Blog 10 July 2020

The march of the robots. Does AI fit into your contact centre?

by Sam Roddis

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Three years ago, the hype surrounding robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI), would have led you to believe that virtually everybody will be out of a job within this decade. With our special interest in contact centres, we were especially interested in predictions that contact centres would fall victim to the rise of “Siri”, “Alexa” and others (including “Tiger” your robotic golfing partner) using similar voice tech and AI.

So, where have we got to now? Is AI still a threat to contact centres, or a vital part of the contact centre of the future, running cost-effectively and providing fantastic customer experience? Here’s our Development Director, Sam Roddis’, views and forecasts on this.

AI can enhance contact centre applications

Let’s put it out there straight away. At Netcall, we believe that AI robots will augment, rather than replace manpower.

With Liberty Converse and especially Liberty Connect, we’re looking at how we can embed AI into existing contact centre applications. In many instances, the use of robotic AI won’t be obvious to the outside world. It will simply help to deliver a more efficient, effective customer service.

The goal shouldn’t be to replace what already exists with AI. Instead, we focus on where AI will make the whole customer experience more interactive, faster for the customer and efficient for your staff. It will be a stepped change.

AI contact centre

Sure – think outside of the box in enhancing the future customer experience, be innovative. Customer engagement might involve robots, but “Human Interaction” (HI) should always be on hand, at the right point, or any point that the customer needs it. And the handover between AI & HI should be seamless.

Many organisations have removed the need for the customer to actively jump between browsing and opening a chat window, or picking up the phone. This seamless approach is the future.

Low-hanging robotic fruit

Within contact centres, chat-bots are an obvious example of low-hanging robotic fruit. They have plenty of advantages over their human web-chat cousins -they’re lower cost, work 24×7 and rarely take a break.

Chat-bots are a great idea, but not in complete replacement of agents? What kind of tasks will they handle? They shouldn’t be left unattended to interact with your customers – you wouldn’t allow an inexperienced agent on the phone without training and supervision. The same is true for robots, but even more so. That’s why most AI applications have some kind of human-in-the-loop to supervise and check the quality of the robot’s work.

Yes, chat-bots will replace some of the things that contact centre agents do today. But, good design and automation have already killed many of the mundane tasks that are ideal for AI. Robots will take this a step further, but they’re not about to make the entire contact centre redundant.

Understanding the limitations

Our experience shows that automation leaves contact centre agents to deal with more complicated issues. AI is not good with complaints, sarcasm or emotions. It lacks human empathy and the emotional skills often required with complex issues. Even a simple statement such as “fantastic service” can have the opposite meaning, depending upon how it’s said. Robots find this hard to understand.

In the past, the forecasts may have led you to think of bots as a like-for-like replacement for agents. In reality, the whole user experience will change, blurring the boundaries between AI and Agent. You might visualise it as Human Interaction surrounded by artificial intelligence.

Take an insurance quote. Rather than filling in a form, the user can enter into an interactive session with a robot. The interaction could be by text or voice. It can pass seamlessly to a human agent under certain conditions, such as unusual risk criteria or a high value transaction.

It’s more of an evolution than a change. Robots will take over where tasks are predictable and repetitive. Robots will augment, not replace manpower. Both front and back office tasks will employ AI. The role of contact centre agents will change (and improve – as the value and complexity of their interactions will increase).

The outlook looks good news for agents. Their jobs will be more interesting and they’ll have AI Robots to assist them. The forecast is also good for your business as this can save you time and money. So, let’s leave the robots to plan their takeover of the golf world… for now we can utilise them for good in the contact centre.

Read more about Liberty Converse, our contact centre solution, and Liberty Connect, our omnichannel messaging solution.

Learn more about Converse Learn more about Connect

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