AI and Robotics: The future of call centres

AI and Robotics: The future of call centres

With customer experience considered a significant factor in driving customer loyalty and retention, companies must do more to ensure their call centres are up to the task. Paul Morgan, Business Unit Lead – Data, Planning, and Analytics at Altron Karabina, tells us that this is where innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) have become instrumental.

Whether they are inbound or outbound-facing, call centres face a fundamental challenge because, generally neither employees nor customers enjoy the call centre experience.

From an employee side, there is massive attrition due to the long hours, intensive work, customers shouting at them all day long and inability to access the information about customers and incidents that they need to succeed. Similarly, customers are frustrated by having to speak to a new agent every time, which continues the perception that the company has no unified view of who they are and doesn’t understand the issues they are facing.

This lack of empowerment on both sides of the phone results in companies having to continually invest in training new staff and customers starting to look at other service providers that can better fulfil in their requirements.

This is where the likes of AI, RPA and even chatbots can drive the customer and employee experience, leading to a more efficient call centre that delivers better profit margins. The future of the call centre will become reliant on using such innovative technologies to deliver on customer expectations – without it employees will find it more and more difficult to deliver.

Tech to watch

One of the most important ways this technology can help to address most call centre concerns is through predictive processing. AI can be used to determine the tone of voice of a person waiting, identifying the customer as well as where they are phoning from and using data analysis to see if there is a significant issue that would be relevant.

For example, if a call centre agent at a power utility could be made aware that the current caller has a power outage in their vicinity, this knowledge can pre-arm the agent with some empathy and having resolution time feedback in hand would leave the customer with a feeling that their supplier actually does know them and their context.

This arms the call centre agent with critically important information that can almost immediately turn a negative customer experience into a good one. After all, being able to identify the problem even before the person speaks to an agent already saves a significant amount of time, and certainly improves the experience for the customer. Then, using RPA, potential solutions can already be initiated through various processes while the agent is busy talking to the customer.

Another example is Machine Learning (ML) processes analysing data to better understand when the most appropriate time would be to phone a contact. This could be a boon for a debtor’s agency that cannot reach people during office hours but knows that an individual would be available at 19:00. 

Virtual agents will also start becoming more commonplace. These use AI to provide the agent with contextual information while the customer conversation is taking place. Furthermore, the virtual agent model can learn from historical transactions (either text or voice-based) to work out scenarios of how to resolve customer queries more effectively.

Future potential

Looking to the future, the upsell potential of call centres can definitely be harnessed once the customer experience improves. Again, this is where AI can come into its own by helping agents not only resolve queries faster, but also suggest what the next potential customer purchases could be based on their history and the type of problem being addressed.

This concept of empowering the agent with all the right information using AI, ML and other technologies will be key for the rest of this year. Customers still prefer speaking to human agents especially in the case of dealing with complex queries. But it is all about understanding and using the data at the call centre agent’s disposal in the most effective ways possible. AI and RPA can enhance this environment. But there must be a willingness to adopt it to supplement existing resources.

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