“Artificial Intelligence is going to change the world more than anything in the history of mankind, more than electricity.” - AI oracle and venture capitalist, Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, 2018.
It’s hard to fathom a technology that could have a bigger impact on our lives than electricity. And yet, as hard as it is to conceptualise, Lee’s prediction is already playing out today. According to Gartner, the number of businesses adopting AI grew by 270% in four years.
Research commissioned by SecureCo found 55% of CX decision-makers in Australia have rated AI and automation as a priority in their CX transformation in their efforts to drive process efficiency and reduce operational costs. There are lots of abstract conversations being had about AI and its potential, but it can be genuinely hard to conceptualise how these new technologies play out in the real world.
In contact centres, we’re now at a point where natural language generation has come so far that many would struggle to tell the difference between a speech engine generated voice and a human one. Soon, the traditional Voice Response Systems (IVRs) that ask you to select between different options - think: ‘press 1 to speak with home loan services’ - will disappear to make way for IVAs that can hold something closer to a conversation.
Remember that IVA demo from Google CEO Sundar Pichai, where he made a haircut appointment onstage via a virtual assistant? Whilst it might have seemed like a gimmick at the time, IVAs are now playing a critical role in the level of CX we’ve all come to expect. IVA’s are capable of understanding written and spoken queries, verifying your identity, and managing the resolution of enquiries, and if not, finding the best person in an organisation you should talk to. In addition, IVAs are always available, can scale up and down in seconds, offer perfect consistency of experience, enable data tracing and more.
Mining for conversational gold
Conversational insights gathered through AI will revolutionise CX. Conversations with customers contain essential information for organisations to adjust their products, services and overall business operations to fit ever-evolving customer needs. IVAs can capture each customer's conversation and accurately document it for enhancing future interactions or use speech analytics technology to analyse sentiment during the calls or to spot specific keywords. When done right, through ethical AI practices, conversational insights are a powerful tool to delight customers.
Imagine being capable of detecting - in real-time - when a customer or staff member is distressed so you can provide support to customers and staff where needed, or when a customer is likely to churn depending on their tone of voice over the last couple of interactions they’ve had with your brand. The same can be done for detecting gratitude or joy to help determine your overall customer satisfaction levels. Conversational insights can also support compliance by detecting and redacting personal information in real-time.
Enhancing human interactions
What if I just want to talk to a real person? You will be interested to know that the same Kai-Fu Lee also stated that “artificial intelligence, with all its capabilities, will never be capable of creativity or empathy”.
A study conducted by PwC found 59% of consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of CX. Showing empathy and compassion need to remain a priority for brands, and if done well, AI should enhance the human connections, rather than hinder them.
Whilst AI and automation are pivotal to transforming CX, this doesn’t mean the ‘human touch’ can be left behind completely. When it comes to complex enquiries, technology is about augmenting the role of humans to enhance interactions, not replacing them entirely. We’re now seeing IVAs that sit alongside real agents to help “augment humans” by providing real-time information such as sentiment analysis and product information through live customer conversations. This ensures the customer representative can focus on bringing empathy, personalisation and satisfaction to every interaction.
Whilst AI has come a long way in only a short period of time, we’re still yet to see even a fraction of its potential in shaping the world as we know it. The same can be said for AI’s impact on transforming the customer experience. When done right, AI can ensure that convenience and cost-cutting are balanced with building customer connections and satisfaction. It’s a win-win in an age where we’re constantly under pressure to achieve more, with less.
To find out more, read our latest whitepaper here.
This blog has been adapted from an opinion piece that originally appeared in Technology Decisions.