Contact centers are now in the age of multichannel driven by consumers' appetite for communication via multiple means.  This has caused an upsurge in the utilization of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help improve efficiency, reduce costs and enhance the customer experience, but how far can it go?

Real-time analysis can be performed on both voice and text to provide intelligent automated responses for processing communication sessions.  Straight forward interactions may be handled completely using automated responses, however the more complicated or unusual interactions will need to be passed to a human agent.

'Chatbots' can be used at the start of text based media communications such as chats, SMS or emails to perform pre-processing.  Capturing relevant details in advance of an agent being handed a session can save valuable time for the agent and also deliver a good customer experience as they are starting from an informed position.  When correctly implemented, this is a seamless experience and the customer can easily believe they have been communicating with a human agent throughout.  In situations where a chatbot cannot provide coherent questions/answers, it is critical to offload the session to a human agent without delay to avoid customers being stuck in limbo, which would cause customer dissatisfaction.

In terms of voice, using IVR for the entire customer interaction works effectively for simple call flows where distinct pieces of information are required and the possible outcomes are finite.  An example could be paying for parking, first you state the amount of time you want to park for and then quote your payment card details. The outcomes are; your payment is either authorised, or it is not.  However, in instances where outcomes are not so clear, voice recognition software can be used to reduce the time to route a call to the most appropriate destination.  The drawback with IVR is that responses are emotionless and unlikely to provide the level of satisfaction derived from talking to a real person.

For all contact centers, the customer satisfaction level is intrinsically linked to the ability the agents have to gain a rapport with customers.  This connection is easily lost with the use of AI, due to its lack of understanding human emotions.

When used effectively, AI can maximise agents' use of time enabling them to spend more time focused on meaningful interactions, helping to project a positive image of the company they represent.  But an over-reliance on AI will see your customers taking their business elsewhere.


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