The COVID-19 or Coronavirus, pandemic has caused businesses to ask how can they remain competitive in such chaotic times. Those that answer that question the quickest with flexible and technology-driven answers stand the best chance in weathering the storm.
There are many unexpected results of the pandemic. Far more than what this article can dedicate its word limit too. One such result is the struggle many companies are having resolving client needs via traditional call centers. Capital One warned customers of greatly increased wait times with some customers reporting that they were on hold for three hours. Google warned customers that wait times for Google Store services would be longer than expected. Given the levels of uncertainty and subsequent stress felt by the public, it is only natural for them to call companies in the hope of getting answers or resolving disputes.
Part of the problem is the increased call traffic being experienced by call centers. The other part of the problem is companies, due to lockdowns and other measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, are running on drastically reduced staff numbers. The created a perfect storm for those on the front line of the customer services battle, not to mention those companies in the healthcare sector with call centers who are struggling under a load of inquiries regarding testing.
To solve this dilemma many companies have sped up their incorporation of AI call center technology such as chatbots. Many companies had been slowly incorporating these technologies into daily call center operations before the outbreak occurred but the pandemic has caused some to fast track their adoption. This has inevitably led to questions been asked as to whether companies should adopt complete AI solutions lacking human teams or is a mix of both the best option?
A Unified Solution
In answering the above question it is important to note that adoption of AI call center technology was part of many companies’ current modernization policies. Given current research showing that 25% of people prefer to have queries handled by a chatbot or other self-service alternative, the trend required companies to act. The reality is that even AI solutions are not perfect, and the technology is in its relative infancy when compared to how long call centers have had to evolve and address problems.
Dedicated human teams are therefore a requirement for any successful call center operation. A Unified Communications solution is the answer to the problem made even more apparent by the current pandemic. AI is not going to replace human agents, look at recent statements made by Twitter and YouTube saying that the increased reliance on AI, due to a reduction in staff numbers, to filter harmful content may result in the blocking of otherwise permissible content. This is just one example of why humans are still needed even in industries driving the adoption of AI technology.
While the weaknesses of such technology are apparent, it is the strengths of the technology that is driving its adoption. AI tools are exceptionally good at carrying out simple tasks like updating information or tracking delivery status, as an example. This, in turn, means that they can be employed to deal with these inquiries and done faster without the intervention of a human agent. The obvious upside to this is that the call can be dealt with faster without a drain on the company’s human resources.
AI can be further implemented to automate seamless handovers from the automated system to human agents if there is a need. The handoff can be further improved by allowing for the human agent to receive transcripts of the automated call to better troubleshoot. This, in turn, will save time as well as the tempers of irate customers.
Looking for silver linings during the current health crisis is a very human thing to do, trying to see the good in the bad. These perceived “good” things may never come to pass, however, we will be able to learn valuable lessons moving forward when the dust settles. Perhaps one of those lessons will be how we can best implement AI in making our lives easier when we inevitably have to call a company for important information.
James Dow: A self-motivated IT professional with extensive knowledge of software development. I’m closely following the impact of technology on education, and its evolution from traditional to modern methods that include e-learning, courses, gamification, and others.