3 Reasons Contact Centers Should Adopt AI Today

AI is a hot topic of conversation these days, in the workplace, at home and in the contact center. While the mechanics of AI are far too complex for most of us, the possibilities are too rich to ignore and it’s hard to imagine the future unfolding without it. AI may have a long way to go to become foolproof, but it has evolved to a point where the benefits outweigh the risks.

This is the second post in a two-part series that explores AI in the contact center. The first post examined factors that are causing contact center leaders to hesitate to adopt AI. This post counters those factors by presenting three drivers to support getting started now on your AI journey. Each driver will yield a different set of benefits, and collectively, should support a strong business case for contact center leaders.

Better Operational Efficiency

Reducing costs is a universal business driver and is especially important in the contact center where labor is the largest cost factor and a top concern for leaders. Many businesses still view contact centers as cost centers, and there is little appetite to spend money hiring more agents to support rising call volumes. The same applies to paying more to attract better quality hires, with the net result being not enough agents to handle the workload or an overworked group with shaky morale.

This can translate into a decline in customer satisfaction and an increase in costs due to operational inefficiencies, poor agent performance and rising rates of staff turnover. Adopting AI in the contact center may not be a silver bullet for all these challenges, but AI-powered automation will help to reduce costs.

In extreme cases, contact centers would reduce costs by replacing some agents with automated forms of service. That financial benefit, however, will likely be short-lived as AI is far from ready to be a full-on proxy for live agents. Once the limitations of AI become apparent, agents will ultimately need to step in to assist with some of these interactions, negating those hoped-for cost savings.

A more realistic scenario is deploying AI in the contact center to automate operational tasks and processes so agents can focus on customers. Legacy-based contact centers have many manual and repetitive touchpoints that are prime use cases for AI. AI can be highly beneficial here and it would be difficult to achieve the same outcome without AI.

Hard costs could be reduced by requiring fewer administrative resources, but the greater savings come from lowering labor costs. As more forms of service and customer engagement are automated with AI, contact centers will better manage higher traffic volumes without having to add staff.

Better Customer Self-Service

Automating customer experience (CX) by improving self-service is a foundational use case for AI in contact centers. Aside from the challenges of managing rising costs, the low bar set by legacy IVR has made self-service the next biggest pain point for contact center leaders.

Not only does legacy IVR make many customer experiences worse, not better, it also makes the agent’s job harder. Legacy IVR can only address the most basic inquiries, so it adds little value for automation and optimizing the costly use of your agent’s time. Secondly, when legacy forms of self-service end up frustrating customers, agents must manage negative emotions like stress, anger, and hostility.

This is where AI-driven chatbots can benefit the contact center right away. Advances in conversational AI (CAI) have taken today’s chatbots to new levels – they can do far more than handle closed-ended prompts and structured inputs. While it doesn’t take much to improve on legacy IVR, this application of AI can truly transform self-service, and improve CX and the agent experience (AX).

Better Agent Experiences

All contact centers struggle to get the most from their agents. Beyond basic performance, it’s important that agents have characteristics like high morale and empathy. Raising pay alone is not the answer; contact centers also need to modernize their technology. In broad terms, modernizing technology will help contact centers manage rising volumes and get on a level playing field with what customers are using. More specifically, they need capabilities that enable and empower agents to provide meaningful and effective forms of customer engagement.

No solution will have a greater impact than AI in your contact center. What agents really need are AI-powered insights and intelligence in real-time to personalize every customer interaction. Better AX ultimately leads to better CX – this should be your strongest call to action for starting your AI journey today.

Upstream Works provides enhanced AI application integrations that power automation, conversational AI and real-time agent assistance. Learn more here.