Constructive Conversations With Robots — How Conversational AI Will Help Contact Centre Agents

Movies will make you believe artificial intelligence (AI) is about machines that can replicate or replace human intelligence and skill. However, there is a growing trend of using AI in a different way – to help humans communicate and interact more effectively with other humans. This is known as conversational AI, and it is starting to be used more and more in contact centres.

It’s no secret that conversational AI is on the rise — with the advent of Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant (or even naming your robot vacuum), people of all ages are more comfortable talking to robots than ever before. And while many people are worried about the rise of conversational AI and what it might mean for human jobs, it’s envisioned conversational AI will actually help human contact centre agents do their jobs better.

Let’s talk about why this is the case, and how conversational AI can help contact centre agents provide a better customer experience in the years to come.

What is Conversational AI?

Conversational AI is a type of AI that focuses on helping humans communicate with each other more effectively. This can be done in a number of ways, such as providing customer support or improving the usability of products and services.

One of the most common ways conversational AI is used is through chatbots. Chatbots are computer programs that can mimic basic human conversation, and they are often used to provide customer support or answer simple questions.

While chatbots have been around for a while, they are getting better and better at imitating human conversation. This is thanks to advances in natural language processing (NLP), which is the branch of AI that deals with understanding human language.

As NLP gets better, chatbots are able to understand human conversation more effectively and provide better customer support. This is why conversational AI is often seen as a way to improve the customer experience.

How Conversational AI Can Help Contact Centre Agents

One of the advantages of conversational AI is that it can help human contact centre agents by taking on some of the repetitive and simple tasks that they have to do.

For example, a chatbot could be used to answer simple customer questions or provide basic troubleshooting. Think of routine interactions such as order confirmations, account management, and returns, all done quickly and efficiently, without the need for a human contact centre agent. This would free up the contact centre agent’s time so they could focus on more complex tasks or provide a better level of customer service.

Conversational AI can also use robotic process automation (RPA) to help contact centre agents with their after-call tasks. RPA is another type of AI that can automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks — anything from creating reports to managing and updating customer data after a call. This would again free up time for human contact centre agents so they could provide a better level of customer service.

So yes, conversational AI will clearly help with potential burnout issues with human contact centre agents, as the mundane tasks can be shifted to a tireless robot. That leaves the human talent to focus on what they do best — empathising with their callers and solving their nuanced, human problems.

The other major benefit though, is cost savings. According to Gartner, conversational AI will reduce contact centre labour costs by NZ$141 billion by 2026.

We’re not just talking about the robots themselves being cheaper than humans — we’re talking about the whole infrastructure of a contact centre being more cost-effective when conversational AI is used. For example, you wouldn’t need as many physical call centre locations or human employees when you have a chatbot that can handle customer queries from anywhere in the world.

Why Conversational AI Won’t Replace Human Contact Centre Agents (Yet)

AI isn’t set to replace human contact staff (at least for a while), for a pretty simple reason — people prefer talking to people. It’s easy to dismiss a contact centre agent’s role as relatively straightforward — answer some calls, look up some files, and wish the happy caller on their merry way. In reality, their jobs are nuanced, difficult, and vital to a company’s success.

Customer service is about more than just providing answers — it’s about building relationships, dealing with difficult people, and solving problems. It’s the human element that makes contact centre agents so important, and it’s something that chatbots simply can’t replace.

That’s not to say that conversational AI can’t help with customer service, because it can. As we’ve seen, it can take on some of the mundane tasks that contact centre agents have to do, freeing them up to provide a better level of customer service.

But at the end of the day, it’s the human contact centre agent that will continue to be the most important part of the customer service equation. They’re the ones who use empathy to build relationships, solve problems, and make sure that the customer is happy. And that’s something that chatbots just can’t replace — at least not yet.
The Future of Conversational AI
The thing about AI is that it uses machine learning (ML) to gather new data with every new interaction. So, the more that a chatbot is used, the more it will learn and the better it will become at providing customer service. This is a compounding effect — the longer that conversational AI is used, the more data it will have to work with, and the better it will become.

This is where things start to get really interesting, because the next generational leap of conversational AI will result from that compounding research on NLP, which allows the AI to understand and interpret customer emotions, sentiments, and conversational context.

In other words, the AI will be able to understand things like tone of voice, and even facial expressions and body language in video calls. This would be a huge step forward for customer service, as it would allow the AI to provide an even more human level of customer service. Take a look at Google’s LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) to see where things are heading.

Of course, this is all still in the future. For now, conversational AI is helping contact centre agents by taking on some of the mundane tasks, and providing cost savings for organisations. But it’s the human element that will continue to be the most important part of the customer service equation.

If you’d like to learn more about how conversational AI can help your call centre agents save time and effort, please contact us. We’d be more than happy to help you find out how your call centre operations can benefit from AI’s wider applications.

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