AI Grows Up: Moving from Antiquity to the Modern Contact Center

The concept of artificial intelligence (AI) goes back at least as far as Greek mythology. The Greeks incorporated the idea of intelligent robots, such as Talos, and artificial beings. Then there was Yan Shi, a sort of engineer living circa 1000 BC, and considered an “artificer” for his mechanical automaton that could perform several functions. Jump ahead a few thousand years and we meet British mathematician Alan Turing and neurologist Grey Walter. Their work led to a computer that could fool someone into thinking they were talking to another person. Science fiction also played a big role in imagining where AI could lead.

For the general public, IBM Watson brought modern AI to the forefront. Watson demonstrated exceptional problem-solving capabilities—when there are clearly defined rules. But human behaviors don’t follow rules and business outcomes can change dramatically in modern contact centers. In the AI Issue of MIT Technology Review, scientists note that real intelligence doesn’t break when you slightly change the problem.

The chatbot disruption in contact centers

By 2016, chatbots became the most widely used AI in contact centers, primarily to automate self-service. While they disrupted old roles and introduced risks, they continue evolving to more relationship-based actions. Now they’re better than humans at some defined tasks. Many bots can take care of sequences of transactions, and optimize journeys by helping customers navigate channels. And at best, bots seamlessly connect with humans and take business to a new level of AI. According to Opus Research, the trend toward hybrid human-machine cooperation is as much about empowering the human customer support team as it is about offering customers automated self-service options.

Keeping pace with customer expectations across sales, marketing, service and support channels is increasingly complex. Leading companies are exploring ways to apply AI to improve profitability and manage the growth of all these channels and interactions. That includes exploring the unique value that humans bring in closing the gap between the promise of AI and what it delivers today.

There are no contact center crystal balls

Silicon Valley technologist Roy Amara’s Law says: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

No matter where you are in the technology adoption curve, AI will touch your business. That’s a good thing because of its enormous potential to improve the customer experience. Start with sound guidance on improving problem resolution for your customers and proactively engaging with them. You’ll achieve better business outcomes and add lifetime customer value.

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