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Are You Ready for the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Your Contact Center?

Creative Virtual

Presented By: Creative Virtual

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, Creative Virtual

The media buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) is still swirling, as is confusion around how AI can – or can’t! – be used to reach your business goals. It’s easy to get swept up in the hype. For some that means approaching AI projects with inflated expectations, and for others that leads to a skepticism about it all being a passing fad. In the contact center industry, this confusion is compounded further by the rapidly changing expectations and communication preferences of customers.

What do customers really want?

Customers want a quick, easy and painless way to get the information and support they need, and they want options to choose the channel that works the best for them in that moment. That’s certainly a tall order. The expectations don’t stop there. Customers are comparing the experience they have with your organization with all their other customer experiences, not just with those in your industry. That means on the customer experience front you’re competing with the Amazons and Apples of the world as well as your direct competitors.

The evolution of the call center into the contact center was spurred by the widespread adoption of communication channels such as email and social media and new technologies such as live chat. Organizations are now dealing with more customer contact channels than ever before, adding new ones like messenger apps (Facebook Messenger alone had 1.3 billion monthly active users at the end of 2017) and voice assistants (including Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home) while traditional options like the phone are still important for customer support.

What does this mean for the contact center?

In a 24/7 digital world, it’s impossible for organizations – even the world’s largest enterprises – to support all those channels with human agents alone. The good news is that customers don’t expect to always engage with a live agent for information and support, and a growing number actually prefer not to have to speak with a human unless they have a complex issue or query. However, customers do expect to receive consistent and reliable information regardless of the channel they use and whether they self-serve or interact with a customer service representative.

This means that the old model for contact centers and customer service isn’t going to cut it anymore. Organizations that haven’t already started implementing digital transformation initiatives around AI, automation and customer self-service need to act now to avoid being left behind. It’s essential that the contact center be a key part in these initiatives to avoid creating silos that will damage the customer experience.

Where should contact centers place their focus?

When it comes to developing and implementing digital initiatives and AI projects, contact centers should focus on three areas:

Centralizing knowledge management – There are huge benefits to using AI within the customer experience space, but it requires a solid foundation in knowledge management. For example, tools such as AI chatbots, which are increasingly important for delivering instant customer service, can only give accurate responses if they’re backed by a knowledgebase with accurate content. The contact center is becoming the center of excellence for the knowledge used across customer support channels, and organizations need to put the necessary tools in place to facilitate that change. Using a single knowledgebase for virtual and live agents creates consistency across channels and allows organizations to more easily keep content up-to-date and accurate.

Integrating chatbots and live agents – The future of customer engagement lies in humans and machines working together in harmony, bringing together automated and human support to create the seamless, omnichannel experience customers now want. Integrating your self-service chatbot or virtual agent with human-assisted channels like live chat or callback allows customers, and their conversation history, to be seamlessly passed from virtual to real agent. Using virtual agents in the contact center to support live agents makes it quick and easy for them to find the information they need to help customers via phone, live chat, email, social media, etc. When agents know they always have the information at their fingertips, the focus moves from trying to retain knowledge to building better relationships with customers.

Combining AI and human input – While pure AI is making a positive impact in analyzing data and making sense of vast amounts of information, it’s not the right solution for providing customer service and support. The foundations of successful chatbots and virtual agents lie in the control of the response given. A hybrid approach of machine learning and human curation of content allows the chatbot to continually improve based on the way it is being used while also enabling companies to maintain control over the reliability of responses. Combining human input with machine learning creates dependable self-service solutions and gives organizations the control they need to comply with industry standards and regulations.