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artificial intelligence

Do you specialise in AI for contact centres? We want to hear from you!

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Each month on Call Centres Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the customer care market – and in June we’re focussing on Artificial Intelligence.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help customer care industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Artificial Intelligence solutions to call centres and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Gayle Buckland on

Here are the areas we’ll be covering, month by month:

Jun – Artificial Intelligence
Jul – Virtual Call/Contact Centres
Aug – Training & Development
Sep – Knowledge Management
Oct – Web Self Service/Chat
Nov – Display Boards
Dec – CRM

For more information on any of the above, contact Gayle Buckland on

AI key to customer service, but performance overrated

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Sixty-three per cent of contact centre leaders agree that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved.

That’s according to findings of the second annual NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark, a global research study that gauges the changing attitudes of both industry professionals and consumers.

NICE inContact polled contact centre leaders in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. The report compares global findings to the 2018 consumer wave of the study, and includes year-over-year findings for the US.

NICE inContact says results reveal that businesses are confident in artificial intelligence’s (AI’s) role in delivering exceptional customer service experiences, but they overrate their own CX performance.

Compared to consumers, businesses overreach when estimating their own net promoter scores (NPS), overrate their own CX success, and underperform when it comes to delivering seamless omnichannel experiences.    

Key findings:

·       Businesses express confidence in AI. The CX Transformation Benchmark found that 63 percent of contact center leaders agree that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved, and 68 percent of those surveyed agree that consumers want to use virtual assistants to interact with them. Findings show that significantly more US businesses now offer automated assistants / chatbots online, at 54 percent compared to 44 percent the prior year.

·       Business overreach in self-assigned Net Promoter Score (NPS). Compared to consumers, businesses give themselves higher net promoter scores for every method of communication tested. Businesses overestimate most channel-specific NPS by broad margins. For example:

o   Automated Assistant / Chatbot: While consumers award automated assistants an NPS of -8, businesses estimate they earn an NPS of 25, for a gap of 33 points.

o   Email: The consumer NPS for email is -9 while the business NPS is 19, for a gap of 28 points.

o   Text: Consumers give text a -2 NPS while businesses estimate 25, for a gap of 27 points.

·       Businesses overrate their CX success. Businesses are 15 percent more likely than consumers to agree that they make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved in their preferred channels, and that they provide a consistent customer service experience across the purchase journey.

·       Businesses understand the value of omnichannel experiences, but underperform. While 93 percent of businesses agree that consumers expect companies to provide a seamless experience when moving between channels, only 24% of businesses globally give themselves an excellent rating on allowing consumers to switch seamlessly between methods of communication.

Paul Jarman, CEO at NICE inContact, said: “We are at an inflection point for AI in the contact center. AI innovations are at their best when paired with the human touch and deployed to address targeted customer and agent experience opportunities. AI in the contact center has the potential to add significant value to customer experience outcomes and operational performance.

“The CX Transformation Benchmark shows contact center leader confidence in AI, and we join them in delivering end-to-end AI capabilities that span the entire customer and agent experience, to empower organizations of all sizes to stay one step ahead of customer expectations.”

NICE inContact surveyed more than 900 contact center decision makers in the US, UK, and Australia. The report presents global findings from the business wave of the research and provides comparative results to the consumer study published in 2018.

For more information and to download the full research report, please click here.

Top mistakes businesses make with AI in the Contact Centre – And how to avoid them

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By Enghouse Interactive

There is a great deal of discussion in the marketplace regarding robots and artificial intelligence (AI) and their future role in the contact centre. Much of this is hype.

A lot of people are talking hypothetically about what robots might do in a customer service context. Fewer are using a truly AI-driven approach to engage with customers today.

There is no one-size fits all answer here. Some organisations will continue to use human service as a key part of their value proposition and differentiation, but most are bringing in a growing element of AI and automation as they move to a more self-service-based approach.

As early as 2011, analyst, Gartner was predicting that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.

But, as they implement chatbots and other types of AI, there are a range of pitfalls businesses need to watch out for. Here, we outline some of the biggest and how businesses can best avoid them.

Click here to download our resources to help you on your journey with ChatBots and AI strategy into the contact centre.

UK insurance contact centres ‘battle 60% rise in call duration’

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UK insurance companies expect to make significant investments in AI-enabled web chat, automated customer identification and interaction analytics technology within the next two years.

A survey of over 200 UK contact centres undertaken by ContactBabel shows that insurance operations expect their use of web chat to grow from 44% today to 94% by the beginning of 2020.

The use of interaction analytics is expected to rise to 43%, as is automated speech recognition, with much of the latter being used to reduce fraud and the time required to take phone customers through security.

In 2012, only 7% of inbound interactions with insurers were through email, but this has risen sharply to over 15% today.

Due in part to increased automation, the sector will see a drop in contact centre employment of around 5,500 jobs by 2020.

The report’s author, Steve Morrell, Principal Analyst, ContactBabel, said: “With average call lengths in UK insurance contact centres having risen by over 60% since 2010, the industry has embraced the opportunities that digital channels can bring, especially in terms of automating simpler interactions.

“AI-enabled web chat can handle a large proportion of straightforward customer requests, while automating the customer identity process will shorten call times and reduces fraud. The insurance sector has also seen very significant rises in the average time taken to answer calls, as well as the length of calls. The significant growth in digital activity, particularly email, shows that insurers are understanding how their customers wish to contact them, while managing the cost of service.”

The report is downloadable free of charge from

AI customer service specialist Afiniti raises $130m, is valued at $1.6bn

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

AI in customer service is hot right now, as illustrated by the fact that Washington DC-based Afiniti just raised $130 million in Series D funding, valuing the company at a whopping $1.6 billion.

Privately-held companies with a valuation of more than $1 billion are extremely rare, and it’s expected that the firm will complete an IPO within the next 12 months, with profitability imminent.

Afiniti now has an impressive roster of backers, who are all making a serious collective bet that AI will be very much be at the forefront of customer service in years to come.

Participants in the latest round of funding include Washington Post CEO Fred Ryan, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, Global Asset Management, The Resource Group and Zeke Capital, with previous backers including McKinsey, Elisabeth Murdoch, former Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer and former BP CEO John Browne.

The company has some big clients too – T-Mobile USA, Virgin Media, Caesar’s Entertainment and Sky – plus some big hitting employees, including none other than Princess Beatrice as its Vice President of Partnerships.

Led by CEO Zia Chishti the firm doesn’t sell its platform as a service but instead takes a cut of any sales its clients secure via its systems.

UK customers now contact brands nearly half a billion times every month

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Research has highlighted the growing volume of consumer queries that UK brands now need to handle, and the increasing cost this imposes on companies – estimated at £1.227 billion.

The average UK consumer now contacts organisations nine times per month, according to research undertaken as part of the 2018 Eptica Customer Experience Automation Study.

Across the adult population this means brands need to respond to 463.5 million contacts every month, and the figure is rising.

88% of those surveyed said they now contact companies more or the same number of times as five years ago – with 16% getting in touch more than twice as often.

Increasingly, consumers are happy to embrace self-service channels where they can find their own answers, without needing to contact brands through email, the telephone, chat or social media.

83% already use or are willing to use web self-service systems, which analyse queries and deliver automatic instant answers on a company website, while over half (54%) would use intelligent voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Siri from Apple to gain information. 64% also want to use automated, artificial intelligence-powered chatbots.

Using industry average figures from analysts Contact Babel[1], answering these queries costs the UK economy £1.227 billion across the telephone, web, email, social media and chat channels. This is made up of £440.44m (email), £236.98m (social media), £211.99m (chat) and £338.31m (telephone).

In contrast automated channels such as self-service, chatbots and voice assistants have a negligible cost per interaction once they are in place.

“Delivering an excellent customer experience is crucial to every organisation today. However, our research shows the scale of the challenge brands face, with consumers getting in contact nearly half a billion times every month in the UK,” said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-Founder, Eptica. “Clearly many of these conversations are complex and require the human touch, but others could be automated, speeding up the process for consumers and increasing efficiency for brands.”

Demonstrating the multichannel nature of today’s customer experience, on average each UK consumer used email for 27% of their interactions by brands, followed by web self-service, telephone and social media (17%) each, with 11% of contacts through chat and chatbots respectively.

“Reducing the number of contacts by 10% would save over £122 million – enabling companies to focus resources where they are needed most. Our research shows that consumers are open to embracing new AI-powered technologies such as voice assistants and chatbots, providing an opportunity to improve the experience and reduce costs at the same time,” added Olivier Njamfa.

For the research 1,000 UK consumers were surveyed online in Q3 2018.

The full report, including the study results, graphics and best practice recommendations for brands is available here.

An infographic on the results is available here.

GUEST BLOG: From reactive to predictive – The AI-driven service revolution

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By Salesforce

Imagine you run a busy Manchester hotel. Your elevators carry hundreds of guests up and down every day.

Unexpectedly, a maintenance engineer turns up. The manufacturer’s AI sensed an abnormality in your equipment and triggered a case in their field service management software. They fix it before anything actually goes wrong.

This is the future of service. Smart, connected, and proactive – or in this case, predictive.

With the arrival of Industry 4.0 and advanced data science, businesses have powerful new tools to transform the customer experience. Powered by the IoT, AI, and cloud computing, B2B companies that make physical products can proactively monitor and analyse performance out in the field – then deliver a service that adds value throughout the product’s lifecycle.

Take Kuka Robotics, who use Salesforce IoTCloud and telematics data from their smart factory robots to identify and resolve pressure and torque issues before they impact productivity. Or Coca-Cola’s B2B teams, using AI, IoT and the Salesforce platform to anticipate product faults and support Sales to sell the right products to the right customers.

Likewise, drinks bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) uses Service Cloud to connect and accelerate service cases with complete business visibility, from the call centre agent to the service technician in the field.

But as great as a connected customer view is for improving a service team’s productivity, the real secret sauce comes from AI: the ability to detect, analyse and signal the location and cause of a fault – fixing it before anyone notices something’s wrong.

Ready to make the move from reactive to proactive service? Keep in mind AI is only as smart as the data you feed it.

Read the full blog post to find out how to get predictive service right:

GUEST BLOG: Ensuring the ROI of adding Artificial Intelligence

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By IFS | mplsystems

Adding artificial intelligence to the contact centre is an important decision that involves a significant investment of time, money, and resources. Because of this, when an organisation is ready to implement AI, it’s absolutely critical to identify how and when the new technology will deliver a return on investment.

There are a number of ways that the contact centre can benefit from adding artificial intelligence. It ultimately depends on how progressive the business is in their use of the technology and how willing they are to fine tune its capabilities to their unique needs. With the right strategy and implementation process, the contact centre can experience an exponential ROI from artificial intelligence. While some of the uses are straightforward and already widely adopted, there is even more potential for leveraging the core benefits of AI in the service experience.

The core benefits of artificial intelligence include:

  • Collect robust amounts of data across virtually limitless sources
  • Process data quickly and effectively, with an ability to learn over time
  • Complete easily predictable tasks
  • Augment human experiences with recommendations and predictions

Some executives will fall into the trap of seeing these benefits and believing that they should reduce (or eliminate) their frontline contact centre workforce as a result. They’ll buy into the detrimental lie that the ROI of artificial intelligence will come from eliminating staff. In reality, however, an organisation deploying AI shouldn’t do so to replace humans and/or minimise costs. While there can be cost savings as a result of using chatbots to automate entry-level interactions that can be handled by humans, AI is not necessarily always the right solution. If the bot lacks access to a comprehensive knowledgebase and cannot effectively understand a customer’s request, it is certain to result in amplified frustration and dissatisfaction.  Sure, bots are capable of handling those types of interactions but, for some organisations, what AI can do and what it should do are two very different things!

The companies who will excel at using AI will leverage it to gain deep insights into customers’ preferences. The inherent capabilities of artificial intelligence should be used to deliver bespoke content and communications to customers. The vast amounts of data that are available within an AI tool is best utilised when it delivers accurate, predictive answers to customers. In other words, artificial intelligence can help organisations simplify the complexity of their data to deliver smarter service experiences.

When AI is thought about through this lens, the potential use cases stem far beyond automating customer interactions.  Contact centre leaders could use the analytics from AI sources to better identify the training and development needs of their staff; the aggregate data from previous customer experiences could be utilised to route contacts to the best agent or source for a solution; product development could be accelerated through faster access to customer insights and preference data. The efficiency would not just be through the customer interactions, but rather across the entire enterprise as people, processes, and technology grow more agile in meeting and serving customer’s needs.

It couldn’t be a more interesting and energising time to work in contact centres. The convergence of people and technology continues to present exciting challenges and tremendous opportunities for organisations to adapt and evolve. While there is plenty of fear around artificial intelligence and whether or not its capabilities will be abused, the real story is that it’s going to enable a beautiful future for humans to do our best work, while machines handle the rest.

GUEST BLOG: Most customers hate AI & chatbots for this reason…

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

By IFS | mplsystems

There’s no doubt that artificial intelligence is going to be more and more common in customer service and support interactions. Its versatility in expanding self-service options across channels, ability to capture robust customer insights, and efficiency in handling contacts make it a very attractive investment for contact centre leaders.  Customers realise this and are tolerant of the increased use of AI technologies, but they fear that organisations will abuse and misuse the automation.

Research by pwc1found that 78% of UK customers (and 75% across all other countries) “want to interact with a real person more as technology improves.” Additionally, 59% of all consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of the customer experience. Most customers hate AI because organisations are using it to replace the human touch, instead of augmenting it. This is not a sustainable solution for companies who want to stand apart from their competition. The customer experience is increasing in importance as a competitive differentiator and a bad AI implementation puts revenues, customer satisfaction, and even employee engagement at risk.

With how customers feel about AI, and all that is on the line, what can contact centre and customer service leaders do to find the balance between creating exceptional experiences and delivering efficient service through chatbots or virtual assistance?

One of the best ways to get started is by leaning into the natural advantages of each method for delivering service.  Artificial intelligence carries certain distinct advantages in efficiency that aren’t easily duplicated by humans. In the same respect, humans provide advantages in handling emotional, volatile, or complex interactions that technology cannot. If organisations want to deliver a service experience that their customers won’t hate, they need to play each platform to its advantages and seamlessly integrate them together.

This poses two fundamental challenges for contact centre leaders:

  1. They need to thoroughly understand their customer’s expectations and the moments of truth within the typical customer journey.
  2. They must leverage technology that enables immediate self-service, provides seamless transitions to agents, and delivers access to the full context of each interaction.

The first challenge can’t be overcome by the contact centre alone. It takes a cross-functional group of stakeholders, ranging from the contact centre to marketing, product development, and more, to fully understand and map customer expectations and moments of truth in their journeys. Along the way, customers should be interviewed – using methods like focus groups and surveys – to test and affirm any assumptions about their preferences and previous experiences.

From the perspective of technology, contact centre and IT leaders should not underestimate the importance of using an integrated platform that balances self and assisted service. For example, the highly repetitive and transactional tasks should be easily automated; contacts needing a degree of triage should employ chatbots or virtual assistance solutions as a first line of defense, and the platform should quickly and seamlessly escalate to an agent when necessary. If the customers need is resolved quickly and easily, they’ll be satisfied, and they won’t care how a company gets it done.

The reality is that customers don’t hate AI & chatbots, they hate organisations who don’t know how to provide great service.

1 PwC Future of Customer Experience Survey 2017/18

GUEST BLOG: Top tips for deploying AI in your contact centre

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Jonathan Sharp, Director, Britannic Technologies

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been around for years but has recently started to gain traction in the contact centre industry. Gartner forecasts that by 2022, 30% of customer service experiences will be handled by conversational agents. AI is a disruptive technology causing a stir in the market, and with high customer expectations, companies should harness the power of AI to digitally transform and automate core services. Follow our top ten tips to assist you in deploying AI in your contact centre:

  • Call in the Experts

A Solution Provider who is experienced in real-time applications and systems integration will be able to work closely with you to discover your needs and requirements. Helping you put together a technology road map and strategy to solve business problems, transforming processes and improving customer service.

  • Strategy is Key

When deploying AI-powered digital assistants into the contact centre, it is advisable to have a comprehensive CRM and multi-media contact centre strategy as part of your overall digital transformation process. A Solutions Provider will ascertain what objectives you want your digital assistant to achieve, whether it’s to generate a sales lead or answer and process a customer service enquiry. They will then look at how a digital assistant will interact with your contact centre agents and the wider organisation if required.

  • To Fit with Your Business

Once you have covered the commercial objectives that you want to achieve and the processes required to set up, you can decide on the look and feel, conversational tone and content that you want to show with your digital assistant.

  • Your Star Employee

A conversational AI assistant has endless ability to self-learn whether that’s to learn the content from your website and or from customer conversations that take place in webchat. They can also recognise and pre-empt the needs of customers during similar interactions in the future.

The conversational AI will reliably answer customer questions using natural language understanding and processing and even resolve issues by completing web forms on behalf of the customer during the conversation. When the customer wants to speak to a human they can be transferred to a customer service agent when necessary.

  • Refocus Your Agents

It is advisable to make the digital assistant the first point of contact for website users because often the initial stage is customers gathering information or requesting answers to basic questions. This enables contact centre agents to focus on complex enquiries, handing over information sourcing to the digital assistant. This improves customer service as website users receive the information they require faster. Also, it helps eliminate high form abandonment on busy websites and brings added value to those who are looking to deploy an extremely efficient web chat in response to rising demand for self-service and one-touch communication channels.

  • Hand over the Basics to AI

Industries such as retail and travel have started to embrace the technology and reap the benefits. Britannic Technologies provides a conversational artificial intelligence solution called Ami that has already helped companies like Cruise 1st to boost profit by 47%. A self-learning digital assistant, Ami reads the Cruise 1st website in real time and independently decides how to use the knowledge to respond to enquiries and achieve predefined business goals. These can include generating sales leads or providing customer support by interacting with website visitors.

The company found that their sales agents were taking general, information seeking enquiries although they needed to be focused on sales calls. Now, Ami handles the customer research that previously would have blocked the telephone lines. She is delivering revenue to the business and the conversion rate in the call centre has increased from 20% to 22%.

  • Integration is Key

System integration is vital when deploying AI for it to be truly effective. You will require a Solutions Provider who is experienced in integration. They will assess what technology you currently have in place, what technology you require and whether you would benefit most from an on-premise or cloud-based solution. You can then identify where and how a digital assistant can be integrated into your existing systems in the back office and the front office.

  • A Single View

A Forrester survey revealed that 64% of the survey respondents said their greatest obstacle is creating a single view of customer data and information when improving CRM capabilities. And more than half acknowledged they struggle with creating customer insight to drive decision-making.

When a customer service agent deals with a customer’s enquiry they are often faced with several screens, which is cumbersome and difficult to manage. A Solution Provider will integrate a digital assistant into the contact centre so customers and agents are presented with a single user interface where all interactions can be completed on a single screen. This helps to make the customer journey seamless, and makes the agent’s job easier at the same time, enabling them to deliver a better experience. Agents can also view the screen of the digital assistant so they have visibility of all chats and can access both real-time and historical interactions.

  • Augmenting the Agent’s Role

AI helps contact centre agents to get rid of the mundane everyday tasks. This could include anything from call routing to answering basic questions that an auto-attendant or Web Real Time application could deal with. The more advancement in technology in the call centre, the more contact centre agents’ roles will be refocused on soft skills to deliver empathetic, personal service and advice. Together, these developments will help to improve customer experiences overall.

A digital assistant can also reduce the workload for the customer service team enabling them to deal with more complex enquiries resulting in a richer customer experience and adding the personal touch. Their ability to prioritise enquiries in terms of importance and urgency can even help to ensure that human agents are involved exactly where they need to be at any given time.

  • AI – the Opportunity

Artificial intelligence is the opportunity that busy customer services teams have been waiting for. If you get it right from the start and work with a Solution Provider experienced in real-time applications, contact centre technology, and system integration then the benefits of increased revenue, improved communications and better customer service will be worth it.

Businesses that consider introducing AI into their contact centres can already learn about Conversational AI and see these applications up close at business transformation events such as Convergence Summit where digital and customer experience experts share the strategies and frameworks necessary to safely introduce emerging technologies.

Learn more about Ami on

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