If there’s one thing managers need to understand about digital transformation, it’s how artificial intelligence is changing CX in the contact center. The cost savings AI offers makes the move to more automation inevitable. Gartner reports that AI chatbots alone can save the contact center industry up to $80 billion in annual labor costs by 2026. By 2031, the savings could grow to $240 billion. Along with huge cost savings, AI will be a tremendous boon to customers longing for better self-service, and agents who need relief from repetitive taskwork. It’s clear that AI’s impact on customer care and CX will be profound.
Contact centers are ahead of the curve when it comes to AI adoption, uniquely positioned to benefit from automation and emerge as tech leaders.
What Do Customers Value in CX?
To understand how artificial intelligence can impact CX, it’s helpful to break down the elements of a positive customer experience from a customer’s point of view. According to a recent PWC survey, customers value:
- Knowledgeable assistance
- Friendly service
- Human touch
AI Impacts Your Entire System, in a Good Way
Did someone say human touch? Yes! Artificial intelligence is not a standalone technology, but rather a tool that optimizes your entire system. This includes your agents. AI doesn’t change the fact that the human touch is key to a successful customer experience and the best AI applications will actually create space for the human touch and improve the agent experience.
Will Artificial Intelligence Take Agents’ Jobs?
Those who worry about automation taking jobs should also consider how automation can relieve customer service agents of repetitive aspects of their work – and imagine what can happen after that. By taking over repetitive taskwork, AI frees up agents for work that benefits from the human touch and requires empathy and complex problem-solving. This work is more complex, interesting, and rewarding.
What AI tools Will Improve Contact Center CX?
How exactly will artificial intelligence touch the customer experience? Here are some of the main tools that are available. Let’s look at how they’ll be used.
Interactive voice response is a popular automation that’s already widely used in contact centers. This familiar technology does things like invite callers to select a language, enter an account number or choose a department at the beginning of a call. Specialized IVR software like Fonolo Visual IVR offers unique features like conversation scheduling, which allows callers to schedule a call-back at a time of their choosing, up to 15 days in the future.
When they’re powered by AI, natural language understanding, and machine learning, conversational IVR systems go even further, responding to more complex customer queries and speaking in nuanced sentences.
Chatbots or conversational AI
When people talk about conversational AI, they’re usually referring to chatbots. This is one of the first tools contact centers are likely to try when they begin to incorporate AI into their operations. It’s a great place to start and customers are very open to the technology.
AI company LivePerson reports that 85% of customers say they prefer messaging a brand over calling (up 20% over the previous year). Three-quarters of customers said they’d spend more time with a brand that offered chatbot messaging.
Predictive call routing
Smart call routing is another widely used technology that goes next level with an AI boost. Traditional call routing connects customers to the right department, or perhaps to an agent who speaks the right language.
Predictive call routing is much more nuanced, connecting customers to call center agents who are most likely able to solve their problems based on abstract variables like the agent’s personality or expertise. To do this, the AI-powered software considers the customer’s call history, behavior profile, conversational style, personality, and other data points.
To get started with this technology, companies will need to identify and quantify agents’ skills and expertise, as well as their personality type and communication style.
Emotional intelligence AI
Artificial intelligence software armed with natural language processing abilities uses machine learning algorithms to tease out the sentiment in customer calls. For example, a customer may raise their voice if they are becoming frustrated or angry. Longer than usual pauses can also be telling. Computers can be trained in different languages to pick up on expressions, conversational cadence, and linguistic styles that are unique to different cultures.
The software uses screen pop-ups to offer feedback to agents who can use the recommendations to deliver a better CX and get insight into their own performance.
Analytics have always been a big part of operating a successful call center and delivering a great customer experience. Metrics like first-call resolution and average handle time have historically been used to measure agent success and by extension, customer sentiment. (Satisfied customers = happy customers.)
Artificial intelligence fleshes out these metrics with its ability to measure customer sentiment, personality, and tone. This deeper insight into how customers feel can help contact centers offer more personalized, and more successful, customer experiences.
How Can You Introduce AI to Your Call Center?
If you’ve got IVR systems or smart call routing, you’re already dealing with automation. Great!
As we discussed, the next contact center AI tool for most companies is a chatbot. Research from Genesys says the use of chatbots has doubled since 2017. Why? Customers want instant access to something, or someone, who can help them.
Surprised that people are embracing ‘bots? Don’t be. Customers love self-service and chatbots have come a long way from the underwhelming first-generation examples. Today’s chatbots use natural language processing and machine learning to converse more naturally.
Work with a software provider who can deliver AI-powered chat at a scale that suits your business. A good bot is personalized, and intelligent and has access to a customer’s profile and the ability to connect to an agent when needed.
CX and Agent Experience are Two Sides of the Same Coin
A great overall customer experience is a two-sided engagement. To get there, you need to consider the employee experience as well as the customer experience. Some say it’s time to think differently about agents and see them as AI workers. Their skills and abilities are essential to successful AI implementation and to creating positive customer experiences.
MIT robotics professor Cynthia Breazeal puts it this way: “The next generation will have moved beyond being digital natives. They will be ‘AI natives.‘”
Your agents are first-generation AI-literate workers, uniquely positioned to create and deliver excellent, personalized customer service — if you support them and give them the right tools.