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As technology continues to evolve and customers desire a more efficient and accurate support experience, there is an increasing number of support organizations that are employing the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) at an accelerated rate. While conducting technical support research, I found some stories raving about the implementation of AI into call centers, and others that were casting fear that AI and chatbots would take over in their entirety. In this blog, I will review some of the business challenges that companies face, the transformation and implementation of AI into the support call center, and some solutions that could be beneficial for companies moving forward.

AI Chatbots in the Customer Service Industry

Whether you are a small company or an enterprise organization, there are always business challenges that arise when trying to keep up with the ever-changing world of technology. Call center support as a customer facing operation is an area in which trying to satisfy the customer needs in a quick and efficient manner is always challenging. 

As companies continue to implement AI, not only can they deliver efficient and satisfactory solutions, but it also allows the freeing up of the call center agent to focus on more complex support issues. Although some call center agents may fear that their jobs are in jeopardy due to AI, there are some case studies out there that show the impact of AI chatbots in the customer service industry—and so far replacing employees with bots is not happening.

TSIA Benchmarking

TSIA’s Support Services Benchmark Program includes metrics related to employees. TSIA recommends having a strong employee engagement program in place and tracking relevant metrics. These metrics are especially important as you begin to digitally transform your support operation. 

Keep a close eye on metrics, such as employee satisfaction, employee effort, and attrition rates, and if numbers start trending up in quarter-over-quarter comparisons, that’s a strong indicator that your employees are feeling blindsided by new tools, and may fear their roles will be diminished by automation.

For examples of employee metrics, watch this on-demand webinar, “5 Steps To Improve Your Digital Engagement During COVID-19 And Beyond.”

AI Support Transformation

AI is transforming the Support Call Center in several ways.Although chatbots do not have feelings, there is now real-time emotional intelligence software, i.e., sentiment analysis, that can detect a customer’s tone or language if it is one of anger, frustration, or satisfaction. This technology can also be used to determine the same voice inflections of the call center agent and be used for training and intervention purposes should a supervisor need to be aware of the agent’s conversation. 

This is a great way for leadership to gain visibility into how agents interact with customers. According to the early results from TSIA’s 2020 Support Technology Survey, 25% of companies have a chatbot (though we suspect most are still in development and testing), and 73% of respondents say they are planning to make a chatbot investment in the next 1-2 years.

AI and Call Center Agent Synergy

Some of the solutions that can be used to assist the harmony of AI and call center agents includes the deployment of AI that can detect customer sentiment during chat interactions. If a call with a customer begins to get escalated during the chatbot conversation, the chatbot has the ability to transfer to a live agent (a “warm transfer”) and give the agent not only the chatlog, but advise the agent on the tone that was detected, so that the agent will be more in tune with the support issue. Educating employees to use the chatbot as an assistant rather than viewing it as an adversary is also a viable solution to embracing AI into the support call center.

If you are interested in learning more about AI and how it can positively impact the Employee Experience, I recommend reading “Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) To Improve The Employee Experience,” which explores how support organizations should use AI and Machine Learning to assist the agents that are on the front lines in Customer Service. 

Additionally, TSIA hosted a virtual summit titled “Leveraging AI to Automate Support” where our subject matter experts discussed topics such as: 

  • AI in elevation support automation
  • Using AI to create relevant support experiences to scale
  •  Evolving the employee experience with AI

In the end, AI is not going away, and we need to learn to embrace it and its existence. It offers the potential to increase satisfaction metrics, scale support, enhance the customer experience, and solidify your brand in the technology and services industry.

Final Recommendations:

  • Identify potential uses of AI. Clearly, there are lots of areas within support with potential for automation and AI. To start that conversation, check out “Building the Digital Infrastructure for Support,”which includes a high level overview of support processes and digital automation potential for each.
  • Create a roadmap. You can’t boil the ocean by trying to introduce too many capabilities at once. We also see companies sometimes try to tackle some advanced AI projects without focusing on the required infrastructure first “Five Steps to Successful Transformation,” describes a crawl, walk, run approach that will build out a digital roadmap with a higher likelihood of success.
  • Involve employees at every step.Five Steps to Successful Transformation” also includes a section on the importance of identifying employees in every department who are influencers, and involving them in the selection and implementation of new technology. Be sure employees understand why you are investing in new AI-based technology, and what the benefit is to them, your company, and your customers. If employees are kept in the dark, they may feel that technology is being “shoved down their throats,” which impacts job satisfaction as well as delays technology adoption.
  • Understand where your peers are investing. By participating in the 2020 Support Services Technology Survey, you will receive information on adoption and planned spending for ten critical support technologies, including chatbots, intelligent search, and digital chat. All respondents (TSIA members and non-members) will automatically receive survey results in early October.
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Alesha Bridgeman

About Author Alesha Bridgeman

Alesha Bridgeman is a former Research Associate for Support Services for TSIA. She applied her years of experience at TSIA by working closely with member companies to help them showcase and enhance the great things they are doing. Alesha worked to ensure TSIA members receive value through participation in STAR Awards, Support Staff Excellence, Champions, and TSIA Advisory Boards. She is dedicated to helping TSIA members celebrate success and focus on constant improvement, both organizationally and at the individual level.