Alice SesayPope, SVP, Customer Experience, Digital Transformation Executive, First Horizon National Corporation
How often have you heard that advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) will replace human beings especially at contact centers? Thoughts of Will Smith’s iRobot displacing human workers, come to mind. For the time being, AI would not displace humanity from the workforce. It might reduce the number of agents allocated to transactional tasks but it cannot replace contact center agents; at least not yet. Although – there are robots being manufactured with AI, I cannot imagine robots occupying pod spaces receiving inbound calls from customers. What is more likely to occur is utilizing AI to manage redundant tasks that improve the speed and quality of customer interactions all the while collecting vital data from customers. Thus, AI has tremendous possibilities, but AI is still more beneficial when it is coupled with human interaction.
Before we begin planning the robotic apocalypse, let’s try and understand what AI really is: It is the theory and development of computer systems’ ability to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages. The use of AI plus a human interaction has the potential to improve omni-channel customer experience. This trend will elevate the customer experience by predicting customer’s inquiry and behaviors.
In a model of AI plus human interaction, AI will improve efficiency by providing information to the customer and contact center agent. Organizations can then analyze the data and make nimble decisions. AI revolutionizes contact center interactions by anticipating customers’ needs and automating tasks.
"AI Integration Will Automate Transactions, Augment Conversations, Utilize Predictive Analytics That Will Empower Agents With Relevant Information And Elevate The Customer Experience"
We already have a ton of big data but AI has the ability to analyze the data with greater precision and bring the most feasible actions to light with speed. For example: imagine the number of hours it takes today, for a contact center agent to research an escalated issue. It might require listening to pre-recorded calls, conducting research of several customer touch points, talking to associates in several departments and accessing various systems. The estimated time to resolution could range anywhere from 2 hours to several days. In a contact center using advanced AI tools, I envision less escalations and almost every contact handled in minutes or less.
If we categorize contact center functions as:-
• Service based
• Sales based (up sell opportunity)
• Complaint/Escalation based
In service scenarios, routine tasks will be automated. For sales opportunities, marketing will become more precise and companies will be able to up sell products and services at an accelerated pace. Recently, I browsed a few online retailers in search of a special pair of shoes. I found a pair I was interested in, added it to the shopping cart, but like so many fickle consumers, I abandoned the shopping cart. Two days later, I was browsing several social media platforms; guess what transpired? The shoes that I abandoned earlier re-marketed to me at a lower cost and free shipping. AI recognized that I that needed to be incentivized to make the purchase. You can imagine what happened, I made the purchase. In this scenario, I did not need a human interaction to compel me to purchase the shoes since it was a simple transaction. I was systematically contacted and offered a compelling reason to purchase shoes. The beauty of this transaction is that the company did not have to pay commissions or benefits and I was not pestered by a salesperson. An exceptional experience.
AI is a smarter way to close customers and solve customers problems because it uses predictive analytics that combines models based on human behavior and emotions. By understanding human behavior and emotions, contact center leaders can develop systematic approach to improve net promoter scores and customer engagement. Another advantage of AI is that the patterns of behavior and emotion are analyzed in minutes versus traditional methods of daily, weekly or monthly data analysis.
AI can also be utilized to analyze speech. Through speech analysis, we can determine the caller’s tone, vocabulary, sentiment, and even silences to gauge emotion and satisfaction. Advanced predictive analytics, detects a caller’s frustration or anger and even predict when a caller is lying or attempting to commit fraud.
In a complaint or escalation scenario, AI could help detect regulatory violations. Imagine how much time it would save banks and increase compliance, if AI tools could be used to detect a possible regulatory violation or eliminate it.
AI advantages will go past the contact center function. For example, AI can be used to better target potential contact center agents and leaders for hire. This will expedite recruiting processes. AI could search for candidates that are best fit and then provide that information to the human resources recruiter. An AI assisted recruiting process could reduce attrition, training costs, and overall job satisfaction. There are some organizations already using AI for recruiting. Furthermore, AI can even be used for targeted agent training. AI has many applications in the contact center.
Artificial intelligence is here. Contact center leaders can proactively determine how to create a road map that integrates AI. AI integration will automate transactions, augment conversations, utilize predictive analytics that will empower agents with relevant information and elevate the customer experience with the power of a human touch. Bottom line: artificial intelligence is a game changer. I imagine AI will serve as the software developer to program the next revolution of technology solutions to further enhance the customer experience.