Will AI mean Contact Center Doom or Boom?

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Will AI mean Contact Center Doom or Boom?

Is AI still predicted to be contact center doom or boom?

It depends on where you’re standing. 

Is AI Killing or Changing Contact Center Jobs?

How about this inflammatory post title: Bots and AI continue their march toward call center obliteration.  Really? Sounds like a sci-fi logline. Industry people are in two camps about this whole AI in customer service thing. 

In this 2019 article from the Irish Times, Mike Corbat, Ceo of Citigroup paints a scary tale of workers replaced by machines. 

The same article quotes Dorothy O’Byrne, the MD of the Customer Contact Management Association (CCMA), who says the industry welcomes AI and is “growing”.  She also says the real difficulty is in recruitment. The inquiries that are too complex for AI require agents with the skill to handle nuanced issues.

Cameron Smith wrote over at Customer Think that AI doesn’t have to become a destroyer of worlds  (referencing the Manhattan Project). Instead, he indicates the tech will free agents to engage in prevention of issues and greater customer relationships. 

Even with some data this is speculative because…

AI is Still New and Evolving 

Yes, AI has been around over 60 years as a concept, and in our sci-fi entertainment. Still artificial intelligence is young and rapidly changing in application.  With any new technology there are going to be unknowns that are hard to plan for. As with any many new products, not all glitches get worked out in the lab. Life tends to be more chaotic than a lab anyway. We can’t fully know how AI will affect the contact center, particularly in the long term, because the tech is still evolving. 

Per Nerys Corfield, Contact Center Specialist at Unify, AI is in an assisting phase, acting as: “…an interactive virtual assistant that collects training tools and helps track down service matter experts. When utilized in this way, productivity levels, competency curves, eSat scores, and EFCR (effective first-contact resolution) are increasing while hold times and transfer times drop.”

The combination of delegating simpler tasks to AI and a savvy consumer base means human customer service agents must be more skilled, not disappear. This Customer Think article supports the idea of AI and human agents working together for the best result. 

Not Everyone is Using it, Yet

AI isn’t everywhere yet. Just like with contact center omnichannel data, there needs to be enough data from use over time to get a real picture of how AI is affecting contact centers overall. 

This Contact Center Pipeline article from 2018 references Deloitte’s Global Human Capital  2017 and 2018 studies that indicate though execs in the industry believe in AI’s importance few at the time of the studies felt they fully understood its application or could implement it. 

Business is Still a Human Thing

However, there is an increased awareness of the importance of people. Initially mentioned in Deloitte’s 2018 report, the 2019 report reiterates the trend toward “social enterprise”: “organizations whose mission combines revenue growth and profit-making with the need to respect and support its environment and stakeholder network.” 

Deloitte’s report goes further to say this shift is causing businesses to “reinvent themselves around a human focus.”  The stats support this with respondents putting societal impact at the top with 34% saying it is the most important metric for judging yearly success. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) (18%), Employee Satisfaction (17%), and Financial Performance (17%) are on par with each other in the report.

Interestingly, most of the organizations polled plan to include more AI and that to maximize this tech requires focus on the human aspect of the jobs that surround it. Though the report was not solely focused on the customer service sector, trends of social enterprise, valuing societal impact and focus on the humanity within work touch all industries. 

It looks like AI is bringing us closer to what makes us human, at least in the short term. It isn’t contact center doom. This opens the door to questions about AI and ethics, but that is a subject for another post. 

What do you think? Do you see a Terminator in the AI future? Is your organization currently using AI technology? Are you preparing to? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.