Conversational AI Is Growing. What’s Next for Contact Centers?

The human voice is empathetic, remorseful, understanding and unique. But conversational voice AI is catching up — because contact centers are paying up.

It’s true. Artificial Intelligence takes over jobs once held by human agents.

At contact centers, where rows of agents are charged with providing answers and support to customers, AI-powered tech like conversational AI can perform the same function.

And it’s growing. In a new report, Gartner predicts contact centers will spend nearly $2 million on conversational AI enhancements this year — and that investment is expected to pay off big — with an estimated $80 billion reduction in labor costs within four years.

But human workers need not worry. While many current duties may be relegated to AI — there is still work to do — and AI could enrich and improve the work of contact centers rather than rip and replace.

Robots Are Not Taking Over Contact Centers, Entirely

Sourabh Gupta, CEO of the voice AI platform, says the biggest myth about AI is that it is here to replace humans.

“AI-powered solutions are meant to lighten the workload of customer service employees and augment their work, rather than automate and take over their jobs entirely,” he said. “AI is more likely to take over specific tasks and activities that are currently performed by humans, making processes easier and more efficient, freeing humans from cognitively routine tasks and opening up new avenues for enriching their work. The most likely outcome of leveraging AI will be a collaboration between digital agents and humans.”

According to Gupta, AI investment is a “long game.” While he (naturally) advocates the returns on investment far outweigh the costs, Gupta said there can be “a steep price to pay upfront.” “It is important to work with providers who have agile delivery models and prioritize clear business objectives,” he added.

While conversational clearly offers a plethora of benefits, it’s still in its youthful stage with plenty of room left for growth and maturity. Gartner researchers expect to see a “measured adoption” over the next two years.

“Implementing conversational AI requires expensive professional resources in areas such as data analytics, knowledge graphs and natural language understanding,” Gartner VP analyst Daniel O’Connell said. “Once built, the conversational AI capabilities must be continuously supported, updated and maintained, resulting in additional costs.”

Related Article: Can Conversational AI Improve the Online Retail Experience?

The AI Impact on Contact Centers

As the central hub for questions, complaints and service, contact centers are a critical component of good CX.

CMSWire recently reported that according to a PWC survey, nearly 80% of American consumers say that speed, convenience/ease-of-use, knowledgeable assistance and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive customer experience.

Of the approximately 17 million contact centers worldwide, O’Connell said many are plagued by staff shortages, while also remain under pressure to reduce labor costs — which can represent up to 95% of their expenses.

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