Artificial Intelligence and the Contact Center
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most exciting technological innovations of the modern age. AI and its derivative technologies, including machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) are being used to solve a number of problems, by offering new ways to automate tasks, create new efficiencies, generate rich insights, and augment the performance of employees to empower them to achieve more.
In the contact center, AI is playing a key role in advancing agent productivity and efficiency, and most importantly it’s driving better customer experiences. According to IDC, by 2025, AI-powered enterprises will be able to achieve Net Promoter Scores that are 1.5 times higher than those of their competitors.
Intense competition and rising customer expectations are challenging contact centers of all sizes and industries to be more creative in providing seamless, convenient, and differentiated experiences for their customers. This can be accomplished by using AI-based technologies.
How AI Improves Customer Experiences
Consumers are looking for fast, easy, and personal service that’s available 24/7. As customer experience scores have plateaued, some contact centers are struggling with low CSAT and NPS, high agent turnover, and process inefficiencies. Our global survey revealed that 71% of contact center leaders say that too many manual processes and a lack of automation is a significant problem, hurting productivity and business outcomes. These challenges can be addressed with the application of artificial intelligence.
As an example, one of our customers recently deployed our Rapid Response Virtual Agent Program to provide new self-service options over the phone and via chat on their website. Using an AI-driven call deflection strategy, over 37,000 interactions were processed in the first weekend of the deployment. This enabled them to extend their support coverage hours, significantly reduce the number of calls to their call center, and on the calls that were answered, it helped them be more responsive and focused with their customers. This aligns with what our global survey indicated; when chatbots are deployed, 70% of contact centers experience a reduction in call volumes to human agents.
Cisco Webex Contact Center AI Solutions
Cisco has taken a “best of breed” approach to how we deliver AI solutions. We have developed a suite of AI capabilities that are powered by our own in-house AI, as well as partnering with Google Cloud to leverage their Cloud Contact Center AI capabilities. This approach allows us to provide our customers with access to bleeding-edge AI capabilities developed by Cisco or our partners. We’re infusing AI capabilities across the Cisco Contact Center portfolio, making AI innovation available to all our customers, whether they are on our Webex Contact Center cloud platforms or Cisco on-premises solutions. Cisco is Identified as a Leader in Aragon’s Globe for Intelligent Contact Center 2020
A key focus area for many of our customers is the well-being and productivity of their agents. Especially now that the majority of agents globally are working from home, it’s important that they have all the necessary tools to do their jobs effectively while managing work/life balance and other dynamics that come with a new work environment.
Our idea is to turn all agents into “super agents” by surrounding them with AI-driven automation and context that gives them fast access to information and answers, allowing them to provide timely, accurate, and more personalized care. An advantage of AI is that it augments skilled people and processes allowing them to work more efficiently and effectively, and focuses on the human-to-human element.
Here are some highlights of the exciting capabilities our Webex Contact Center AI portfolio offers:
Virtual Agent-Voice: Provides callers with a natural conversational self-service experience over the phone, automates tasks, and provides customers 24/7 access to your business while relieving agents of simple, transactional tasks.
Virtual Agent-Chat: Intuitive online chatbot experience for less complex self-service inquiries. This reduces the number of inquiries to the call center, leading to improved agent productivity and provides fast and convenient service for customers.
Agent Answers: Empowers agents with context-driven suggestions and guidance in real-time as they are talking and/or chatting with a customer. This minimizes agent research time and improves First Contact Resolution.
Agent Call Transcription: Provides agents with a call transcript and summary, minimizing post-call wrap-up time, improving the accuracy of transaction and follow-up, along with overall agent efficiency.
AI APIs: In addition, we’re introducing a set of APIs for AI that enable our customers to develop and customize their own AI features to meet their unique business needs. We’re currently conducting field trials on APIs for Speech to Text, which will allow speech transcription and other features like Named Entity Recognition, to facilitate notetaking and transcript analysis. Other upcoming APIs include Text to Speech and APIs for agent assistance and knowledge bases.
Human Expertise is Still Needed
As much as AI brings advantages to business, the human element is still critical to business success. The right balance of AI and people can only be achieved when working together in a symbiotic relationship. As contact centers take advantage of automation, it’s essential that customers can still reach a person when one is needed. When self-service cannot totally address the customer’s needs, the contact center is the natural point of hand-off. With the help of AI, the contact center becomes the exception management center, and exceptions are often the make-or-break moments in a customer relationship.