The short answer to the question, “will Conversational AI replace call centers” is no. The more nuanced answer is that it will digitally transform them and radically change them, and that is already happening now.
As of today, AI empowered Call Centers have approximately 70% of the work managed by bots and automation and 30% handled by human agents. Soon this will be 90% managed by AI and 10% handled by human agents. This is a positive trend for business and customers alike. Soon only the highest value work will be overseen by human agents. They will be able to offload work that is repetitive and lower value. Human agents will be able to deal with customers of the highest value or in the most urgent need of attention. By leveraging AI, call centers customer service agents will be able to address customers more quickly and be armed with all the needed information to achieve successful outcomes. Learn more about What is Conversational AI
In the remainder of this blog lets discuss why an AI call center is a good thing, why humans in the loop is also a good thing, why the combination of humans & AI is beneficial, and the impact of conversational AI for mid-sized enterprise.
Let’s first level set with a few definitions that continually come up when we discuss call center technology.
• IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response. Often it is used as a standalone acronym but sometimes it is referred to as Conversational IVR. IVR was pretty much generation 1 of conversational AI. IVR uses ASR which stands for Automatic Speech recognition.
• Chatbots can be thought of as the first generation of RPA. Chatbots follow rules-based programs and have a preset series of steps they follow to address customer inquiries. Early bots available on websites are good examples of chatbots.
• RPA -or Robotic Process Automation, is software bots performing business processes (using multiple software applications and potentially data bases and document types) in an automated and typically unattended way.
• Conversational AI provides the ability to let humans and machines, or more appropriately software, communicate via written or spoken language. Conversational AI uses NLP or Natural Language Processing to make this happen.
• Cognitive AI allows software applications to mimic human behavior to solve complex problems and is closely related to machine learning or ML.
• Machine learning also simulates human behavior to learn and solve increasingly complex problems, just like humans do.
• IPA is using these forms of process automation in combination with AI, and it stands for intelligent process automation. Today’s new digital workers/agents are using IPA.
There is more that comprises call center technology, but this will get us going in our discussion of the AI Call Center.
Why is AI in Call Centers a good thing
The AI Call center is a good thing. Increasingly customers prefer interfacing with chatbots to humans (some surveys have this as high as 70%). Basic transactions can be finished quickly with a bot and if the choice is accessing a bot right away, … or waiting for a human agent for 10, 15, or 30 minutes, the bot will always be the preferred choice. Having an artificial intelligence call center will also allow companies to stay ahead of their competition, do more with less, and do it around the clock.
The AI call center also excels at data collection and thereby data analysis. A company that deploys modern call center technology can make better decisions and faster ones as well. They can also spot customer and business trends quickly. Having AI empowered call centers and the AI virtual call center during the pandemic was a game changer for forward thinking companies. They were still able to conduct business by having smart call centers, and by transitioning to virtual call centers where workers took calls wherever they were.
Compared to human agents AI empowered bots can be available 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Digital Workers can be seamlessly integrated into a company’s back-office software systems. They do not need to manually enter information, like a human would, where mistakes can frequently be made. However, the number one reason AI in a call center is a good thing is the ability to re assign human workers to higher value tasks and tasks where a human-to-human conversation is required. The second-best reason is to better equip that human agent with all the information they need at their fingertips and make them more efficient and more knowledgeable about every customer engagement.
Why Humans in the loop is a good thing
The artificial intelligence call center is a game changer for sure. Having humans in the loop is having the best of both worlds. An AI chatbot is intelligent and can learn but it does not have empathy. Being able to detect emotions and being able to express empathy when callers are in distress or are frustrated is one significant reason humans should always be in the loop. Certain decisions can not be programmed into a software application either. Bots are best used when there are Y/ N or multiple-choice decision trees to choose from.
When a call or chat requires creative thinking a human is essential. When there is a commercial aspect or sales aspect to a customer call a human agent will often be the best option. Humans can creatively address objections, find solutions quickly and be adaptable – and not need to be reprogramed! However, again …the best reason for having a human in the loop is for the highest value customer calls and the most urgent ones. The human touch will always be best in these situations, and it will be even better when screened by digital workers who have collected all the needed information for an efficient and effective interaction ahead of time.
Why is the combination of Humans & AI in a Call Center a good thing
Our discussion of call center technology leads us to the conclusion that the combination of humans and AI empowered digital workers or digital agents is the best of both worlds. Additionally, the transition to an artificial intelligence call center where 90% of the work is done by bots and 10% is done by humans is the best outcome for both companies and customers. Intelligent call routing is key to making that shift to the 90/10 ratio a reality and has been key to the current split of 70/30.
Intelligent routing can oversee routine calls that do not need a human agent and take care of customer needs quickly. Intelligent routing can save customers time from repeating required information and speed the processing of calls. Intelligent routing can also flag calls needing immediate human to human interaction and get them to the top of the queue. In call guidance or live call guidance is also a reason for the combination of AI and humans.
Data collection and analytics with AI empowered call centers helps humans make smarter decisions and present the best options to customers. This use of big data in the artificial intelligence call center will only expand in years to come. Speech recognition can also be used to provide in call analysis of customer interactions and make suggestions to agents within a call. It may sound a little big brother-y, but this will lead to better outcomes for customers and companies.
Conversational AI for Mid-Sized Enterprise
Clearly AI is transforming call centers and customer support interactions. Not every mid-sized business has a large call center. Most all do have customer support teams, and all those teams can be assisted by the same call center technology being rolled out at larger companies. The increasing needs for AI virtual call centers, and AI empowered virtual customer support people, is present in every sized business. Using today’s call center technology does not need to be the exclusive domain of Fortune 1,000 companies. At Valenta we are here to serve SMB clients. If you would like to discuss AI virtual call centers, AI assisted customer support, IVR, chatbots, RPA, Cognitive AI, or IPA we are here for that. Please Contact Us to schedule a consultation.