Will Artificial Intelligence Kill Contact Centers?

Priya Iyer

Tech magnates like Elon Musk and Bill Gates have cautioned about the threat of super intelligence and artificial intelligence (AI). While the reality of super intelligence may be a few decades away, contact centers are experiencing the “now” of this technology and asking themselves whether increased automation will also mean an increase in job losses.

Chatbots are being used in every industry vertical – retail, automotive, financial services, even healthcare – to replace humans in contact centers. AI is expected to take over around 38% of U.S. jobs by the year 2030. And in the UK, up to 30% of jobs are at risk of being taken over by robots and artificial intelligence by the early 2030s, according to PwC.

Does the rise in AI mean contact centers should immediately start preparing for doomsday? Or can contact centers start to leverage the move towards AI and create a more customer-focused environment that will result in higher levels of customer care?

Regardless of whether your company is big or small, there are several steps a contact center can take to leverage the AI trend without self-destructing. The following suggestions offer key ideas for contact center managers to act on immediately:

  1. Text chat will be the first to be replaced with chatbots. While text chat is very efficient and enables servicing multiple customers at once, most companies have built a repository of chat transcripts that can be used to train bots. If your company has a contact center, it is time for you to move more of your team to video-based live engagement.
  1. Customers who feel emotionally connected to businesses buy more products, use more services, provide vocal support, and pay more attention to company advice. Only humans can create a sense of relationships and trust with a customer. Video chat empowers your contact center teams to build a trusted-adviser relationship with your customer – something chatbots simply cannot offer.
  1. In a study by Accenture, 98% percent of customers reported that they would likely make another purchase from a company if they had a good experience. Video chat consistently gives 90%+ NPS and CSAT ratings. Text chat has less than 60% and chatbots even less. Moving the contact center team to video chat gives the metrics you need to convince management of its value.
  1. Incorporate co-browse and screen-share technology into phone-based contact centers. This will not only digitize and bring you to the new age, it will really super-charge important metrics like first-call resolution and average handle time (which measures the total time to resolution, not just the average time per engagement), which are still weak for chatbots.
  1. Two-way video chat allows the agent to see the customer, with their permission. The customer can also use their webcam show the agent the faulty product, a design they like, or a furniture they are trying to match. Enable your agents to “visit” the customer’s environment to solve problems or provide recommendations using two-way video chat.
  1. Remember, while happy customers typically tell only four to six people about their experience, an unhappy customer will tell between nine and 15 people. Two-way video chat allows your agents to see your customer. When dealing with unhappy or anxious customers, it can be invaluable to your agents to actually see the customer and express empathy both verbally and visually.

The more human your contact center engagements and interactions are with the customer, the more likely your contact center won’t be killed by the AI trend. While AI technology can provide efficiency and cost savings, human interaction creates value like no other. People are social beings, and ultimately nothing can ever truly replicate the experience of connecting with another person.

Tuning your contact center for high volume per operator and low average call duration will result in agents that behave like bots. That’s exactly what AI will kill. Instead, help them use their human attributes to provide the best sales and service online.

AI that reads and responds to our emotions is the killer app of the digital economy. Learn more about Empathy: The Killer App for Artificial Intelligence.

Priya Iyer

About Priya Iyer

Priya Iyer is Chairman and CEO of Vee24, Inc. With over 25 years of diverse international experience in nearly every facet of software, Priya is a proven, high-growth entrepreneurial CEO with a leadership philosophy centered on engaging clients and employees to build industry-leading SaaS software platforms and delivering exceptional stakeholder value to achieve sustainable competitive differentiation. Priya was awarded New England Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014 and ranked on the 2015 Top 100 Entrepreneur List by the Boston Globe. Prior to Vee24, Priya was most recently Chairman and CEO of Anaqua, Inc., which she founded in October 2004 and grew into a global SaaS solutions provider for intellectual asset management. Priya holds a bachelors and masters in Computer Science and an MBA from the Sloan Fellows program at MIT Sloan School of Management. She serves on several boards, women executive panels, and is a regular guest speaker at various business schools in the Greater Boston area.