25 June 2019

Bots and AI: Friends or foes of Contact Centres and Call Centres?

By: Liviu Avram

“How long do you think it will take until machines do your job better than you do?” is probably the question on any sceptic’s mind in the decade of automation. In the past, automation meant unintelligent machines doing boring and repetitive work, usually in factories where there was no customer interaction.

Today, machines are no longer unintelligent they can learn how to trade stocks, how to solve your banking problems, they can learn what food you like eating and when you like eating it, they can even predict what song you’d like to listen to.

 

We're in a new age of automation.

We're in a new age of automation.

We have entered a new age of automation where machine learning enables bots and AI (artificial intelligence) to breakdown even the most complex tasks into a series of predictable tasks in succession, by analysing data. But, although machines can learn themselves, this cannot happen without us, humans, feeding the machines the appropriate data about the things we want them to be good at. For a couple of years now, we have been storing data about pretty much anything, we just didn’t know what the data would be good for, but now we do.

This does not come without a cost, as bots and AI are getting smarter, we are feeling threatened by them. If you do a simple Google search about machines taking our jobs, you will find numerous studies and concerns regarding this, not all of them being wrong but what we must understand is that they don’t need to be our enemies, they are here to help us make our lives a little bit better.

 

How do bots and AI affect contact centres and call centres?

How do bots and AI affect contact centres and call centres?

How do bots and AI affect contact centres and call centres? Well, it’s hard to tell at this point as the adoption of automation is slower than in other fields, but it is important to note that the most important resources a contact centre can have are the people working in it. Charisma, empathy and decision-making skills, among others, are what makes humans so special compared to bots. It all comes down to our consciousness, and since most of the work in a contact centre is about interacting with other people, humans are simply better at doing this than bots.

Contact centre and call centre workers have no reason to worry about bots and AI taking their jobs as bots and AI are only there to help. As a contact centre worker, how many times a day do you have to answer the phone and ask for a name, address, sensitive data and so on? How many times a day do you have to repeat the same intro to different people? Wouldn’t it be amazing if someone else could do that for you, so you could just focus on solving a customer’s issue, or provide the best and fastest answer, without losing time and energy? Well… there isn’t someone willing to do that, but there is SOMETHING willing to do that. Bots and AI. Plenty of contact centres and call centres use data collection bots in different fields, such as banking, medicine, telecommunications and so on.

The flow, without going into technical details, is rather simple. Customers dial in via voice call or chat, the bot collects identification data such as full name, email address, type of inquiry (problem, feedback, request) and field specific data (bank account, insurance details, security number etc.), then routes the customer to the appropriate department and agent, presenting all the information collected to the agent, without the agent doing any additional work to collect the information.

This is a perfect example of data collection bots and working side-by-side with agents to assist rather than replace.

 

Besides data collection bots, what other AI can a contact centre or call centre use?

Besides data collection bots, what other AI can a contact centre or call centre use?

FAQ and problem-solving bots, are other great examples of bots and people working together. These bots are trained by a person, feeding the bot the appropriate knowledge base and teaching it how to solve complex tasks. “Feeding” the bot is not a hard task, depending on the bot services used, it often feels like a quiz. Asking a question then answering it so the bot can learn. Customers can also ask questions with a human answering them, so that next time a customer asks the same question, the bot can provide the appropriate answer. This is the magic of machine learning in action and Buzzbot by Buzzeasy is an excellent showcase of bot skills, as well as the Transaction Bot for complex transaction tasks.

Bots and AI can also assist agents in real-time chat conversations, by using the same machine learning techniques. Bots learn from agent’s behaviour with customers and can assist with fetching the right data when a customer asks a specific question, suggesting it as an answer in a chat interface, where the agent can accept it or provide a different answer. The bot may learn that answer as well and provide it next time.

Escalation to live agent is something that we see a lot of contact centres using these days and is another perfect example of bots and agents working together in harmony. The bot will handle the enquiry, but the customer has the option to escalate to a live agent at any time, or, intelligently, the bot will know when to handover by recognizing the point that it can’t deal with the issue anymore. The handover is seamless, and the agent is presented with all the information they need at a glance to continue the interaction.

Geomant's Buzzeasy platform

So, are bots and AI friends or foes of contact centres and call centres? We think friends, they are here to help with both repetitive and easy tasks, as well as complex but repetitive tasks. In short, they are here to work alongside agents and not replace them.

 If you found this blog interesting, here's some more AI and bot related posts that we think you might like: 

https://academy.geomant.com/academy/2018/09/28/online-customer-experience-determines-the-future-success-of-e-commerce-businesses

https://academy.geomant.com/academy/2018/09/25/going-from-voice-to-digital-customer-service-in-local-government-with-the-help-of-intelligent-chatbots

https://academy.geomant.com/academy/ai-and-machine-learning-for-help-with-growing-email-volumes-in-customer-service

https://academy.geomant.com/academy/2018/08/01/can-intelligent-technologies-help-the-uk-social-housing-sector-to-fulfil-their-digital-prophecy

https://academy.geomant.com/academy/2018/07/31/3-contact-centre-pain-points-and-how-to-fix-them-with-ai

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