Ask the Expert: How Will AI and Chatbots Impact Contact Centres in the Next Two Years?

December 7, 2023 | 5 Mins Read

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As businesses increasingly embrace digital transformation and seek ways to transform the customer experience, AI and chatbots have emerged as promising tools. Research suggests that these technologies have the potential to revolutionise contact centres by improving customer service, scaling efficiency, and offering seamless omnichannel support. However, amidst the buzz and excitement surrounding the technologies, it is crucial to discern the realistic capabilities and limitations they possess.

Industry Expert, Will Patchett, from independent consultancy, StableLogic, sits down with Ian Nevin, Director of International Consultant Relations at RingCentral, to discuss:

  • How AI and chatbots will impact contact centres in the next two years.
  • What IT directors and managers need to be conscious of when selecting a solution to fit their needs.

Will has worked as an independent UC and CC consultant for over five years and has extensive experience helping large organisations to plan, procure and implement IT infrastructure, data networks and voice solutions – including unified communications, collaboration and telephony technologies. He has worked for a range of large public and private sector organisations over the years – helping them define their strategies, procure appropriate solutions and successfully manage implementations that meet their initial requirements.

In the next few years, AI and chatbots are expected to impact contact centres significantly. What will this look like, and what areas should IT leaders consider?

Over the last 12-18 months, we have seen a significant increase in the uptake of AI chatbots and services from our customers, with confidence growing in the ability of these tools to deliver an almost human experience to their customers when designed well. I think this is a really important clarification point to make early on; AI means a lot of things to many people. Ultimately, we are not talking about true autonomous intelligence but a solution that can act semi-autonomously within clearly defined parameters.

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The real strength of AI chatbots is their ability to provide a 24/7 service across knowledge-based or simple tasks, gather customer information and intent (thereby reducing time spent with an agent), and enable more intelligent integrations with additional solutions, i.e., CRM or ticketing tools through which customers can receive updates without having to engage anyone directly.

By doing the above, this technology allows human agents to focus on more complex and value-added interactions, leading to enhanced customer service.

Yes, that makes a lot of sense. That’s handling repetitive tasks, but how can they help individual agents?

This is a more interesting area for me personally, the agent-assist functionalities, which help drive more efficient and higher quality agent-customer interactions.

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Typically, the two main contributors to the length of an inbound customer call are A, spending time understanding the customer and whether they have passed the security questions, and B, the agent searching for the correct information to deal with the customer’s query. Properly implementing chat or voice bots across websites, applications, and IVRs will allow the system to handle the first issue before the customer even gets to an agent. To tackle the second issue, AI-powered tools help understand customer intent and customer emotion, proactively search knowledge bases, and push relevant information to the agent while they handle the call.

What else do you think AI and chatbots will bring to the contact centre?

The other thing that AI and chatbots are great for is scaling efficiency and improving reporting.

Introducing AI and chatbots to a contact centre obviously allows for greater efficiencies as a contact centre scales, with chatbots able to handle queries 24/7 in a standard format across multiple customers without suffering from fatigue or emotional burnout. This, and the improved agent experience and efficiency that the agent-assist features provide, helps significantly increase the volume of queries a contact centre can handle without needing to increase agent numbers.

The additional upside of AI handling the increased volume of interactions is the extra reporting that comes with this. As AI handles every interaction in some form, companies can track the entire customer journey, including points of failure and customer intent. This allows greater insight into the reasons for inbound contact than the traditional method of agents selecting the call disposition code, which is subject to human error.

You talked about the fact that AI and chatbots will not replace the human personalised experience, but is there any way they can help?

In a slightly different manner, I think AI is actually going to dramatically improve the personalised experience that customers receive from agents, even if they can’t replicate that human touch themselves at the moment.

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For example, do they prefer a more personal touch? Are tickets already open / has the customer submitted any complaints, etc? All of this helps to foster trust and loyalty with your customer base.

How can AI and chatbots help in the way of omnichannel support?

As alluded to earlier, the ability of AI to operate across voice or chat channels allows for a custom experience for inbound contacts based on customer preferences and history. Effective use of AI across the omni-channel estate will route customers quickly to the knowledge/answer they require, or seamlessly escalate to an appropriately skilled agent as soon as is necessary.

The last thing a customer wants is to be continuously pushed down a channel that they do not want to engage through.

What are AI and chatbots better at than a human agent?

This is an easy answer right now, but one I expect to change rather quickly as developments in AI chat rapidly improve. Currently, AI and chatbots are better than humans at repeating defined processes and simple tasks. Removing human error from these particular areas has been shown to directly improve the efficiency of a contact centre and drastically improve First Time Resolution (FTR).

Do you think growing adoption of AI and chatbots will be a positive thing for contact centres over the next two years?

If you haven’t considered AI and chatbots in your customer engagement strategy yet, then you should start soon. Whilst these technologies are not suitable for every business, and in fact, some of our clients have previously implemented chatbots that are simply not delivering for them, they are rapidly changing the customer experience and are a core expectation of customers in the modern landscape.

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That makes a lot of sense, thanks Will. Any final thoughts for those looking to review their AI/chatbot offering?

Ultimately, customers shouldn’t expect any miracles from these products – you will not suddenly reduce inbound calls by 50% from day one, and you will probably see an increase in costs on day one. However, with the appropriate design, implementation, and ongoing support of AI tooling, you will typically find a gradual ROI, whether financially or through improved CSAT and customer loyalty, that will deliver for your business.

Thanks for chatting, Will. There are some great ideas there.
You are welcome, Ian; you know it’s always a pleasure speaking with you.


The verdict

AI and chatbots could reshape contact centres. As the conversation comes to a close, it is evident that AI and chatbots hold tremendous potential for transforming contact centres. While they offer the promise of improved customer service, scalability and omnichannel support, it is essential to strike a balance between automation and human interaction. Will emphasises that, although AI can enhance efficiency and provide personalised experiences, human agents will always excel in areas requiring empathy, emotional intelligence and critical thinking.

On the topic of AI in contact centres, RingCentral recently launched RingCX, a native, AI-first contact centre solution. Infused with AI, RingCX helps customers and contact centre employees before, during, and after each interaction. This solution is partly powered by our RingSense product, which is RingCentral’s AI platform that permeates our products and enables organisations to turn their conversation data into powerful insights.

Many thanks to Will for his insights on this topic. You can find out more about the RingCentral Consultant Relations Program and portal on our hub. 

Originally published Dec 07, 2023, updated Feb 20, 2024

Author

Samantha is RingCentral’s Content Manager for EMEA Marketing. Before joining the business, she worked in content and public relations roles. She has worked with companies in ed tech, marketing and advertising, connected home, telecoms and publishing.