We can’t publish a series on trends without including artificial intelligence (AI). In our five-part series on hot topics that are impacting contact centers, we asked industry thought leaders for their insights on why these topics are worth exploring, how they will affect contact center operations, what actions leaders can take to prepare their centers, staff and company, and what to expect in the near future. The first two posts focused on employee engagement and IoT-enabled service strategies.
In this third post, we turned to contact center industry expert Bob Furniss for his thoughts on AI in the contact center. Bob is VP of the Global Service Cloud Practice at Bluewolf, an IBM Company, and the 2017 recipient of ICMI’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
WHY AI IS A HOT TOPIC RIGHT NOW:
We have all used artificial intelligence available through Siri and Alexa to ask questions about where to eat dinner or to find the age of an entertainer in a movie we’re watching. Our daily use of AI sets the expectation for how it will change the landscape of knowledge in the contact center. For years we have attempted to stack-rank knowledge articles based on tags—hoping that the agent can locate the article, read it and find the answer. AI will change that paradigm by, not only reading the content of the article, but by consuming multiple articles, understanding the intent and pushing back the exact answer in natural language to the agent (and the customer via self-service).
HOW IT’S AFFECTING CONTACT CENTERS:
Contact centers must now rethink how they see knowledge. Knowledge will no longer be static in the self-service environment. But chatbots will allow callers to get solutions in real-time—and, in some cases, without human intervention. Using technology like IBM’s Watson Conversation, Watson Discovery Services and Salesforce’s Einstein services, customers will be able to first seek an answer via live conversation with AI. If the AI bot believes the conversation is too complex, the entire conversation can be routed to the best live agent to support the question. This is another example of how technology is handling easier issues, while leaving complex issues to be handled with human intervention.
WHAT ACTIONS CC LEADERS NEED TO TAKE NOW:
Stay connected to what is being written about the technology. Attend webinars and conference sessions that focus on AI. (I will be presenting a session in September at ICMI’s Contact Center Demo in Las Vegas on “The Future Frontline: How AI, Cognitive and Chatbots Will Change Contact Centers Forever!”)
WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE NEXT 12-24 MONTHS:
As we look at the future of AI in the contact center, chatbots are hot—and seem to be everywhere! While they are dependent on a host of interconnected and emerging technologies, their value is just beginning to be confirmed. Many still rely on machine learning and require massive amounts of data to be effective. The game-changer is their ability to be conversational. Natural Language Processing (NLP) continues to improve and many bots can now have conversations in which customers cannot tell they are talking with a bot. Over the next 12 to 24 months, most companies will ride the wave of AI by implementing bots as a solution across digital channels (e.g., chat, text, facebook messaging, etc.).