that for most companies, the human connection will continue to be a vital part of customer satisfaction. In other words, while AI might become more significant in the call centre, it’s probably not going to take your job. At least, not yet.

How Does AI Work in the Contact Centre?

Artificial Intelligence is a term that’s broadly used to refer to a range of highly innovative technological solutions, based on machine learning. Essentially, AI technology works by looking for patterns and offering responses based on those patterns. For instance, if an AI listens to the same question being asked by a customer a million times, and analyses all the responses given by a call centre agent, then they should be able to determine which responses give the best results.

There are plenty of opportunities for AI in the contact centre. First, machine learning means that businesses can offer their customers self-service options, using chatbots to ensure that clients have access to answers for a huge number of questions at any given moment. Secondly, AI can also make agents more efficient, by giving them the information they need to handle complicated issues that self-service simply can’t solve.

As customer experience emerges as the most important differentiator for any brand, it makes sense that enterprises would want to tap into the contextual and analytical benefits that AI can bring. Today, we’re seeing contact centres around the world using AI to help customer service reps serve customers in better, faster, and more personalised ways. With machine learning, you can even listen to calls and determine whether a customer is likely to have a better relationship with the brand based on their interaction with an agent.

Is Now the Age of AI?

In various verticals, artificial intelligence is helping to predict customer behaviour during phone calls, while ensuring that customer service representatives have the context they need to offer personalised responses to complex queries. However, there still needs to be an agent around to direct the conversation and provide customers with the “non-robotic” experience they’re looking for.

When people choose to call a customer service agent or connect with them through live chat, they want a human experience, and AI solutions aren’t yet advanced enough to provide a completely seamless solution. After all, artificial intelligence is scripted – which means it can’t respond to anything that might be deemed unpredictable.

While AI is simplifying the contact centre in many ways, by taking over repetitive and mundane tasks and supporting agents with context-based information, these robots aren’t likely to be the new face of customer service. Instead, when service reps and AI can work in tandem, is where we’re likely to see the best results.

We’re at the very early stages of AI in business communications, it will be really interesting to see how vendors deliver ‘real AI’ solutions going forward.

We’re at CCW in Las Vegas this week, check out our event reports on UC Today throughout July 18.

Customer Contact Week - UC Today

Rob is Founder & Publisher of UC Today, a leading news publication specialising in Unified Communications & Collaboration technologies.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I see AI playing a huge role i the contact centre but will not wholly replace agents. From what we have heard and seen from CC providers, their investments in AI will add context to conversations, drive more intelligent responses and gain deeper insight into customer sentiment and experience. There is still a huge need for a human element to conversations that won’t be done by AI (at least for the near future!) but the benefits in efficiency and customer care from the technology will be huge. Will be interested to hear your views from the conference!

  2. According to my secondary research, I’d say that AI can provide human-like experience in narrow fields, because it’d have been trained on existing business domain data. But for an AI taught how to work as IVR/chatbot to begin answering emails immediately, it’d have to be a far more advanced AI and we aren’t there – yet, until the quantum computers are here.

    But as you said, AI will most likely be used together with the agents, forwarding them customers they can’t help or assisting the agents by providing data.

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