Change is hard and constant, especially if you work in customer operations. It’s not just your processes that are regularly updated, it’s determining which resources are actioning them, on which shifts (if they are human, that is) and through which customer contact channel. It’s no wonder the future of the Contact Center is a moving target. A sound contact strategy and a strong technology strategy are more important than ever.
The continued rise of self service, especially emerging capabilities like generative text-based voice and chatbots, and traditional channels like websites and apps are changing the ways we support customers. Traditional resources (the human kind) are diversifying where and how they can work with your brand also. By 2025, up to one in five of the customer operations staff in your Contact Centers may not even be employed by you and be gig workers instead. And by 2030, one in every 10 customer interactions will be completed with conversational AI (up from one in 50 in 2023). It’s not difficult to see the big shifts in customer service coming down the pike, and brands will have to continually adapt.
Needless to say, having so many options to resolve even the most common customer queries – including both human and technical resources – can be daunting. To better understand how to make real change, enterprises must include four levers in their contact strategy: the customer, the agent, technology and channels.
The possibilities of AI-powered technology seem endless: there is rapid progress in automation, generative AI, conversational AI and speech analytics. The transformation of the Contact Center is now more achievable than ever. But what will this look like, and how will it benefit both the customer and, more importantly than ever, your employees?
Let’s break it down:
1. Automation in the Contact Center
AI will likely first be put to use assisting agents with repetitive, manual tasks such as data entry and capturing intents/actions. This will help speed up resolution and allow the collection of more accurate information. While it may be possible to replace a portion of the workforce with AI and reduce the costs of running a business, the benefits of automation should be used to provide a better experience for the agent, not make them work harder by reducing heads. We will see a rise in the use of robotic process automation (RPA) in executing certain business processes. RPA is already being used in many back-office functions, such as HR and Finance, and will likely be implemented into the Contact Center, helping streamline processes and reduce errors further, allowing agents to concentrate on the customer and not their systems.
2. Generative AI in the Contact Center
AI software will be infused with the ability to “learn” from existing knowledge and data, enabling true “assistance” supporting customers either in the app, on the website or via a supportive colleague that can help you find answers quicker. It will allow chatbots to have more advanced conversations with customers and help speed up the process and provide a better customer experience. Although still in the hype phase now, with the world going mad over ChatGPT, generative AI will have business benefits and use cases that will explode over the next 24 months, and customer engagement will be one area that benefits significantly.
3. Conversational AI in the Contact Center
The most advanced AI software is expected to be able to have a natural conversation with customers, picking up on keywords and providing answers to specific questions. This will be more advanced than the conversational AI we have seen so far, with companies like Open AI and Bloom opening up their LLM (large language models) and Amazon’s and Google’s smart speakers that interact with people in a more human-like way. This combination of AI will be able to understand natural language and answer questions that are more complex than “what is the weather like today?” or “what time is my next meeting?” The next iteration of conversational AI will be able to handle more complex queries in the Contact Center and eventually enable smart speakers to be smart and chatbots to be more accessible than ever.
4. Conversational Intelligence in the Contact Center
We can also expect to see improvements in speech analytics, an AI technology that analyzes conversations between customers and agents. This will record and analyze agent conversations, highlighting areas for improvement and providing feedback for the agents. It will also provide product feedback for marketing and report broken processes that create a need for the contact in the first place. Many current technologies still rely heavily on humans to complete analysis, but as AI continues to improve, it will also start to reduce the burden on quality and process improvement teams. It will soon provide 100% coverage on topics like intent recognition, agent performance and other interesting data points that can be captured in the millions of conversations a brand has with its customers that we miss out on at present.
How AI-Powered Technology Will Change the Contact Center
The Contact Center never stands still, but it’s likely to be on overdrive in the next few years as we leverage advances in AI technology. Processes, chatbots and human agents will all be smarter, and customer operations will be the winner. We’ve spent decades fine-tuning the experience we deliver to customers, but the next few years will bring fundamental shifts. It’s time for change, and AI is now here to help.