Conversational AI Is Growing. What’s Next for Contact Centers?

The human voice is sensitive, remorseful, understanding and unique. But conversational voice AI is catching up — because contact centers are paying.

It’s true. Artificial intelligence is taking over jobs once held by human agents.

In contact centers, where rows of agents are tasked with providing answers and support to customers, AI-enabled technologies like conversational AI can perform the same function.

And it’s growing. In a new report, Gartner predicts that contact centers will spend nearly $2 million this year on improving conversational AI — and that investment is expected to pay off — with an estimated $80 billion reduction in labor costs within of four years.

But human workers need not worry. While many current tasks can be relegated to AI – there is still work to be done – and AI could enrich and improve the work of contact centers rather than replace them.

Robots are not completely taking over contact centers

Sourabh Gupta, CEO of voice AI platform, says the biggest myth about AI is that it’s here to replace humans.

“AI-powered solutions are designed to reduce the workload of customer service agents and augment their work, rather than automating and completely taking over their work,” he said. “AI is more likely to take over certain tasks and activities currently performed by humans, making processes simpler and more efficient, freeing humans from routine cognitive tasks and opening up new ways to enrich their work. The most likely outcome of using AI will be collaboration between digital agents and humans.”

According to Gupta, AI investment is a “long game”. While he (of course) advocates that the return on investment far outweighs the cost, Gupta said there “can be a hefty price to pay upfront.” “It’s important to work with vendors that have agile delivery models and prioritize clear business goals,” he added.

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While Conversation clearly offers a wealth of benefits, it is still in its youth stage with plenty of room for growth and maturity. Gartner researchers expect “measured adoption” over the next two years.

“Implementing conversational AI requires expensive professional resources in areas such as data analysis, knowledge graphs, and natural language understanding,” said Gartner VP Analyst Daniel O’Connell. “Once built, the Conversational AI capabilities must be continuously supported, updated and maintained, which leads to additional costs.”

Related Article: Can Conversational AI Improve Online Retail Experience?

The Impact of AI on Contact Centers

As a central point of contact for questions, complaints and service, contact centers are a crucial part of good CX.

CMSWire recently reported that, according to a PWC survey, nearly 80% of American consumers say speed, convenience/ease of use, expert support, and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive customer experience.

Of the approximately 17 million contact centers worldwide, O’Connell said, many are understaffed while at the same time facing pressure to reduce labor costs — which can account for up to 95% of their spend.

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