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Editorial

Conversational AI in Contact Centers - Hype versus Reality

Damaso Sanoja

Damaso Sanoja

Provide natural and human-like support to your customers and assist agents with Samespace AI bots.

Today there is a lot of buzz around the use of Conversational AI in contact centers. And no wonder. The use of state-of-the-art technology allows contact centers to live up to customers' expectations, who demand fast and personalised solutions to their problems.

This article will explore both sides of the coin, the enormous benefits of AI-based bots, and what you should really expect from them.

Conversational AI as an invaluable multi-purpose tool

Many companies continue to use chat and voice bots in the traditional way as "self-service" platforms. While that is helpful, the truth is that new Conversational AI technologies allow these virtual assistants to do a lot more.

Both chatbots and AI-based voice bots can be "trained" to understand the context of a conversation and recognise various emotions and levels of intonation used by the customer. This information can be used to take advantage of the situation. For instance, by understanding the customer's intent and weighing his emotions, certain keywords could trigger specific actions like proposing to the customer to buy a particular product or offer him an upsell if he has already done so.

The same principle applies to other activities, such as providing essential technical support or transferring the call to a human for troubleshooting. The possibilities are endless as Conversational AI technologies allow bots to "learn" over time to interpret better the customer (sentiment analysis) and thus ponderate what options are most appropriate for the occasion.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg. Chatbots and voice bots can become invaluable tools to get to know your customers better. Beyond the self-learning capabilities of artificial intelligence, voice and chatbots make it possible to transcribe entire conversations and store them in platforms such as Customer Relationship Management (CRMs), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERPs), and Help Desks for future review and analysis. Moreover, when properly tuned, they can support human staff by providing historical information and recommendations based on metrics and sentiment analysis.

While it is true that bots are getting a lot of attention because of how AI is powering the sales industry, many may overlook one of their greatest potentials. The high level of integration between departments and the real-time assistance that bots offer to agents are aspects that can boost customer satisfaction to unprecedented levels. This fascinating topic is what we will discuss next.

Taking customer experience to new levels

In the previous section, we discussed some of the most visible advantages of conversational bots. Since the increase in sales or the decrease in claims is measurable, they are simple to understand. But what about the intangible benefits offered by digital assistants?

Today, there is a lot of talk about "delivering the best possible customer experience" as a mechanism for customer retention and increased brand loyalty. This is perhaps one of the aspects where AI bots can be of most help.

Unlike traditional chatbots, AI-based bots can be customised to optimise both direct interactions between service agents and customers and automated interactions between the customer and the digital assistant. This is made possible by what is known as Conversational Service Automation (CSA).

In simple terms, CSA combines a range of technologies such as customer history, notes/observations of last interactions, sentiment analysis, Conversational AI, and Conversational Robotic Automation (RPA) to make voice and chatbots "more human".

In practice, this allows customers to perform more transactions without the need for a human service agent. Moreover, even in cases where such interaction is necessary, bots can provide the agent with "AI coaching" by offering all kinds of relevant information to them as the conversation progresses.

This type of automation allows call centers to significantly decrease the time per call and handle more calls simultaneously. More importantly, these calls provide "personalised" attention to each customer as both the AI bot and the agent know the customer's expectations based on their intonation and transaction history.

The advances in the field of Conversational AI are undoubtedly extraordinary and numerous. If you are as passionate about this topic as our team at Samespace then we invite you to read What does the Contact Center of the future look like? There we explore the technologies that bring science fiction closer and closer to reality. All in all, it's a good idea to be clear about what to expect from AI-based bots today; that is why we'll cover that topic next.

AI-driven bots, what to (really) expect from them.

Up to this point, we have seen how Conversational AI can bring a good deal of benefits to both sales and customer service. However, does this mean that digital assistants can completely replace service agents? The answer is no, or at least not in the near future. While it is clear that the ultimate goal is to make AI bots self-sufficient, arguably, we are still halfway there. Advances in fields such as Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Understanding (NLU), and Natural Language Processing (NLP) bring us closer to that reality every day. However, it is crucial to have a realistic expectation of what to expect from the powerful conversational bots we have today.

On the one hand, we have the aspects mentioned in the previous point. AI bots can lessen the need for a human operator during peak hours, enable world-class support that is tailored to customer needs 24/7, and help improve the customer experience. We could also mention the possibility of creating more secure self-service solutions, for example, an automated service where the customer can change their password without human interaction involved. All this and more is within the realm of what is possible with the technology we currently have. Sadly, these advances have also sparked the general public's imagination about what these useful automation tools are capable of doing.

Even though chat and voice bots can detect intonation changes and thus better understand the context in which a conversation is taking place, this is far from doing what is expected of them 100% of the time. For instance, conversational bots are not prepared for solving complex problems or bringing insights that only a human agent can provide. Granted, they can assist the agent in many ways, but that's not the same as giving the customer a suitable solution. The cognitive process of establishing which is the satisfactory solution to a given situation is still in the agent's hands. In other words, advances in AI and CSA allow bots to learn in an accelerated way how to solve and offer solutions to common problems. Still, they cannot discern beyond the obvious.

Final thoughts

Conversational AI-based bots represent a massive advance over the traditional rule-based bots. The AI bots that we have today are more in line with the demands of today's consumers, who expect fast and efficient responses to their requirements. The benefits offered by Conversational Service Automation allows enhancing both sales and the customer experience. Nevertheless, it's essential to understand that despite the tremendous progress in this field, chat and voice bots are not a substitute for human agents.

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