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Artificial intelligence assisting call center agents with email, chat

Some call center representatives are getting an intelligent assist at Global Response as they email and chat with customers. Artificial intelligence (AI) applications are digesting data and developing chat and email responses. These responses are then suggested for use by the agents, who are known as Brand Specialists.

The applications are examples of how AI is changing the call center industry in part by lifting the burden of repetitive queries from Brand Specialists in chat and email – and enhancing customer service and the customer experience. A few of the AI capabilities available today are discussed here.

The adoption rate of artificial intelligence is rising, with 61 percent of businesses in a 2017 Narrative Science survey reporting they implemented AI – up from 38 percent a year earlier. Forrester Research predicted 70 percent of enterprises will have implemented it in 2018. AI will power 95 percent of customer interactions by 2025 – that includes telephone and live online conversations, according to a Servion Global Solutions forecast.

AI provides responses to chat, email

Artificial Intelligence is the ability of a computer to mimic human cognitive skills such as learning and understanding. It is distinct from chatbots, which are scripted technology programmed to respond in set ways, where AI learns from data and creates its own response.

The AI applications here are “reading” and answering email and chat questions like “Where are you located?” and others of the most repetitive customer questions.

The systems use machine learning, a mathematical process, to digest information from a call center’s database and then provide the best responses to customer questions based on how Brand Specialists have replied in the past. The applications are “trained” over several months and get smarter as they learn from historic and current data.

“It’s something that evolves,” said a Global Response project manager using an application.

The applications generate responses that are reviewed by Brand Specialists, who can click on their computer screens to use AI answers as is or can opt to modify them. Changes required might include adding items such as a specific refund amount from a customer account. Or, changes can help the message sound more like a human rather than a machine.

Human touch still valued

AI applications can also auto populate dispositions for the case, categorizing transactions and saving valuable time for Brand Specialists.

In some instances, AI can also automatically respond to customers directly, without human intervention. Additionally, it can interface with “backend” systems to complete processes such as issuing refunds and creating notations in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

“The way we’re set up, we’re not omitting the human touch – and I don’t know that we ever will,” the project manager said of her particular account. There is always work behind the scenes, she said, adding that use of AI is not always about less FTE’s, but about improving performance, increasing efficiency and driving productivity.

Benefits and challenges

Global Response is already seeing benefits from the AI assist. As the applications process an increasing amount of routine email and chat responses, Brand Specialists can dedicate their time to more complex interactions.

AI has also improved new hire efficiency by providing easy-to-follow templates. The presence of forms on the operational floor decreases training time and error rates. Clients have experienced a boost in the contacts per hour of new Brand Specialists using an application.

Currently, project managers are employing AI to supplement the role of existing Brand Specialists and through increased efficiency, there will be less need for seasonal or event-based scaling up of staff to handle increased volumes.

Installing AI applications does have some challenges: Machine learning or the digesting of data needed to function effectively does take some time. And new processes can sometimes initially slow experienced Brand Specialists as they adjust to a different standard operating procedure. The handle times gain speed, however, as the AI application learns and the specialist learns with it.

AI worth considering

Overall, AI and similar technology make sense for call centers. Call centers have the historic and current data required to provide for machine learning and will benefit from the AI assist to repetitive functions. Investments in AI will free up valuable resources, increase efficiency, improve productivity and CSAT results – and are certainly worth considering.

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