AI in call centers isn’t new, but it may be the future of operating call centers worldwide.

AI technology got a not-so-great introduction to the modern world in the 1968 movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey. You don’t need to know the movie to know the famous line, “I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that,” spoken by HAL, the malevolent supercomputer aboard a spacecraft. Then there were movies like 1983’s War Games, and Resident Evil in 2002. We could even go backward to 1927 when the silent film Metropolis introduced us to possibly the first cinematic evil robot. Understandably, some people have been suspicious of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, especially as concerns mounted that AI might take jobs away from people. The opposite has proven to be true. AI in call centers allows for a better customer experience while also making employees more productive and opening them up to receive more calls that need detailed assistance instead of calls that only need general information.

That doesn’t mean that everyone has embraced AI yet. Customers are often frustrated by AI in call centers because they feel all of the automation gives them the run-around. But advances in AI have started to change that as customers can get more information out of AI response systems and spend less time looking for it.

The pandemic also played a role in the increased use of AI in call centers, and the results were largely positive. Employees could still do their work remotely without being bogged down by the flurry of simple inquiries that came through, and customers got the information that they needed without having to sit on hold forever.

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AI in call centers

What does the future of AI in call centers hold? Here are 4 possibilities

1. Conversational AI

One of the brightest spots for AI in call centers has been improved conversational AI, which is simply a call center’s ability to fully or partially automate conversations on messaging channels. During the pandemic, this technology empowered businesses to engage with customers even as physical distance made such conversations more difficult. The expectation is that this AI-driven technology will drive revenue as it provides more tailored product recommendations and improves customization of AI conversations. This is huge for call centers, which have more often than not been bogged down with trying to match customers to products and solutions while also fielding more calls that, in theory, could be handled by AI solutions.

In short, conversational AI can help employees cut down on repetitive tasks and improve the customer experience by allowing employees to focus on customers who need more complicated solutions to their problems.

2. Improvements in customer experiences

Some AI-driven technology has, historically, driven customers nuts. It’s gotten to the point where customers don’t want to sort through an automated menu, so they keep looking for ways to get in touch with an agent rather than giving the AI an opportunity to solve problems for them.

That’s changing quickly as AI in call centers becomes more intelligent and more efficient. Some AI can now even predict a customer’s stress levels on a call and respond accordingly to help diffuse any frustrations that may be mounting during the automated experience. Even if the call still reaches an agent, these stress indicators can help those call center agents respond accordingly from the start of the call, knowing that they’re dealing with someone who doesn’t feel that they’ve had a great experience.

The employee experience has changed as well, which directly impacts the customer experience. Engaged employees will better serve their customers, have more solutions on hand, and generally become more productive as menial tasks are handled by AI technology. This means that employees can spend more time focusing on what really matters: the customer.

3. Performance metrics and benchmarks

Another significant benefit of AI in call centers is that it allows business managers to analyze performance metrics and benchmarks to determine what’s working and what isn’t. They can easily see a measurement of satisfied customers and compare it against the AI interactions they had and whether those AI interactions were enough to solve a customer’s problems. This is especially true of using chatbots, which consumers seem to increasingly prefer. Performance metrics are just another way businesses can help route calls to the right places and ensure that customers receive the level of care and attention that their particular issues require.

4. Predictive behavioral routing

Perhaps one of the most sophisticated and valuable elements of AI in call centers is something called predictive behavioral routing (PBR). PBR first came about in 2014 and is designed to connect consumers with agents most equipped to handle certain personality types. The technology listens to a customer’s words and tone. It creates a customer profile, which then allows it to route the call to a specific agent rather than a random one, which ultimately leads to a better customer experience. The more times PBR is used, the more customer profiles it’s able to create, thus allowing businesses to match customer profiles with the right employee. This creates positive, natural, and tailored interactions to a customer’s personality, so they’re more likely to feel helped. PBR understands things about employees, too, such as the average time to respond to a ticket and knowledge about a customer issue. In short, PBR can create a valuable snapshot of a customer, making it easier for call center agents to help in ways that a customer finds useful and ultimately should make an employee’s job simpler.

If the pandemic of 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we can do much of our work remotely, but not without some automated help. AI technology helps ensure that call centers can still handle the volume of customer calls without losing the quality of those calls or the number of happy customers a business expects to have. Moving into the future, it will be clear precisely how valuable AI technology is for call centers. The technology allows for a more seamless customer experience, especially for those with less complex issues that can be more immediately addressed, while also improving the customer experience for those who need agent assistance to meet their needs.

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