Contact Center AI: How to Combine Conversational Intelligence with Human Agent Intervention – CX Today

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Customers have become understandably demanding.   


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They want seamless 24/7 interaction via the channel of their choice. They want slick and easy self-service when their needs are simple. And they want first-call resolution of their issues when they are more complex. 

Indeed, as AI continues to enhance the contact center communication experience, the brands and organisations that are able to keep pace with that customer demand for excellence will be the ones to reap the greatest rewards. 

The key to success? Understanding changing expectations and having the tools (and also the humans) to respond. 

“AI is definitely enabling organisations to do some exciting things, but it’s not the silver bullet many think it is. Yes, the technology and the tools are super-important, but humans still need humans,” says Samantha Middlebrook, Senior Director of Product Marketing and Management at leading global enterprise software provider Upland Software, whose wide range of communication and knowledge management software products help contact centers get the balance right. 

“Certain interactions require empathy, active listening, or an agent and a customer teaming together to get to a solution. That’s why you need that human element. Of course, customers want the quick and easy stuff self-serviced, and that expectation is being magnified by the rise of AI. They expect the chatbot to be smarter, self-service to be slicker. As a result, when they need to go through to a human agent, they expect to encounter a kind of superhuman, all-encompassing expert. 

“However, in many cases, they get someone who is brand new, and who doesn’t have the tools and support they need to provide that premium service. Organisations must work hard to ensure they have both of those scenarios covered.” 

Easier said than done, of course. 

Take real-time guidance tools, for instance. 

The on-screen spoon-feeding of agents with scripted answers to questions may, on the face of it, appear to be an innovative way of helping them deliver fast and accurate responses. As the customer is talking, the AI understands what is being said and pops up exact snippets of information an agent should say or do. However, the flip side is that they are prevented from using their own initiative and knowledge to think out of the box. 

“We need humans to do what they do best, which is to be human and to think and feel,” says Middlebrook. 

“When customers come through to an agent, they don’t want someone that’s robotic. Often, they’ve already been to the robot and it didn’t work. They’re looking for something more. They want a human. 

“For example, a customer’s call to a utility company may come through complaining about incorrect billing charges. An agent may then go on a wild goose chase looking for the error. They might, for example, check with the customer that they are not leaving lights on unnecessarily or that they don’t have an unknown water leak. Only when an agent really listens to and thinks about the customer’s issue do they realise that the customer is actually saying the bill is too high, and they cannot afford to pay it. Only then can the approach shift to a more empathetic conversation. When it comes to customers sticking loyally to a brand, it’s those moments that really matter.” 

The trouble is, too many executives tell their organisations that AI has to be in the budget for 2024 and want it sprinkled everywhere. But where should it be sprinkled? If organisations don’t know what they’re trying to fix, they can’t measure it and they can’t learn from what they’re putting in place. 

In short, AI-powered tools are everywhere, but software partners with the smarts to deploy the right ones in the right situations are a little more rare… 

 To learn more about how Upland Software can help your and your customers’ businesses leverage the power of contact center AI, visit the website.

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