May 14, 2020

The Truth About AI in the Call Center in 2020

This week we are talking about the role of AI in the contact center. This has been a topic that has been brewing in the industry over the past year. The trend I have been seeing is senior executives, senior management, or even the people in charge of budgeting saying, “Let’s just hand this over to AI” or “I want a bot to do this”. They try to take the human aspect out of the call center completely. Sure, saving money is important, but when it comes down to that bottom dollar, you need to be able to guarantee good service, and that only comes from humans. The call center is evolving rapidly and with the introduction of new technology, and the landscape is going to look extremely different five years from now.

The Self-Service Bot

The self-service bot is the type of AI technology that we are dealing with now. It is more on par with an IVR in terms of being able to get simple tasks done without the need for a human agent. This can save time and money in terms of the simple interactions that do not necessarily need to be handled by a human. Those senior execs that watched a YouTube clip of a bot handling an entire conversation (i.e. setting up an appointment) and expecting that technology to replace all humans, is just not realistic.

Confusion About AI

Disclaimer first off: I am not an anti-bot guy, nor am I an anti-AI guy. That being said, AI is a really useful self-service tool that will absolutely revolutionize and replace the IVR, but for now, it is a tool FOR the agents to use and to help them carry their conversations more efficiently. From a chatbot standpoint, it is basically a visual IVR. You all have seen the larger companies that have advanced chatbots that take the questions that you are asking, or the keywords you are using, and process them to answer your questions. Still, that can be frustrating, they either give you the wrong answer, or three options to choose from that are all still incorrect. That is where AI is NOW, paired with voice sentiment recognition. It is nothing that can or will replace a live human.


This is where I see AI making the largest difference. Realtime transcription is a technology that is coming fast. Basically, how it works, you are on a call with a customer, and AI will transcribe both sides of the conversation and look at all of the keywords to make judgments based on what the customer is saying. This technology will be paired with sentiment scoring and can be an effective buddy tool for the agent to use to help them solve their problems faster.

Front end Conversational IVRs

If you are a senior executive and saying, “we want to get rid of these 110 agents and move to a fully virtual AI”, you are going to be in big trouble. At that point, all you will be supplying for your customers is an advanced self-service model, and I’ll tell you right now, that is going to frustrate the heck out of a lot of people. The best thing you could do is pair AI WITH your agents, and because of their new tools, that will either bring headcount down, or drive proficiency up, or both! Regardless, at no point are we right now anywhere near having a conversation with a robot on every single call.  

Coronavirus is not the death of the call center. In fact, I believe this is the glory day of the call center. Right now, it’s all about looking at the technology piece that is paired with your live agents. Being in the cloud, having AI call companions, and even having an outsourced partner that can take overflow as a redundant source of quality. Some really hard decisions had to be made in order to convert the call center to an operation that can work during the pandemic, but going completely AI is not an option yet. There will always be a place for the high-end customer service representative. The type of engagement you get from speaking with a human is an experience you are not going to get with a robot or AI, but does not mean that technology will not help the live agents you already have.

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