Narrow AI Helps Call Centers Cope During COVID-19

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In this special guest feature, Michael Coney, Senior Vice President & General Manager at Medallia, highlights how contact centers are turning to narrow AI, an AI system that is specified to handle a singular task, such as to process hundreds of hours of audio in real time and create a log of each customer interaction. Thousands of hours of calls can be processed and logged in a matter of a few hours. Michael has extensive experience managing high-growth companies, raising capital, and working with investors at start-ups and large public companies alike. Michael, who served in the U.S. Army, earned his B.S. degree from New York Institute of Technology. He also attended the University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School of Business and Economics.

Contact centers are a critical front line channel to assist and support customers, especially when immediate answers are needed. They can also be difficult to operate, with inefficiencies, high turnover, and variability in agent effectiveness. Every conversation between agents and customers contains a gold mine of insights — about the quality of the experiences agents deliver, and where contact centers should focus attention on improving operational efficiencies — but uncovering the meaningful nuggets of information within thousands or millions of hours of calls is a massive challenge.

This challenge has been magnified for contact centers with the sudden shift to remote work during the pandemic. While trying to equip their employees with the proper tools to be able to work from home, contact centers at the same time are experiencing more frequent calls from customers, which is typical in times of crisis. To help combat these challenges, contact centers should look to narrow artificial intelligence (AI) technologies; AI systems that are specified to handle a singular or limited task. These systems can perform tasks like speech analytics and help guide “intelligent actions” by the contact center agent to provide the same level of customer service and compliance that would be provided in the physical contact center.

Agents can have widely varying degrees of self-awareness, especially when interacting with unhappy customers. A narrow AI that runs speech and text analytics can assess talk time, silence, over talk, acoustic, and emotion in real-time throughout conversations between agents and customers. These speech attributes, along with the ability to identify strengths and weaknesses via text analytics, can allow managers to know which agents need additional support and training, and which agents can assist in coaching and mentoring without needing to be in the physical contact center monitoring the conversations. Through speech analytics, the narrow AI can also “coach” the agent in real-time on suggested next best steps to resolve the customer’s issue, resulting in a reduction in overall call resolution time, which is a key metric for many agents.

Another important use case for narrow AI-powered text analytics is routing a customer to the most appropriate agent for their issue and based on their level of dissatisfaction. AI-powered text analytics is used to understand call reasons and agent responses for both individual calls and across contact center interactions, and then uses organizational hierarchy details to route those insights to the teams who are able to take immediate action.

While contact centers are just starting to realize the benefits of AI-powered text and speech analytics, there is another important consideration related to voice security that will be paramount for the post-COVID-19 call center. For call centers, this all comes down to implementing narrow AI technology for voice verification. Voice verification technology uses state-of-the-art biometrics technologies to add an extra security layer to phone communication with customers. This is made possible through real-time analysis of a caller’s voice in the background, allowing a call center operator to verify a caller in just a few seconds and detect fraudulent behavior. Voice verification is another technology that promotes a seamless customer experience as customers can get verified by just their voice, without needing to remember unpopular PIN codes, passwords, and other security questions.

COVID-19 has drastically affected contact center operations, but like other industries they’re learning how to adapt and utilize technologies, like narrow AI, to provide the same, if not a better, experience for customers. To succeed in this new post-COVID-19 world, call centers will need to embrace this new normal, implement new processes and technologies, and get used to the delicate combination of humans and technology.

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