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Are We Really Ready for All the Answers from AI in Contact Centres?

AI is becoming a key component in contact centres, making things smoother and faster. In the UK alone, the adoption of AI in customer service is expected to grow significantly, with Gartner predicting that by 2025, 80% of customer service and support organisations will be applying generative AI technology in some form to improve agent productivity and customer experience (CX). Hardly surprising seeing as 96% of contact centres view AI as a vital technology to help their operations. But are we really ready for everything AI can do? This article explores why some people are still hesitant about AI in this space and what can be done to get more comfortable with it.

The Mystery of AI Responses

Ever chatted with a customer service bot that left you more confused than before? AI can sometimes give answers that are too complex or technical. According to the recent ‘Voice of the Consumer’ report by Cavell, only 5% of consumers think automated systems are ‘very good’ at customer service, while 35% say that chatbots and automated systems are bad. For many of us, it feels like getting a user manual when all we wanted was a quick solution. It’s crucial for AI in contact centres to provide clear and straightforward responses that make sense to everyone.

Enhancing Jobs, Not Replacing Them

There’s a lot of buzz about AI taking over jobs, but in contact centres, it’s more about enhancement. AI can handle repetitive tasks and provide quick answers, freeing up human agents to tackle more complex issues that need a personal touch. This collaboration can make the work environment more efficient and satisfying for everyone involved. Indeed, 36% of consumers say the biggest benefit they would like AI to bring to customer service is faster response times.

Instant Gratification

In the Cavell report, we see that the biggest frustration for customers with customer service is waiting times, cited by 29% of consumers. With the inception of generative AI and the ability to provide instant solutions, customers are becoming increasingly used to instant service. This means they will not be patient when they click ‘speak to an agent’. They will want INSTANT access. If customers get used to quick service, they will expect the same fast response when they want to talk to an agent.

An example of someone who does this really well is Amazon. If you are interacting with their bot on the app and at any point say, “I want to speak to an agent,” Amazon will call you back almost instantly. And this might also be why we won’t see a drop in agent numbers because customers will not want to wait to speak to a customer.

Jason Roos, CEO of Cirrus, emphasised this point during a recent panel discussion at the Cavell Invest Summit, stating, “As we make the contact centre with virtual agents more accessible, we need to ensure that we can serve conversations needing a human touch quickly and efficiently. Customers will not tolerate waiting once they have experienced instant AI responses.” He highlighted that while AI can handle routine queries, the transition to human agents for more complex issues must be seamless. Roos added, “The challenge lies in maintaining a high level of service continuity. If a customer starts with an AI interaction and then needs to escalate to a human agent, the handover should be smooth and instant to avoid any frustration.” This really highlights the importance of integrating AI and human agents effectively to meet rising customer expectations.

Privacy: What’s Safe to Share?

In a contact centre, AI can analyse a ton of data to help solve problems quickly. But with great power comes great responsibility. People want to know their personal information is safe. There’s always that underlying concern about how our data is being used. Making sure AI systems in contact centres are transparent about data usage can help ease these worries, especially considering that 44% of consumers believe customer service has worsened in the last three years.

Building Trust in AI

Trust is key. For AI to be effective in contact centres, it needs to make fair and accurate decisions. While there have been hiccups in the past, continuous improvements and checks can help build confidence in AI systems. When people see that AI can reliably assist with their queries, they’ll be more inclined to embrace it. Currently, only 5% of consumers think automated systems are ‘very good’ at customer service, highlighting the need for improvement.

The Human Touch Matters

No matter how smart AI gets, it can’t replace the empathy and understanding that human agents provide. Roughly half of consumers think that speaking to a human is still the fastest way to resolve a customer service issue. In a contact centre, sometimes customers just need to talk to a real person who can listen and respond with genuine care. AI can support human agents by giving them the tools and information they need to deliver better service, but it can’t replace the human element altogether.

Preparing for AI in Contact Centres

So, how do we get more comfortable with AI in contact centres? Here are some steps:

  1. Education: Help both customers and agents understand how AI works and how it can benefit them. The more they know, the less intimidating it becomes. Regular training sessions and workshops can demystify AI and demonstrate its practical applications, easing the transition for everyone involved.
  2. Transparency: Be open about how AI systems make decisions and use data. Clear guidelines can help build trust. Providing detailed explanations of AI processes and maintaining open communication about data usage and security measures can reassure both customers and employees about the integrity of the AI systems.
  3. Ethical AI: Focus on creating AI that is fair, unbiased, and respects privacy. Ethical AI practices are essential for building trust. Establishing ethical standards and ensuring AI algorithms are regularly audited for bias can help create a fair and trustworthy AI environment. This includes being transparent about the sources of data and how it is used to train AI systems.
  4. Collaboration: Use AI to support human agents, not replace them. This teamwork can improve efficiency and job satisfaction. AI can handle routine tasks, allowing human agents to focus on more complex and emotionally nuanced interactions. This balance can enhance the overall service quality and make the workplace more fulfilling for human agents.
  5. Regulation: Implement strong guidelines to ensure AI is used responsibly and protects consumer rights. Developing comprehensive policies that govern AI usage and ensure compliance with data protection regulations can prevent misuse and build consumer confidence. Regular reviews and updates of these regulations can keep pace with technological advancements and changing consumer expectations.

By incorporating these steps, contact centres can create an environment where AI enhances the customer experience without compromising trust or ethical standards. This balanced approach can ensure that AI serves as a valuable tool in improving service delivery while maintaining the human touch that is often crucial in customer interactions.

Final Thoughts

AI has the potential to revolutionise contact centres by making operations smarter and more efficient. But it’s important to address the concerns and make sure everyone is on board. By focusing on education, transparency, ethical practices, and collaboration, we can pave the way for a future where AI and human agents work hand-in-hand to provide outstanding service. After all, the goal is to make contact centres better for both customers and agents.