The rise of Artificial Intelligence – or AI, as it’s more commonly known – isn’t specific to some dystopian future: it’s happening right now. And it’s not as sinister as sci-fi would have us believe.

In fact, AI is already helping companies of all shapes and sizes drastically improve the way they do business. Nowhere is this more evident than in contact centres – or more specifically, in customer communications.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening.

Chatbots: Complementing Contact Centres
Over the last couple of years one particular form of AI has become increasingly commonplace in eCommerce and customer service: chatbots.

Most commonly found in online messaging services (such as Messenger and WhatsApp) as well as on-site customer chat portals, contact centres are getting a lot of value from using chatbots as a form of filtering.

They’re typically deployed as a first point of contact – to provide simple responses to commonly asked questions; escalating queries to actual humans when necessary. Also, as customers now expect brands to offer them a multichannel customer experience, on-demand, there’s increasing pressure on customer service teams to be available 24/7.

From a business perspective, the financial cost of providing a service like this can be prohibitive. However, a simple chatbot can offer customers the immediate response they want – anytime of day or night – saving costs, while increasing customer satisfaction.

Machine Learning: Syncing Data To Provide Context
Other ways in which AI is improving customer communication are less direct, but just as important. Machine learning – using live data to ‘teach’ algorithms when and how to automate specific actions – enables service agents to quickly and easily integrate customer information into any enquiry.

For example, imagine an insurance company contact centre has a customer-facing chatbot. Once the customer has entered their policy details into the conversation, the chatbot can quickly access the necessary data and make context relevant suggestions; such as suggesting that a customer who’s recently had an accident increases their policy excess to reduce the overall cost.

If conversations like these need to involve a human agent, the information will already be there in the chat – saving everyone time and a lot of hassle and giving the customer a better overall experience.

A Threat To Human Agents?
Speech recognition is another aspect of AI that’s growing, thanks largely to improvements in natural language processing. In fact, the margin of error is minimal in many cases – meaning that contact centre owners can expect AI to bring about a lot of process enhancements in coming years.

But what about contact centre agents? Will chatbots and other forms of AI replace them?

Right now, there seems little danger of that happening. Customer contact still requires a human touch. But, by using chatbots, agents can spend less time on boring, time-consuming, repetitive work and more time solving more challenging queries – via other more personal channels, like phone and email.

There are other challenges too. Where customer data’s concerned, the appropriate security and privacy measures must be taken to ensure it complies with GDPR. However, the fact remains that right now, AI – in any form – is only as good as we humans make it.

Ultimately, where the use of AI in customer service is concerned, there’s no innate intelligence that technology has that allows a bot to surpass what a person can do – not yet at least.

However, as the technology increases in sophistication, we’ll undoubtedly see more businesses adopting chatbots and other technologies to ensure they keep pace with digital transformation and continue to evolve their customer experience – across all channels.