When AI goes awry; five contact centre transformation mistakes to avoid
Jonathan Rosenberg, CTO and Head of AI at Five9
Today’s contact centres are awash with technological transformation. From machine learning (ML) to natural language processing (NLP), text-to-speech and intelligent virtual agents (IVAs), the stand-out contact centres have been quick to adopt AI. It enables a new approach to CX (Customer Experience) that blends self-service IVAs with agent-assist tools, where bots provide agents with real-time information, recommendations, and guidance during complex calls.
“AI is an incredible tool that can deliver enormous value in the contact centre, but it needs to be leveraged intentionally.” Too many CX professionals have fallen into a trap when it comes to AI adoption, putting an enthusiasm for technological innovation before understanding its place within the full customer experience journey.
For AI to deliver its promise, it needs to be practical and deliver actual business outcomes that correlate to improved CX. Here we break down the five common pitfalls of AI adoption in the contact centre – and, how to avoid them.
1 – Adopting AI as a just another ‘add-on’
When incorporating AI into the contact centre, many see it as another stand-alone tool that can be bolted onto an existing strategy. Make no mistake, AI will fundamentally transform how your contact centre works, and will dramatically alter the customer experience journey.
For example, in practical terms adding conversational IVAs to your contact centre means adding a new ‘digital workforce’ that can collaborate with your agents and deliver service alongside them. This goes beyond simply deploying new software. AI transforms how work is done and creates the opportunity to re-think the purpose and role of the contact centre.
For example, if AI handles the bulk of transactional calls, can your live agents focus on proactive, outbound service? Do they become sales agents as well as service agents? There can be a huge ripple effect of offloading swaths of work to AI that can free your employees to become an entirely new resource.
2 – AI without outcomes
Don’t just get swept up in the excitement of futuristic technologies. Make sure you adopt AI with a clear vision of what you want to achieve and how it is going to be measured. There are numerous ways AI can deliver impact, but you must ensure you’re measing the right metrics for your business. Whether that is more accurately routing calls, improving call handle time, first-call resolution, call abandonment or completely automating certain tasks, or a mixture of all – make sure your vendor can provide proof points and customer references to back up any ROI claims.
At the same time, remember that AI itself does not create better CX. Ensure that you understand exactly what the customer will experience with the AI and how you are going to measure its impact on their journey. Work with a vendor that can help you understand the impact at every stage.
3 – Neglecting AI upkeep
While AI is helping contact centres achieve amazing things, it isn’t magic and mistakes can happen. AI relies on constant learning and uses models to train and improve outcomes. When deploying AI, consider how the technology handles mistakes.
How is it trained, and who is responsible for training it? Can it work in real-time, and does it provide agents oversight to ensure accuracy? For example, if AI is creating automatic call summaries, human agents should be able to quickly review a summary for accuracy before it’s placed in the CRM. This step ensures accurate information and helps the AI learn and continually improve.
4 – Failing to get your people on board
AI is transformational in all senses, bringing about change for agents and customers alike. There has been a lot of speculation and fearmongering over the impact of AI on employees. It is important to counter this by communicating that AI is not designed to replace human agents, but to assist and free them to engage in more valuable customer interactions.
Walk people through the changes AI creates and bring them in on the process, being clear about why it is being adopted and what it cannot replace. AI provides many benefits, but it can never replace the empathy and kindness that your people have to offer your customers.
Likewise, include your customers in change management. Let them know you’re creating new ways of engaging with them and give them the opportunity to provide feedback. When a call is transferred from IVA or a bot to an agent, ask the customer if the AI was helpful. Acknowledge that AI isn’t perfect and let customers know that you are working to continually improve it.
5 – Leaving questions unanswered
Nearly all vendors in the CX space will tout AI as part and parcel of their cloud contact centre solutions, but AI maturity levels vary enormously. Not all AI is built the same nor offers the same flexibility needed to scale and grow.
For example, which conversational AI technologies does your vendor offer? Is there flexibility to switch between the vendors – Google Dialogflow, IBM Watson, Amazon Lex, etc. – so that you can continuously take advantage of the latest advancements?
Examine how the platform integrates with back-end systems. How easy is it for non-technical users to make simple changes to the applications and what is the agent user experience like?
Enjoy the fruits of transformation
When the human experience drives your AI strategy, and you take a thoughtful approach to implementation, AI enables automation, responsiveness and agility that extends human abilities.
Alongside human intelligence and empathy, AI can help brands to excel at customer experience. While it takes time to make sure it’s done right, the fruits of success are sweet. To stand the best chance of harnessing all of AI’s benefits make sure you choose the partner that will help you establish firm roots, and whose technology will grow alongside you.
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