Assessing the Impact of AI on Contact Centres

The Cloud is making the contact centre market more accessible to smaller organisations. This combined with the drive for customer service excellence and the need to address increasing competition means that even smaller organisations without formal call/contact centres can access and benefit from operating their own contact centre. We have seen this happening with other premium products such as cloud call recording. Cloud means little or no upfront investment, affordable monthly subscriptions based on the level of functionality required and the ability to scale up and down easily and quickly to meet demand.

Significant Trends in the Contact Centre Market 

From a reporting and analytics perspective, we are seeing progressively more customers without a formal contact centre quickly upgrading from our standard ‘real-time’ business reporting products to our Premier call centre reporting products with more ‘live’ information and key metrics, such as Calls Waiting, Grade of Service, Percentage Calls Answered, Abandoned, Missed and Unreturned Missed Calls.

Although these businesses do not have formal ‘agents’ in a dedicated a contact centre, they do have customer facing teams either taking or making calls and speaking to customers, handling web enquiries, dealing with emails and monitoring social media. Increasingly, organisations want to know what these people are doing, how many calls/customer interactions they are making/taking and how long they spend on the phone or in chat. They want this information predominantly to ensure customers are being contacted and properly handled, calls are being answered, someone is monitoring the web chatbot at all times, the workforce is productive, and the marketing budget is being spent effectively. Live stats on these channels can provide valuable and timely data on the customer experience; on sales orders made/lost, unhappy customers, busiest hour, hit rates and inbound/campaign performance effectiveness.

The Current State of AI in the UK Contact Centre Space

From our perspective at Tollring, we are currently seeing only large Contact Centres use AI, typically to replace for example IVR, ultimately removing humans from skills-based routing tasks. However, this is not always viewed positively by the inbound caller or enquiry. Unfortunately, public opinion on AI tends to be that it is being used purely for cost saving measures, not to enhance the customer experience. Customers can become infuriated with an IVR system if there are too many choices and it takes too long, but the choices are at least easy to understand. With AI and voice recognition, callers can end up going round in circles if they are unsure what to say to get the result they want.

Nevertheless, the time is approaching when AI will truly be able to offer a better customer experience than speaking to a real person. However, although adoption and acceptance of AI will increase significantly, there are certain products or services which can probably never be served as well with AI, such as selling complex financial products.

AI works extremely well at the initial contact stage; getting people to the right place and speaking to the best person, but we predict that it will be a while before AI can fully automate the whole customer interaction cycle. AI does however offer great benefits in capturing data for an in-depth understanding, detailed reporting and ultimately predicting customer behaviour. In our opinion, predictive analytics is where the true value of AI lies.

Ways That AI Changes How a Contact Centre Operates 

AI can replace much of what the traditional IVR does today and take things even further. A large percentage of people would like to self-serve in situations such as answering FAQs, checking stock and prices or booking concert and train tickets, but other scenarios need personal contact, such as speaking to a doctor or solicitor. AI is not the answer to everything, but it can improve certain customer interactions significantly. 24/7 access is one major benefit that improves the overall customer experience.

Within Tollring, AI is already being utilised in our analytics products; we use AI in our fraud and credit management tools to predict trends, learn patterns and make ongoing adjustments – so we absolutely see its value and benefits.

It is important for AI technology to be reliable and always available. Although AI and chatbots can be very useful to contact centres, to add real value the chatbot needs to always be staffed to handle customer questions that require more details or personal answers.

AI will certainly help contact centres predict and handle demand better than current technologies. AI will also help to personalise the service through self-learning and understanding who is enquiring on a near person level. This is the game-changer. To recognise the caller/customer, know in advance who they are calling and what they want to talk about will enable companies to provide a personalised service at any time of the day or night.

Use Existing Strengths to Offer AI and Deliver an Integrated Data Analytics Environment

Resellers need to look at their own day-to-day operations to understand where AI can help both their own business and their customers’ and how they might benefit from it. It may be too early to replace an IVR system, but a Chatbot might be perfect for servicing customers in some way. Once a reseller has personally experienced the benefits they will begin to create their own use cases which can be shared with customers and prospects.

In relation to Tollring, our place in the world of AI is in the realms of Big Data and Analytics:

  • AI engines will be capturing customer interaction data.
  • Our expertise will be in transforming this data into something meaningful which can provide valuable insights in customer patterns, trends and behaviours.
  • Our strategy is to then make this data available to our resellers and their customers.
  • Combine machine learned data from AI with traditional communications data and you start to create a real opportunity to offer exceptional customer experience, where you truly know your customers and can meet their needs regardless of method, location or time.

As featured in Comms Dealer