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Wanted: A robot with customer service experience

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In today’s always-connected world, social-media-savvy, mobile consumers increasingly associate a brand with the digital experience that the brand offers them.

By Peter Quinlan

In today’s always-connected world, social-media-savvy, mobile consumers increasingly associate a brand with the digital experience that the brand offers them. Adopting an omni-channel customer experience strategy is only the first step towards meeting digital consumers’ expectations. Organisations need to rethink the set-up of their contact centres from the ground up, and—with the cloud as the foundation—build new artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities into their customer experience management strategy. But does the rise of the bots spell the end of human-to-human interaction in contact centres of the future?

Contact centres today are moving away from being traditional call centres to becoming fully-fledged customer experience management centres. Enterprises across sectors are looking for ways to rethink the customer experience they offer in contact centres as part of their organisation-wide digital transformation programmes. The aim? To deliver enhanced customer experiences, anytime, anywhere and on any channel, to ultimately improve loyalty, reduce churn, increase revenue, and drive profitability by boosting efficiencies. Thanks to advancements in big data analytics, AI and natural language processing (NLP) are improving the call centre experience—which is often a cause of complaint for customers. Unlike a human, an AI can review thousands of hours of recorded conversations or live conversations in real-time, and in moments see what excites and annoys callers.

This analysis can then be used by customer service agents to improve customer service in all kinds of ways, such as giving upset customers the attention they need before it is too late, or predicting and addressing issues that upset them in the first place. This puts organisations in a much better position to get valuable insights on their customers. NLP is redefining the digital contact centre experience through bots that have the ability to authenticate and serve, and now even understand more unstructured data in the form of conversational-style speech. Speech bots also act as an intermediary channel for the AI back-end, and in return, the AI improves the accuracy and spontaneity of the response by the bot. Bots are not only for fielding phone calls: Increasingly, we are starting to see them leveraged in omni-channel contact centres, where customers can effectively and seamlessly be served through video, chat, content sharing, co-browsing and other tools.

As the digital economy continues to gather pace, technology innovation is accelerating too fast for many enterprises and even countries to keep up. Many individuals who have been doing low-skilled jobs in different industries, including contact centres, will find themselves similarly challenged. This will result in job losses for some individuals and job creation in others, as work migrates to where the most capable—not necessarily the lowest cost—workforce can be found. So, it is inevitable that the growing adoption of AI-enabled tools in contacts centres will mean that a lot of mundane tasks previously done by humans will be automated. However, it also means that other, more valuable jobs will be created. Many so-called ‘routine’ contact centre tasks can already be managed by AI systems, but it remains to be seen how many human jobs will be lost. Importantly, while it will be a while before we know exactly what type of jobs remain, now is the time for organisations to think about how they can ensure that their workers are ready to play their own central role in an AI-enabled contact centre, harnessing the new data and insights at their fingertips.

In today’s crowded, competitive market, superior customer experience management is a critical growth driver. However, deploying and managing these AI-enabled, next-generation digital contact centres that serve a global audience can be costly and complex – especially with disparate technologies involving multiple vendors. The key is to build a customer experience strategy based on the cloud, that can be deployed on-demand, virtually anywhere in the world. This ensures minimum capex investment and maximum scalability while ensuring a consistent, seamless service, across existing and new markets. The industry is only starting to scratch the surface of how AI systems and other technology innovations can be used to re-design an improved customer experience. And, as the humans vs. machines battle intensifies, there are bound to be both winners and losers. The winners will be the individuals, organisations and countries that are most aggressively looking at how they can leverage the latest digital technologies for a competitive advantage.

The writer is vice president, UCC, and Mobility, Tata Communications

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