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GUEST COMMENT Will AI mean the end for contact centres or simply lead to higher levels of customer care?

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While artificial intelligence (AI) technology can provide efficiency and cost savings, human interaction creates value like no other – the more human your contact centre engagements and interactions are with the customer, the more likely you won’t be killed by the AI trend

Priya Iyer, chairman and chief executive officer at Vee24

AI is seen by many as a threat. Tech moguls like Bill Gates and Elon Musk have cautioned the risk super intelligence and AI to pose for jobs. While the reality of superintelligence may be a few decades away, contact centres are experiencing the now of this technology and asking themselves whether increased automation will also mean an increase in P45s.

ChatBots are being used in every industry vertical—retail, automotive, financial services, even healthcare—to replace humans in contact centres. AI is expected to take over around 38%of US 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 centres should immediately start preparing for doomsday? Or can contact centres 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 a company is big or small, there are several steps a contact centre can take to leverage the AI trend without self-destructing. The following suggestions offer key ideas for contact centre managers to act on immediately:

1. Text Chat will be the first to be replaced with ChatBots. While text chat is very efficient and allows you to service multiple customers at once, most companies have built up a repository of chat transcripts that can be used to train Bots. If you are a contact centre, it is now time for you to move more of your team to video-based live engagement.

2. 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 relationship and trust with your customer. Video chat empowers your contact centre teams to build a trusted advisor relationship with your customer – something ChatBots simply cannot offer.

3. Some 98% percent of customers (according to a study carried out by Accenture) reported that they would likely make another purchase from a company if they had a good experience. Video chat consistently gives you +90% net promoter score (NPS) and CSAT (customer satisfaction) ratings. Text chat has less than 60% and ChatBots even less. Moving your contact centre team to video chat gives you the metrics you need to convince management of the added value.

4. Incorporate co-browse and screen-share technology into your phone based contact centres. This will not only digitise and bring you to the new age but it will also 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.

5. Enable your agents to “visit” the customer’s environment to solve problems or provide recommendations using 2-way video chat. 2-way video chat allows your agent to see your customer, with their permission. The customer can also show the agent the faulty product, a design they like or a piece of furniture they are trying to match, using their webcam.

6. Remember, while happy customers only tell 4-6 people about their customer service experience, an unhappy customer will tell between 9 to 15 people. 2-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 their empathy both verbally and visually.

The more human your contact centre engagements and interactions are with the customer, the more likely you 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 centre 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. Make them more human right now and use all their human attributes to provide the best sales and service online. That’s a service that no AI can replicate.

Photo credit: zapp2photo (Fotolia)

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