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How AI and automation help contact centers be agile in the COVID-19 era

960 640 Paul Chance

By Paul Chance, NICE

As widespread shutdowns went into effect, contact centers had to make an overnight shift to remote work – a significant undertaking in an industry that has historically relied on physical office spaces to bring together and manage the agents who are critical to solving customers’ needs. Agents and contact center leaders, many of whom were taking their organizations remote for the first time ever, learned and adapted on the go.

Now, with many organizations starting to make plans for reopening and thinking about how they can adapt to a multitude of different in-office or remote work scenarios, it has become clear that new strategies and technology tools are needed to help contact centers stay agile.  There’s a lot of uncertainty about the future, and contact centers must put the right solutions in place to be able to react swiftly as business conditions change.

In this environment, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are making nimbleness a reality for contact centers by helping leaders adapt scheduling, planning, hiring, forecasting and intraday management to in-the-moment changes.

AI-driven workforce management enables more accurate decision-making

When AI is embedded into workforce management, contact center leaders gain tools that can accurately predict outcomes in a wide range of scenarios and take much of guesswork and time out of lengthy planning and research needs.

  • Long-term and “what-if” planning. With so much in flux today, determining the right staffing levels needed to meet specific KPIs is particularly challenging. AI makes it easy to incorporate a multitude of variables and specific business requirements into long-term planning and empowers contact centers to problem-solve between staffing requirements and performance gaps. Its meticulous predictions increase long-term forecasting accuracy by 6 to 10%.
  • Hiring the right agents. The lack of face-to-face interaction right now adds a new layer to hiring – how can contact centers make sure they’re choosing the right people? With AI embedded in workforce management, contact centers can use voice analysis to objectively assesses candidates’ aptitude, engagement and performance and determine which candidates are likely to be high-value employees.
  • Forecast accurately and effectively. Forecasting typically takes substantial research and knowledge of the contact center as well as deep expertise in numerous forecasting methods. AI-driven workforce management enables managers to focus their efforts on higher-value tasks by assessing which forecasting methods will be the most accurate in a given situation, pinpointing unseen patterns in data and automatically adjusting to new circumstances – ultimately increasing accuracy and efficiency.
  • Simulate real-world scenarios. The downstream impacts of staffing decisions are incredibly difficult to predict manually, but AI and machine learning can demonstrate exactly how changes to on-hand agent skills, call prioritization, routing and other variables impact service levels.

Automation makes real-time contact center schedule changes possible

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, customer demand can change in an instant – and so can the available pool of agents. Automation empowers contact centers to simulate impacts on KPIs throughout the day and several weeks into the future, after the schedule is published. It enables automatic adjustments to meet customer demand without overstaffing or understaffing.    

  • Fix staffing gaps. As staffing needs change throughout the day, automation within workforce management solutions identifies variances that lead to overstaffing and understaffing. It then brings staffing in line with contact center business needs by automatically offering agents shift swaps, voluntary time off, extra hours and more – but only when changes will benefit the business. There’s no need for heavy monitoring or intervention by a manager.
  • Increase agent engagement. Automation enables contact centers to eliminate some of agents’ biggest frustrations, such as missed shift or overtime opportunities, a lack of flexibility in their schedules and slow approval for schedule change requests. This increases agent engagement, a top driver of productivity, which is essential right now given the distractions agents face at home. 

Whether a contact center is fully remote, working from the office or some blend of the two, the ability to adapt quickly is essential right now – and AI and automation make it possible to do so with workforce management. Learn more about how technologies are empowering contact center agility right now in our ebook on Leveraging AI and Intelligent Automation in the WFM Suite.

For more information please click here.

From Hype To Reality: AI in The Contact Centre

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

By Content Guru

It’s no secret that the global pandemic, and subsequent lockdown measures, have forced many companies to compete solely on the basis of the remote customer experiences they deliver. Those companies that keep their customers close, by investing in technology that makes customer engagement their competitive advantage, will be those that survive, and even thrive, during lockdown and beyond.

Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru, explores how AI applications like Natural Language Processing and image recognition are revolutionising the delivery of customer service, and helping organisations to drive customer loyalty.

AI in action

Artificial Intelligence (AI) isn’t a new concept, but conversation around AI is more mature than its actual application. However, key advances in recent years have opened the door for AI to become mainstream, and as a consequence, we are at the tipping point. AI is going to become commonplace, particularly within the contact centre industry.

Advances in big data, machine learning and cloud communications have made AI systems an affordable reality for many organisations around the globe. For these early adopters, making the shift towards AI-based support services across multiple channels means they are now storming ahead with improving Customer Engagement and Experience. Plus, they are reaping the rewards of enhanced productivity through the automation of routine interactions that enable their human agents to focus on more pressing tasks.

These companies have the right idea: businesses scoring in the top quartile of CSAT scores experience 87% less churn from employees and are 44% more profitable.

With future enhancements in AI and machine learning technologies set to boost adoption by mainstream industries, the pressure is on to stay ahead of the curve and deploy this technology to optimise contact centre operations.

Omni-channel consumers expect instant responses

Today’s digitally-connected, always-on consumers expect 24/7 customer service and accurate answers to their queries. AI can play a big role in optimising response times across channels in two ways: utilising personality and behavioural analysis to quickly route callers to the right human agent; and directly responding to commonly asked questions.

Companies of all kinds are now using artificially intelligent chatbots to answer queries, undertake customer authentication, recognise images, or identify whether a caller is happy, annoyed or frustrated. Supplementing trained human agents, these chatbots help out with routine queries and ‘how to’ calls; are on hand to cope with unexpected surges in demand; and provide updates on delivery or service delays.

With Gartner predicting that by 2020 up to 80% of customer service interactions will be handled by AI, organisations that want to stay competitive and relevant will need to future-proof their communications estate fast – or risk being left behind.

Keeping it human

By bringing AI into the contact centre, companies can initiate omni-channel interactions and generate an improved customer experience alongside operational efficiencies. But does taking advantage of new technologies mean organisations risk de-humanising their contact centres?

Rather than replacing agents with automated systems, organisations should instead look to supplement contact centre employees with AI tools that empower them to perform better in their roles. For example, Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology can parse meaning from spoken language and provide on-screen prompts to help agents deliver a faster, more accurate and personalised experience for customers.

Complementing human interactions, NLP ‘listens’ in the background and enhances an agent’s performance by delivering up the data they need to engage in better conversations. At the end of each call, NLP technology automatically provides a wrap summary, which both reduces the reporting burden on agents and enables them to move quickly onto the next call.

So, while AI has a role to play in improving contact centre productivity by automating routine repeated interactions, enabling self-service channels, and optimising response times, it doesn’t take the place of human agents. Complex scenarios or frustrated customers need to be handled by trained representatives of an organisation.

Exploring the possibilities

Using AI to augment human interactions and elevate the customer experience is just part of the story. Organisations are also using tools like NLP to boost the job satisfaction and engagement of their contact centre employees.

High agent churn and absenteeism rates are the bane of call centres everywhere, and replacing talent is expensive. According to the CIPD, the average cost impact of call centre staff turnover is over £6K, rising to £9K for senior positions.

Research shows that the number one source of agent dissatisfaction is workload. Content Guru has successfully used NLP to enable one of our public sector customers to address its 60% contact centre churn. Using intelligent automation to eliminate drudgery for employees, it’s also augmented the ability of teams to seamlessly handle calls. Plus, the use of AI and machine learning now captures and delivers the data insights that reduce employee effort, leading to a reduction in training costs.

Clearly, having AI and human intelligence working hand-in-hand is a win-win scenario.

Improving the customer journey – and keeping people in work

Helping consumers to find a customer service assistant, delivering fast answers to simple questions, and providing personalised product recommendations, are just some of the ways AI is revolutionising how brands engage and serve customers.

But contact centre employees benefit from AI just as much as customers do. Eliminating mind-numbing repetitive tasks means agents are able to focus on more fulfilling and critical work that requires their unique human capacity to be creative and caring. Rather than eliminating jobs, AI is leading to an evolution of roles that will see agents working alongside and training their bots so that customers always get the most helpful and up-to-date responses.

Discover AI for your contact centre here: https://bit.ly/2BMlblR

It’s time to stop talking about AI in the contact centre

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way that consumers engage with brands. Lockdown has birthed a new era of digital communication, in which customers expect to interact with companies over the channel of their choice, and receive the same unrivalled service that they do from leading online giants.

How can organisations ensure that they deliver exceptional customer engagement, at a time in which many contact centres are under-resourced, and overwhelmed by new spikes in demand?

Artificial Intelligence can solve this issue. The implementation of automation and intelligent machine learning in the contact centre liberates agents to handle priority contacts, build outstanding customer relationships, and forge customer loyalty in today’s uncertain business environment.

Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru, explains how the contact centre industry is leading the charge in practical AI application…

Old Conversation

AI has started to feel like an old conversation. But the reality is that it’s only just off the starting blocks in many industries. In the last year, contact centres and organisations focused on customer engagement have moved beyond the AI hype into practical implementation. As such, businesses that want to stop talking and start doing should be looking to those organisations as a leading example.

There are tangible examples of AI applications already in full swing in the contact centre industry, ranging from Natural Language Processing (NLP) to image recognition. Research from industry-leading analyst Gartner suggests that in 2020, 80% of customer service interactions will be handled by AI. This is hardly surprising, as around a quarter of customer interactions are already handled through an automated chatbot, and the industry is constantly expanding the very definition of what AI is and what it can do.

The driving force behind the AI revolution is customer experience. As it becomes the key business differentiator, organisations that stay ahead of the curve are seeing happy, loyal and engaged customers and higher profits, by turning AI hype into tangible business success. Moving beyond the hype and towards result-driven applications of AI will be critical to the success of any company wanting to survive in this competitive landscape.

Why the contact centre is embracing the dual interface

AI coupled with real-life human intelligence creates an augmented dual interface that is delivering a competitive advantage to companies wanting to offer a frictionless customer journey. An omni-channel contact centre that deploys AI working hand-in-hand with human agents is becoming critical for any organisation that doesn’t want to be in the bottom quartile for customer satisfaction (CSAT).

Companies in the top quartile experience an impressive 87% less churn from their employees, and are 44% more profitable. Research has shown that the number one reason for agent dissatisfaction is workload. Contact centres are eliminating the mundane tasks for their human agents through intelligent automation, and are supporting the agent’s ability to seamlessly handle calls with AI. This improves job satisfaction, thereby reducing the rate of attrition.

Evolving the role of human agents means less money is spent on training. In the past, data scientists — who possess one of the most sought-after skill-sets — would be required to process, analyse and derive insights from customer data. Now, AI-solutions are programmed to do this automatically, reducing organisations’ dependency on scarce and pricey skill-sets.

Augmented intelligence: working smarter, not harder

Not only is the contact centre industry demystifying practical uses for AI, it is also debunking the rumours about AI replacing humans. Contrary to popular belief, and as the hype may suggest, AI will not cost businesses their human face. Organisations can still leverage automation while maintaining the human touch, by providing intelligently augmented interactions.

This type of intelligent assistance helps employees work more efficiently and deliver better results. The fact is that no new technology in human history has ever created long-term, mass unemployment. There will be a period of adjustment and a need for a different skill-set. But overall, these developments will open up new opportunities for establishing long-term career prospects in contact centres.

NLP is going mainstream

NLP is a form of AI that analyses natural dialogue to draw contextual meaning and understand language the way humans do. NLP registers, deciphers, understands, and makes sense of spoken language, and turns it into actionable data. This technology is a great example of both a tangible and current use of AI to achieve business success, as well as a strong argument against the idea that AI is replacing humans in the workplace.

Having information on the nature of an incoming customer call readily available means that human agents do not have to sift through huge volumes of data to answer the query. This enables them to provide a much faster and more personalised experience to the customer. NLP can also be used to help Machine Agents to parse meaning from spoken language, enabling them to provide more accurate responses.

When a customer reaches a contact centre agent, NLP can work in the background and prompt the agent with automated information on-screen to assist them in resolving the query. Increased automation means companies will need to spend less money on training costs. NLP automatically provides a wrap summary of the conversation on completion of the call so the agent does not have to spend time at the end of the interaction completing this task. This reduces the administrative burden and frees up agents to answer more calls.

Many early adopters of this type of AI are organisations in the public sector. A combination of a tight budget and hefty workloads makes public sector organisations prepared to invest first, but many other industries are now seeing the value in NLP and rolling out the technology en masse.

What’s stopping you from stepping into the future?

In the past, one of the biggest roadblocks of AI deployment was the limited resources available. But today, with hyperscale cloud platforms and vast computing power, the scalability of AI solutions has become much more attainable. We have moved from scarcity, caused by high cost technology, to the abundance of cheap processors.

The combination of extra computing power and new AI-driven processes have really come together in the last few years. This means that organisations can easily and cost-effectively draw on extra computing resources to scale their contact centre capacity accordingly.

This new approach to the contact centre presents businesses across every industry with a scalable opportunity to future-proof their communications estate and keep up with customer expectations of a flawless, omni-channel customer experience. Using the latest cutting-edge tools to complement a company’s existing offering should become second nature to any forward-thinking business. These are exciting times for AI, and, as we move into 2020, it is time to stop talking about AI, and start doing.

Click here to discover AI for your contact centre.

Do you specialise in Artificial Intelligence for contact centres? We want to hear from you!

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Each month on Call Centres Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the customer care market – and in June we’re focusing on Artificial Intelligence solutions.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help customer care industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Artificial Intelligence solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Gayle Buckland on g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk.

Here are the areas we’ll be covering, month by month:

Jun – Artificial Intelligence
Jul – Virtual Call/Contact Centres
Aug – Training & Development
Sep – Knowledge Management
Oct – Web Self Service/Chat
Nov – Display Boards
Dec – CRM

For more information on any of the above, contact Gayle Buckland on g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk.

Using Artificial Intelligence to build a great future for CX

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

AI is already here and it’s revolutionising the way businesses manage their data to transform the customer experience (CX).  Henry Jinman, Commercial Director at EBI.AI, says it pays to tread with caution, despite all the success stories and shares his top 3 Tips for before you begin…

No longer confined to the realms of science fiction, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here and companies are waking up to the potential of machine learning to push the boundaries of customer interactions and drive effective CX strategies.  The truth is AI is totally revolutionising our approach to data through its amazing ability to capture, process and analyse masses of unstructured data across the business.  By automating customer contact management, data recording and analysis processes, AI can readily identify patterns of consumer behaviour that give contact centres and customer service operations a new competitive edge.  With vital customer intelligence at their fingertips, frontline staff are able to push out targeted sales content, pre-empt what customers will purchase in the future and predict their loyalty and value to the business.   

Here are just two real-life success stories to prove it.  Royal Bank of Scotland manages 17 million customers but managed to raise its Net Promotor Score by 18 points unanimously after deploying AI while US telecommunications giant Sprint achieved a 14% increase in customer retention in just six months, simultaneously overcoming an industry-high in turnover rates.

The beauty of Artificial Intelligence is that it is truly democratic.  The wonders of the Cloud mean it is readily available and accessible to all sizes of enterprise.  Now is the time to consider what AI can do for customer service in your organisation but stop before leaping in.  Learn from those who have already gone through the process and follow a few simple guidelines to ensure a successful AI implementation that optimises CX and futureproofs customer loyalty.

Three things to do before you begin

  1. Learn from the past – the major lesson is to tread carefully.  As with all new technologies, instinct tells us to rush in for fear of being left behind the competition or because we believe the latest innovation will be an instant cure-all for everything.  Think back 20 years to when the new mobile, Internet-enabled generation first grabbed the headlines.  Unfortunately, the marketing hype caused a lot of grief with businesses investing in technology that their customers just weren’t ready for!  Similarly, many organisations today deploy AI without really understanding how it is going to benefit their customers or the business.  Instead, businesses should take an inclusive strategy to adopting AI with the emphasis on customer needs and outcomes.
  2. Draw inspiration from real-life successes – EBI.AI has seen first-hand how AI is transforming customer service.  Take Get Living, the largest operator in the UK’s build-to-rent sector.  The company is providing a seamless move-in experience for 500 new homes at the former London 2012 Olympics Athletes’ Village with the help of a virtual AI assistant based on Google Home.  The Get Living Assistant helps people settle in to their new home, from letting them know where they can buy groceries down to giving instructions on how to use their induction hob.  The more residents use the bot, the smarter it becomes while special feedback functionality is crucial to understanding residents’ needs so that Get Living can continually improve its personal service and rental offer.
  3. Get it right first time around – by following a few simple rules:
  • Involve the right people from the very beginning so that when frustration strikes, you’ll have allies who are incentivised to make your AI project successful.
    Avoid over-expectations by educating stakeholders about the limitations of AI technology, explaining what it is and what it isn’t.  Be realistic when sharing  timeframes for results – machine-learning takes time to perfect!
  • Have a plan, start small and don’t go beyond your organisation’s capabilities.
  • Take time to assess the marketplace – engage with experts who understand the complexities of AI but are energised to find creative ways of realising its potential for great customer service.
  • Put data at the heart of AI design.  To build an effective bot, you need access to relevant customer data and you need to train the bot to answer the questions that really matter to customers.

What does the future of AI look like?
The predictive qualities of AI will create a world of augmented intelligence not just artificial intelligence.  Blending AI into their CX platform, organisations will be able to react in real-time with the next best action regardless of how customers engage or where they are on the brand journey.

What is more, as AI enhances rather than replaces human beings, companies should expect to enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship between man and machine that adds a completely new dimension to the customer experience.

Woven: AI will change way businesses interact with their customers forever

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In an era where technology is becoming a more significant enabler, new opportunities are being created for all of us to enrich our lives.

In the world of business, this allows companies an opportunity to deliver a level of customer service that until now has not been possible. But it also brings into sharper focus the dangers for business of failing to provide great quality service.

The latest revolution in customer experience is the combination of artificial intelligence and process automation, or in short ‘bots and virtual agents’.

And Woven’s chief technology officer Andy Griffin believes ‘the rise of bots’ will transform the way companies interact with their customers.

Griffin says: “The bots are coming and the landscape of customer experience for businesses will never be the same again.

“How we are impacted by bots will be shaped by how and where we interact with them.”

But what are the implications for companies that serve customers, what do we mean by a ‘bot’ and are these bots genuinely smart?

“Firstly, creating a basic bot is actually fairly simple, and secondly, to smarten a bot means providing it with real-time access to customer data and interactions – the ‘brains behind the bot’, if you like,” ays Griffin.

“This second point has focused the minds of businesses to an age-old conundrum that really should have been grasped a long time ago – that is how business can obtain a true real-time view of their customers.

“It’s a problem that we all thought we were going to solve with the emergence of CRM applications in the early noughties – but didn’t!”

By definition, bots are a series of automated steps with smart capabilities that convert voice to text or the other way around, and which can also convert strings of text to sentiment or intent.

Griffin adds: “If you have this functionality you can create a basic bot and then over time the bot can learn to become better at that simple task.

“But for a bot to become really smart, it needs to reach beyond one task to understand data in multiple systems.

“In the context of customer service, this means that the bot is comprehending in real-time how as a customer we are actually interacting with a company – are we on their website? In a web chat? Waiting in a voice queue? Or perhaps complaining via social?

“Trying to interact effectively using automation without having genuine access to all of this data proves either limiting or just plain self-defeating.

“The bot will simply follow the rules it’s given and will not be cognisant of data it doesn’t have.

“So, whereas a human agent in a contact centre can interact with multiple systems and make a guided judgement, a bot simply cannot compare without having integrated up-to-date data.”

Griffin concludes that business must harness real-time customer data to maximise the benefits bots can bring to the customer service sector – or risk being left in the dark: “Bots are a big part of the customer experience and will change all of our lives.

“But if there’s one core task companies wishing to maximise their opportunities must complete, it has to start with the use of real-time customer data and customer interactions.

“The most effective innovators are those who understand the human element of change, and appreciate that it’s how we interact with technology that creates the biggest impact on our lives.

“Without this understanding, businesses rush into the world of bots at their peril.”

WHITE PAPER: How AI Improves Customer Experience

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By CallMiner

Artificial intelligence is being used in many ways to improve customer experience, and innovative new use cases are emerging all the time. Enterprises must reimagine their operations, with automation and AI at the center of their strategy.

This paper provides an overview of artificial intelligence, explains how AI fits into the spectrum of technologies used for managing contact centers operations and efficiencies both on the agent and customer side, how speech is a gold mine for data, and identifies the leading use cases that are delivering customer experience and stronger business value through customer engagement analytics.

To download the white paper, click here.

Artificial Intelligence: friend or foe? Seven ways to turn your agents into superheroes

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Far from replacing people, artificial intelligence (AI) has the power to enhance employee engagement and productivity and customer interactions in one go. Henry Jinman, Commercial Director of EBI.AI, explores 7 ways to turn your contact centre agents into superheroes using conversational AI.

New technology inevitably changes lives. However, rather than fear robots replacing front line customer service representatives it’s time to think differently and embrace automation to elevate the status of the contact centre agents and make their jobs more engaging.  

The aim of AI isn’t to replace people with robots.  As former Oracle director Paul Reader said, “Automation is not the future, human augmentation is.”[i]  From contact centres to factories, AI tools such as bots can reduce costs and increase team efficiency in a matter of months. Automation can be a game changer for customercommunication and overall job satisfaction. 

Change the mindset, starting with your people and AI will soon become a friend, not a foe. View this technology as the strategic enabler of employee productivity and satisfaction and see service levels, customer loyalty and profits soar.    

7 ways to turn your agents into superheroes

Use the latest AI technology to hasten your path to agent superstardom: 

1.    Eliminate the mundane – AI liberates agents by taking away the repetitive or mundane tasks, leaving them free to enjoy the challenge of tackling complex or emotionally sensitive calls that only humans can handle. 

It’s a smart move – by elevating the role of agents, you give them the career they deserve and in motivating them to train and hone their skills, they soon become the superheroes that every contact centre leader wants on their side.

2.    Build caller context – this can take many forms, for example a bot sitting on the front of an IVR menu asking preliminary questions while the customer is waiting or  analysing previous customer conversations to build caller profiles. This gives live agents the valuable intelligence they need to answer customerqueries with greater speed and efficiency when a call is transferred to them from their virtual colleagues.  The latest AI tools can even identify sentiment and notify the agent of a customer’s emotional state of mind.  Depending on the outcome of an interaction bots can direct the call to the best-skilled available agent at the appropriate moment.  

3.    Provide a warm handover – using Natural Language Processing (NLP), AI can understand the initial query and so provide a warm handover to a live agent who already knows what the person is calling about and doesn’t have to ask any unnecessary questions, one of the biggest irritations for customers.

4.    Good memory, good rapport – today’s AI tools are so sophisticated that they can measure customersatisfaction levels based on tone of voice and vocabulary. They speedily recognise repeat callers from voice and then use this intelligence to flag up pertinent information to customer service agents and alert managers to recurring issues that require multiple repeat calls.  Memorising the customer experience based on historical evidence drives proactive call resolution and builds customer trust.

5.   Deliver your best ever service – all forms of AI technology such as bots perform like the model employee – they never get tired, are never sick and because they don’t suffer from emotions, never have a bad day and they don’t need holidays!   Always predictable, they offer customers a great, consistent service any time of day or night and there’s no limit to the number of users one bot  can talk to at once. No matter how many people are already talking to it, yours can answer them right away in natural language – leading to lifelong, positive customer relationships.  Meanwhile, agents benefit from additional time to deal with more difficult and complex cases that only humans can handle or can even ask bots for advice on how to respond.  

6.   Humans and bots in harmony – when AI works hand in hand with the live agent team, contact centres benefit from all the perks of a human workforce plus the consistency of artificial intelligence to boost first call resolution for enhanced customer experience (CX).   

7.   Agent assistance – help new agents hit the ground running and become super     heroes in a matter of days.  The beauty of AI is that it acts as an agent’s personal assistant.  Let new joiners ask questions and allow experienced agents to share their customer success stories with an agent assistant to increase the company knowledge pool.  Agents can even ask the bot questions while in conversation with a customer to deliver fast, efficient responses.  

It’s time to embrace AI as a friend. AI is here to stay and it’s set to revolutionise the way businesses interact with their customers.  Start by turning your agents into superheroes.


AI: It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new way of customer support and engagement

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With headlines stating that AI will be ‘the death of the contact centre’, it’s understandable that Contact Centre Managers might feel like the world is against them. 

AI-driven technology is not new, in fact people been talking about it since the summer conference at Dartmouth College in 1956, where the attendees became leaders of AI research.With predictions of an AI-first world since 1956, why is that AI-powered technology is causing more and more confusion, hype and fear this decade with trending headlines stating that robots will take over our jobs, causing concern about the long-term impact of AI on the employees?

Well firstly, it’s this shorthand referral to AI that is causing a lot of confusion, hype and fear around this subject.Like computing, it’s hard to distinguish between classifications for AI, the broad term, used to describe the ‘smart’ human-like capability within software such as machine learning, natural language processing, robotics and computational intelligence, which all refer to a wide variety of algorithms and methodologies under AI.

So where does AI fit into the contact centre?

Businesses can no longer afford to rely on archaic siloed channels for customer support and experience. As consumers grow more and more comfortable with messaging, AI applications offer the contact centre some dramatic benefits that stretches way beyond customer support.AI can play a vital role in making better business decisions, many of them positively impacting the customer.

Many brands understand that their customers will expect support across multiple digital channels, regardless of business hours and that site search, static FAQs and info@ email options have become archaic.Businesses must be ‘present’ on their customers’ preferred support channels and respond swiftly, no matter the means customers use to get in touch.

Investing in AI might sound like a daunting task, but it is imperative in our evermore competitive world where businesses need to win the CX war to remain relevant and profitable. For AI to introduce new value and break fresh ground, strategists must take an innovative approach to CX and consider its impact beyond its novelty.

Smallsteps are key to preparing for the ever changing CX landscape.The light in this confusing artificially intelligent world of darkness are that there are ‘modest’ AI-powered solutions that can translate into cost savings, increased productivity and improved customer experience with minimal demands on IT resources.

Commonly known as Natural Language Understanding (NLU) – a machine algorithm to process and analyse large amounts of natural language data to ‘understand’ natural language – it’s easy to underrate the powerful impact this science can have on business processes and the contact centre.

Although human language is extremely complex, full of contextual rules and nuances that we take for granted, the advances in Natural Language Processing today means the complex processing of the NLP system’s back-end is effortlessly encased within a user-friendly interface without requiring users to have technical expertise.

NLU is a supreme AI engine particularly when it’s integrated into services such as conversational Virtual Agents (chatbots), dynamic FAQ self-service, Intelligent Web Form and agent assistance in the contact centre through channels such as Live Chat. can be key to deflecting calls, reducing costs and improving customer satisfaction. Consequently, market movements are already showing strong signs of businesses within a variety of sectors moving towards this type of AI technology to remain applicable and competitive.

How NLU makes sense in the contact centre

NLU can offer a lot more to the modern-day contact centre. As a toe in water into the world of artificial intelligence, when integrated with unstructured data – such as handwritten documents or notes by contact centre agents, text messages, photos and videos – AI-driven NLU can add considerable gains in workplace efficiency.

A contact centre knowledge-base integrated with AI-driven NLU can automate the processes of searching, modifying, and rating knowledge-articles, which could be any of the above-mentioned examples not only saving time in having to manually find information, but a dramatic increase in contact centre productivity. 

It enables new or temporary agents to serve customers almost instantly with reduced training times and access to instant, correct and consistent information over the phone, during a live chat or through email. NLU algorithms often can contextualise information to find mentions of subjects even when the relevant keywords are absent. 

Gartner predicted that in 2019, 20 percent of user interactions with smartphones will take place via virtual personal assistants.

The truth is they were not far off. Advances in text analysis and natural language processing has grown the list of queries that can be answered, and tasks resolved without human interaction. And since 2016, the popularity of using NLU in the form of chatbots to drive sales, qualify leads or to provide customer support, have had analysts forecast that conversational commerce will automate up to 85% of customer interactions by 2020.

Smartphones have changed the way in which people communicate and engage with each other. Messaging apps and social media are driving the exponential growth in the intelligent assistant landscape because it feels intimate and personal, encouraging customer transactions such as buying a product, present targeted promotions and product recommendations based on the customer’s enquiry, profile and history incorporating real-time analytics and business reporting. Bots are unmediated in a way that most digital interface still entirely fails at. 

With an intelligent bot handling high volume, frequently asked questions, your contact centre agents can focus on resolving complex customer issues. Additionally, due to working in the most efficient way possible, bots can handle spikes in customer contact to digital platforms, while dramatically decreasing the volume of physical calls which makes it easier to stay on top of demand and to record interactions on a CRM system or for analytics and training. Given its scalability, a bot implementation is a cost-effective opportunity for business improvement. An affordable, intelligent point of contact that can efficiently respond to an unlimited number of queries with relevant information, any day, any time.

Self-serving answers when customers need assistance across desktop, mobile and social channels is not a new concept anymore. This is not news to enterprises either and most will have incorporated – or are looking to integrate – a powerful intelligent FAQ system into their customer service/experience strategy. And although there appears to be an AI-uncertainty among business leaders, small steps need to be taken towards implementing AI to not get left behind.

NLU’s adaptability and usability make it an ideal first AI step for businesses of all kinds, generating quick win efficiencies in the short run, and more importantly preparing them for more complex AI solutions in the future. Are you ready to take the next step towards AI that can deliver quick-win business results?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Do you specialise in AI for contact centres? We want to hear from you!

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Each month on Call Centres Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the customer care market – and in June we’re focussing on Artificial Intelligence.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help customer care industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Artificial Intelligence solutions to call centres and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Gayle Buckland on g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk.

Here are the areas we’ll be covering, month by month:

Jun – Artificial Intelligence
Jul – Virtual Call/Contact Centres
Aug – Training & Development
Sep – Knowledge Management
Oct – Web Self Service/Chat
Nov – Display Boards
Dec – CRM

For more information on any of the above, contact Gayle Buckland on g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk.