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AI – coming soon to a mid-market contact centre near you - Formation - Creative Technology Solutions
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AI – coming soon to a mid-market contact centre near you

Everyone is excited about artificial intelligence. But right now its benefits are seen only by the very largest organisations. The good news is that off-the-shelf tools are coming…

In the 1984 film The Terminator, James Cameron imagined a world in which intelligent machines ruled the world. They were so powerful, they could even send a cyborg back in time to murder the mother of a future rebel leader.

35 years later, intelligent machines are real. Are they time travelling assassins? Not that we know of. But they are helping us to get better car insurance.

What a relief. After all, fewer people are likely to die when the machine’s goal is competitive premiums rather than dominion over the human race.

For those of us involved in the contact centre industry, AI is an extremely exciting proposition. In fact, it’s already having an impact at the top end of the market.

Avaya, for example, has been pushing hard to co-opt AI into its own solutions. There’s an excellent demonstration of what it can offer in this video for UC Today.

Demos like these show how these technologies could radically transform the contact centre – especially as customers graduate from phone calls to getting in touch by chatbot and voice assistants (both of which can be handled by machines, rather than human advisors).

While the tech behind AI is highly complex, its benefits are straightforward. The tech will help agents better understand…

Who the customer is:  Every caller hates having to repeat personal details on multiple occasions. AI will deduce a customer’s identity by analysing and cross-referencing factors such as voice, device, location and so on. It will do all of this in the background.

What the customer wants: As above, the AI will understand from natural conversation the nature of the customer query. Such a process would replace the IVR process with all of its rigid rules and pre-defined outcomes. No more ‘Press 1 for sales’.

How the customer feels:  AI tools will use sentiment analysis to read documents or even listen to calls to detect anger and other human emotions. This way, the system can push a customer towards the agent with the right skills to resolve the issue quickly.

How the customer can help herself: Most customers value self-service. An AI that can ‘talk’ or ‘text’ using natural language will be able to resolve issues without passing them on to a human agent.

But, of course, AI does more than help customers. It also helps advisors.

AI systems can route callers to agents best able to assist them. This will speed up interactions and make them more pleasurable all round. And AI can also monitor stress levels in agents, and make helpful suggestions – all while the call is in progress.

Finally, there will be benefits to the organisation as a whole. AI tools can analyse call sessions and then discover insights that can improve performance or save money.

It can also improve record keeping. AI-powered transcription tools will generate logs of every customer interaction, make these documents context-aware, and enhance them with timestamps.

As mentioned earlier, Avaya is already rolling out some of these features.

It has teamed up with AI specialist partners such as Afiniti to re-think practices such as ‘First In, First Out’. Here, the technology routes callers to the best qualified advisor rather than simply the next available one.

Another Avaya initiative is Experience Portal. This is a software-only solution that runs on off-the-shelf hardware to deliver a common set of tools and interfaces. Agents can use it to centrally manage all self-service and IVR applications.

While AI might seem like a ‘top end’ tech for now, there’s little doubt that it will soon filter down to the mid-market.

This is because, like so many advanced technologies before it, AI is becoming commoditised.

Amazon is playing a key role here. Hardly surprising, given the company’s status as a supplier of off-the-shelf cloud services.

Today, Amazon makes huge revenues from its Amazon Web Services division, which rents out server space to third parties. It turns over $7.7 billion a quarter and accounts for 13 per cent of total sales at the company.

AWS has undoubtedly accelerated tech innovation in many sectors. It has enabled startups to launch without having to invest crippling sums to buy and run their own servers.

Now, Amazon is enhancing AWS with off-the-shelf AI products such as:

Amazon Comprehend: An AI tool for teasing out the sentiment in written text. It can scan for factual entities such as people, places, brands, products or other proper nouns. But it will also analyse the text for emotional content.

Amazon Translate: which can translate text into another language in real time.

Amazon Transcribe: which will take audio files in popular formats and turn them into text.

It’s easy to see how services like these will impact the mid-market contact centre. With ‘Translate’, for example, agents might be able to read chat logs or even carry out real-time conversations with customers in different languages.

And end to skill-based routing for languages? Maybe.

At Formation, we’re excited to see how AI will shape the future of the mid-market contact centre. When we have more insights to share, ‘we’ll be back’.

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