The impact of Artificial Intelligence in Call Centres

Using artificial intelligence in call centres

Artificial Intelligence in Call Centres

There is a growing amount of media, data and studies talking about the rise of Artificial Intelligence in call centres and it’s increasing role in the customer experience.

Just last week we reported that Jetstar has extended their virtual assistant, Jess, to handle enquiries received via Facebook Messenger and that is resulting in a 73% first contact resolution rate.

According to Liz McCarthy, Head of Customer Care for Jetstar “Jess has lowered response time from up to 17 hours to zero minutes and has already assisted thousands of customers with their enquiries”.

The Australian Tax Office has also been using AI through their Nuance-powered Virtual Assistant ‘Alex’.

In data released by the ATO, since 2016 Alex has handled over 950,000 conversations with over an 80% first contact resolution rate.

Even your pizza can now be ordered via a Virtual Assistant with Domino’s introducing ‘Dru Assist‘ where customers can order a pizza, ask about ingredients, store locations and opening hours and wait for it, even engaging customers in social banter.

How is AI adoption in Australia compared to the rest of the world?

So whilst there are some local examples on companies at the forefront of using AI, according to research released by new AI company Daisee yesterday, Australian businesses are falling behind in AI adoption.

In a survey of over 200 Australian organisations there were some interesting takeaways:

  • Only 14% of Australian companies reported having adopted AI, compared with the global average of 23%.
  • Almost 70% of Australian organisations surveyed said they were yet to adopt AI solutions, compared with a global average of 54%.
  • Worldwide, 23% of organisations are known to be piloting AI, while the Australian outlook report found only 17% of local companies were at this stage.

So when can we expect AI to take over?

According to Gartner, by 2020 85% of customer interaction will happen without a human being involved.

That’s not far away.

In an article released by Telcosolutions, a number of local business leaders were interviewed about their thoughts on how AI will impact call centres.

Its well worth a read but some quick takeaways include:

  •  “Automation, is simple and straightforward, and has been around for years. A chatbot, after all is just a simple step forward from an IVR. True AI is a leap beyond this, with machines learning from customers, parsing and responding to requests in natural language and developing the ability to handle more complex issues and customer processes”. Katja Forbes, Syfte
  • “For smartphone callers, (more than 50% of calls to a contact centre are made from a smartphone) chatbots can be integrated with Contact Centre technology to manage smartphone communications that emulate the natural, friendly speech of a human agent. Not only does this simplify and streamline operations for both customer and agent, it means that average call waiting times and call handling times are reduced, giving agents more time to handle more complex queries.” Steve Fitzgerald, Premier Contact Point
  • “Fasten your seatbelt, the new AI in contact centres will be video. It will be able to call up your history from your phone number or log in details so the ‘system’ will be able to direct you to where they think you want to go before you even ask a question! Mark Horwood, Captive Connect

So what’s the next step?

Like any change in a call centre environment, the introduction of AI needs to be carefully considered.

Technically, it may require integration with your existing platforms (including your telephony and CRM system) to maximise the benefits, but the biggest challenge I see is businesses expecting technology to be the magic bullet for solving all of your call centre problems.

If you don’t already have a good handle on your common enquiry types, have clear and documented processes, and Knowledge Management solutions, implementing a chatbot for example is not going to deliver good results.

The “Junk in, junk out” rule applies here.

Key steps in implementing AI in the call centre

In their article, Telcosolutions recommend these three steps to implement artificial intelligence in a call centre.

1. Understand your customer journey

Look at your processes and customer interaction points with a discerning eye, and make sure you understand how all the pieces fit together.

By knowing the environment that your customers and agents are immersed in, and where processes or engagements aren’t perhaps as smooth as they might be, you’ll be able to see where adding a touch of intelligent service will drive value and performance in your centre.

2. Explore the value-add

Most IT vendors will want to sell your their product based on the how; the tools and capabilities their service offers that differentiates it from their competitor’sS offerings.

To ensure that intelligent service isn’t just a vanity purchase for your business you need to understand the why; the pain point relief or improvement that implementing the service will deliver. Then build your business case accordingly.

3. Start Small and measure often

Rather than overhaul your entire business processes and customer interactions, choose one or two areas that can most benefit from an improvement in service, understand what success looks like, implement, and then consistently and continually monitor for improvements.

This will ensure a longer-term viability for the technology, allow you to understand how other areas of the business can be improved and even uncover new areas of the business that can be enhanced with intelligent service.

So is AI really going to impact call centres?

Umm, that’s a big resounding YES!

Artificial Intelligence in call centres is already here and the momentum is really starting to gain serious traction.

But one word of advice.

Before you go looking for the latest piece of shiny software, make sure you’ve got the call centre basics right.

Next steps

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Justin Tippett
About Justin Tippett 78 Articles

I'm the founder of CX Group Australia - helping businesses and customer experience professionals to source, deliver and optimise customer experience solutions to drive business outcomes and I'm available for consulting and training services.


I'm also the person responsible for the terrible memes on the Call Centre Legends page😮


When I'm not working, I enjoy pretending that 40 something isn't that old and it's still not too late for a professional sporting career.

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