Artificial Intelligence Contact Center Is Happening

by Feb 27, 2019ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, CONTACT CENTER0 comments

Artificial Intelligence Contact Center Is Happening.

Even in 2019, it still happens. That product you ordered never arrives, or you got double-billed on a payment. You poke around to see if you can figure out the issue online, then resign yourself to contacting the company’s “Artificial Intelligence Contact Center or call center.”

Not all call centers operate the way you’re used to, where you get directed to a call center employee who then addresses your concerns. Instead, more and more, artificial intelligence or AI has slipping into the mix.

That doesn’t mean the next time you have to call your cable company to dispute a charge that you’re going to be greeting by a robot. Some companies are using an artificial intelligence call center to augment their services and improve the user experience. Others are looking to let humans take a step back, and AI does most of the hard work. Plenty of other industries are following a similar path.

Which is the best option? Where does AI have its role in a call center if it does at all? In this article, we’ll explore those very questions and more.

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

The Beginning…

Before we can get into the definition of an artificial intelligence contact center, we have to discuss the fascinating and lengthy history of artificial intelligence itself. Artificial intelligence, referred to as AI from this point forward has existed at least as a concept since sometime in the 1930s. At that time, research on neurology was deducing how machines could someday have the same neuron signals as us humans.

While this was fascinating research, it would be decades before AI became a reality. Paving the way towards that reality were several people. One was Alan Turing, who wrote a paper in 1950 and popularized the Turing Test. This test distinguished whether a machine was merely a machine or if it could think.

The History Of Artificial Intelligence

Dietrich Prinz and Christopher Strachey were other game-changers. By 1951, Prinz had made a chess program and Strachey a checkers program that was collectively known as Game AI. This was done on the Manchester Electronic Computer or Ferranti Mark 1. This computer was the first of its kind: never had a commercial computer been available before the Ferranti Mark 1.

In 1956, the Rockefeller Foundation put money towards a project known as the Dartmouth Workshop at Dartmouth College. The project’s goals were to see how far machines could go in mimicking some human skills, such as problem-solving. The team who worked on the project—including Nathan Rochester, Claude Shannon, John McCarthy, and Marvin Minsky—were comprised of IBM employees and scientists.

In 1966, Charles Rosen created the Artificial Intelligence Center. This laboratory was housed in SRI International’s Computing Sciences Division. Like the Dartmouth Workshop before it, Rosen and his Artificial Intelligence Center sought to expand the boundaries of what machinery could do.

Robot “Shakey”

Rosen and his team created a robot named Shakey. Although he looks positively antiquated and maybe even funny to us now, Shakey was remarkable for its time. It could receive commands and then figure out how to perform each one. Shakey was considered a general-purpose robot and was a very important step in the future of AI.

By the way, the Artificial Intelligence Center won’t solely remember for Shakey. The team here were partly responsible for bringing Siri to the masses.

While AI continued to grow into the rest of the ‘50s and ‘60s, with countries like Japan furthering its advancement, by late 1966, AI Winter began. The technology couldn’t advance as fast as anyone preferred, so organization after organization pulled its funding. That left AI to stagnate for a few decades.

The Reemergence…

AI Winter wouldn’t last forever. Expert systems AI appeared in the ‘80s, signifying the resurgence of the technology. Japan was back in the AI game as well, pushing for more advancements in its own country.

Expert systems proved AI technology wasn’t dead. These systems could answer queries, sort of like a Google search does today. Despite being yet another major AI advancement, by the late 1980s, the second AI Winter began.

This one was over by 1993, so it was much shorter. The technology was at a better point than it had ever been, which has only become truer and truer. In 1997, a computer was able to beat Garry Kasparov, then the chess champion of the world, at his own game. In 2005, another robot was an able to drive for 131 through the desert on its own.

Today…

That leads us to today, where AI is about as common as it’s ever been. Whether it’s a chatbot or techs like Siri or Alexa, not only is AI a part of our daily lives, but we’ve welcomed it with open arms. That brings us to the artificial intelligence contact center.

What Is an Artificial Intelligence Contact Center?

An artificial intelligence contact center is a call center with “human intelligence”. It utilizes AI for max profitability and customer satisfaction. There are several ways in which an AI contact center can meet its goals, which we will explain in more detail here.

Implementing Interactive Voice Responses

Rather than solely relying on humans to answer the phone when the line rings, Artificial intelligence contact center use interactive voice responses or IVRs. This is an automation system that takes care of all call rerouting.

If you’ve ever called a company and you heard a voice recording asking you to press a button to get redirected, this is an IVR in action. This saves the time of the call center employees. Rather than talk to a customer and then have to spend extra time rerouting them to the correct party, the customer is routed where they need to go the first time. That means the calls the employees receive are meant for them only. They can help callers faster and improve customer satisfaction. 

Recording and Transcribing Calls

AI tech also allows for the recording of these phone calls between employees and customers. Again, you’ve probably experienced this in action if you’ve called a company for any reason. An automated voice will typically tell you the call is being recorded.

By recording and then transcribing these calls via AI, the artificial intelegence contact center can improve efficiency and again, customer satisfaction. Whether the employees change the way, they answer their calls or work to get to a solution faster, being able to listen to and evaluate calls is incredibly valuable.

Using Quality Assurance

With recorded calls and more AI implementation, artificial intelegence contact center employees can be scoring more accurately for their success rate. This can be done using AI as well. Employees who don’t score optimally can be trained to do better.

Will AI Replace Human Labor?

While many call centers are using AI to their advantage, not all of them have such a sunny outlook on the future. In this 2017 Computer Weekly article, Artificial intelengence contact centers is referred to as “disruptive technology.” While the article is mostly positive, it brings up a point many of us may have.

Are computers going to replace our jobs someday?

Probably.

While there are some jobs that humans will always be better at, AI has stepped into many fields outside of call centers. Robots are in restaurants, industrial manufacturing, even human resources, accounting, stock trading, insurance, and the medical field.

It seems convenient when we can use AI to place our favorite food order or help us plan our next stock move. It’s even pretty convenient when a robot doctor can roll around from hospital room to hospital room with a screen that essentially lets you FaceTime with your doctor from anywhere.

These advancements are convenient, true, but where do they stop?

We’ve taught machines to think, act, and problem-solve like us, and we’ve done it incredibly well. Maybe too well, to the point where some jobs are now performed better by robots than humans. Robots are unaffect by the tedium of a task. They can work repetitiously without breaks whereas we humans can’t. They don’t need sleep (maybe just a battery charge), they don’t need food, and they don’t have human needs like companionship. That’s something to keep in mind.

Also, consider modern techs like Google Assistant, Siri, or Alexa. These AI devices can do more than answer questions or tell us a joke. They can play our favorite music, turn the lights on in our home, and even change our thermostat.

What the repercussions those kinds of devices will have on our privacy and future security is too soon to say. What we can say with confidence is that AI is here to stay. Instead of using it to take over your job, it should augment and simplify the daily tasks that comprise your job.

Conclusion

An artificial intelligence contact center is one that uses AI for better call accuracy, profitability, and customer satisfaction. While the history of AI is a long and storied one, what seems certain is that it’s not going away anytime soon.

While artificial intelegence contact centers are using AI in such a way that it augments the services provided, not all industries do this. By letting AI take over jobs instead of assisting with them, it’s possible that in a few years those jobs won’t exist. We’ll have training robots and other techs how to do them, and humans won’t be needed anymore.

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