How AI is revolutionising Call Centres

How AI is revolutionising Call Centres

We’ve all had bad experiences using a call centre. Whether it is waiting on the phone, being faced with multiple menu options (none of which seem to be the one we want), or finally getting through to a real person who is unable to help.

What we really desire is an empathetic, knowledgeable person who will listen and help us solve our query or problem.

What we don’t want is to be faced with an automated, faceless machine.

So the prospect of artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning leaves many people with a feeling of dread. We want more humans, less machines!

In fact, AI is already enhancing customer experience and the revolution has only just started. The potential of AI means the fear and loathing of call centres will be a thing of the past – and the operators will no longer spend the day being berated by unhappy callers.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

AI is the simulation of human intelligence in machines. An example of AI is machine learning, which refers to computer programs that can automatically learn from and adapt to new data without being assisted by humans.

A great example is chess. A computer can be programmed to learn how the pieces move and to calculate the multitude of possible options. In 1950, six years before the term ‘artificial intelligence’ was first used, scientist Claude Shannon published a paper “Programming a Computer for Playing Chess”.

Learning the moves is one thing, but learning how to play is another matter. Yet that is exactly what happened. Through machine learning, computers establish the most effective moves – i.e. they develop a match winning strategy.

In 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue computer beat the world chess champion Gary Kasparov. The machine had learnt how to play so well that it beat the best human on earth.

Why Call Centres needed AI

Automation has long been a feature of call centres. But the customer experience has lagged way behind the technology.

One tool we have all encountered is Interactive Voice Response (IVR), where a voice recording offers multiple choice options to the caller – e.g. Press 1 for Sales, Press 2 for Support etc.

It worked to a degree. If you wanted to chase an invoice, then pressing 4 for Accounts was quicker than waiting for a human to answer the main switchboard. But it could be frustrating and so many poorly designed systems would send the caller round in never-ending circles.

Everyone loves a shortcut, but IVR often made the experience even longer. What was needed was technology where the huge volumes of calls could be analysed and refined for the benefit of the caller. If there is one thing a call centre has in abundance it is data and, as a result, call centres were always ripe for disruption from AI.

How AI is revolutionising call centres

To ensure a user’s experience of calling a contact centre is a painless and productive as possible, the key is ensuring the nature of the problem or query is established as quickly as possible.

If the query can quickly be solved without human interaction, the user is more than happy. If there is human interaction, then the agent should be armed with all necessary information to help the customer, as quickly as possible.

In both cases, these are basic and effective uses of AI. A few simple questions can prompt the call centre technology to collect and implement the required information.

This is possible through huge advances in speech understanding using Natural Language Processing (NLP).

NLP makes sense of human language, adding layers of context and learned nuances. The English language is hugely complicated with words that sound the same, but mean different things and quirky phrases that drastically alter how words are interpreted. AI has learned how to understand spoken English, with all its idiosyncrasies, slang and regional accents.

AI also can pick up stress points, looking out for phrases such as “I’m canceling my account.”

And AI goes even further. It can interpret emotion as well as language.

Known as Sentiment Analysis, AI has learned to pick up signals that reveal the mood of the caller.

If the software detects anger or frustration, it can alert operators, who are then prepared for the caller. The operator will already have on hand the tools to defuse the call such as discounts or perks.

By forewarning the operators, they are ready for the disgruntled caller. It is very often the case that where a problem is effectively solved, the complainant becomes a loyal customer.

The right agent for the job

Callers have different personalities and temperaments, and so do agents.

A study by Harvard Business School found that agents or reps fit into distinct personality types. The report declared: “We found that all reps fall into one of seven profiles we derived from the data: Accommodators, Competitors, Controllers, Empathisers, Hard Workers, Innovators, and Rocks”.

If agents have different profiles, then so do customers. And if AI can identify the mood of a caller, then the next obvious step is to ensure their query is dealt with by an agent with the most compatible personality type. No more angry customers locking horns with irate call agents!

It’s all in the stats

Identifying the mood and needs of a caller is one of the huge advances of AI, but there is so much more. The interpretation of call data can be hugely valuable to an organisation. It can identify which strategies work, where the bottlenecks are, where to allocate resources, and the degrees of customer satisfaction.

AI won’t dehumanise customer service – it will learn how to provide the best possible service. As a result, anger levels will fall away, which can’t be a bad thing.

At Rubix, we work with the most innovative call centre providers, who are using the latest technologies designed to improve your customer relationships. And happy customers mean healthy businesses.

Get in touch with us to find out what we can do for your Call Centre.