By Karl Reed, Chief Solutions Officer at Elingo.
With investments in artificial intelligence (AI) related technologies expected to triple by 2020, local companies are looking at ways to integrate it into all aspects of their business. It is especially in the contact centre industry where it can be used to greatly enhance the customer experience (CX).
And yet, AI is not such a new thing.
It is already embedded in the technology around us from smartphones (for example route mapping and virtual assistants) and cars (telemetry used for insurance), to online purchases (product recommendations), entertainment (music and video recommendations), and AI and machine learning of a customer's buying outcomes on an ecommerce-based Web site. AI has arrived in a big way whether cynics like it or not.
For companies looking to enhance their contact centre environments, AI can be leveraged to deliver more improved CX at unprecedented levels. But to do this, the correct platform must be in place. After all, you are not going to build a dream house if the foundation is not properly done.
And when it comes to choosing a platform, the resource-intensive nature of true AI means the business must look towards cloud-based solutions. To run the sophisticated algorithms that can extract meaningful insights from the data at hand requires a technology platform that can leverage the power of cloud data centres. Very few companies can afford to have the on-premise computing resources necessary to fully embrace AI.
In a market like South Africa with its high unemployment rate, arguments that AI will replace jobs are gathering momentum. Yet, AI can be used in a symbiotic manner to enhance the skills of people. For example, a contact centre agent that still engages with a customer but relies on AI to do data analysis and predictions behind the scenes to more effectively help that person.
This provides a business with the best of both worlds.
In the contact centre environment, AI can be used for things as diverse as predictive engagements and routing of calls, converting prospects, and ecommerce-based tracking outcomes. It comes down to understanding what a customer really wants and empowering the agent and business to do that.
An integrated journey
Once perceptions change around AI, then companies can deliver more value to CX. This is as much an external education process as it is an internal one. People need to be made aware AI is not about getting rid of the human factor but blending people with technology.
Many organisations are not against the technology as such but need to gain a better understanding of how best to integrate it into their existing contact centre environments. But when this happens, true customer engagement can occur whether that takes place through a phone call, social networking, the Web, or instant communication such as WhatsApp, or any other social media platform.
Mapping the journey to fully integrate AI is critically important. Organisations need to understand how they will link AI to how the customer engages with them. Again, this is where the platform of delivery is crucial. This helps the decision-maker build a map of the customer to better reflect the changing world of business.
Technology has given us so much, but we must ensure it links to the correct environment and platform to really enhance existing processes. Helping drive this is the cloud that brings previously unimaginable features and sophistication to a CX platform in the contact centre environment and beyond to all areas of a business.