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Artificial intelligence (AI) has taken the business world by storm, and most would agree that it’s greatly improved the efficiency and ease of day-to-day operations.
Organizations are implementing machine learning and AI-powered technologies in every aspect of their work processes, from data analytics to daily communications. But perhaps no part of an organization is transformed by AI more than the contact center .
Contact center AI (CCAI) helps customer support agents and teams work faster and more efficiently while simultaneously reducing their workloads. However, the capability requires more than just adding a generative AI-powered chatbot or a transcription feature — there’s a wide array of AI-powered tools that can truly empower contact center agents and help them delight customers.
So, let’s take a closer look at AI solutions in the contact center, see what they can do, and learn how they help contact center teams succeed.
What Is Contact Center AI?
Contact Center AI is a suite of customer communication tools intended to automate contact center operations, including assisting customers and agents. It encompasses the many different functions that can enhance the contact center experience based on vast amounts of customer interaction data.
There are many advantages to using automation throughout the customer journey, but major benefits include the ability to:
- Extract insights: AI-powered tools can analyze vast quantities of data from customer conversations to glean new insights, such as common customer questions, agent performance, and potential issues.
- Automate tasks: AI tools can automate repetitive tasks, such as taking notes, summarizing interactions, and logging customer calls. This makes work easier for the contact center agents and frees up time so they can focus on more pressing matters.
- Create personalized experiences: AI-powered tools can be used to help agents provide personalized customer experiences, drawing upon past interactions, purchases, and individual needs to give agents fully contextualized insights into each customer.
A good AI-assisted platform will offer a wide array of tools and features to help organizations attain all these benefits and more.
Contact Center AI Features
What tools and features make CCAI tick? An AI-assisted contact center platform consists of features to scale customer engagement, assist agent messaging both during and after calls, and gather and analyze data.
Customer-facing AI features
These contact center technologies assist customers before they speak with an agent — or even remove the need to speak with an agent. This provides a better customer experience (CX) by enabling customers to get the help they need quickly on their own.
Customer-facing AI features include:
Virtual agents and chatbots
Chatbots have advanced beyond the days of frustrating automated menus with limited options — today’s bots are more advanced, capable of carrying out tasks and understanding questions or requests.
Chatbots and virtual assistants with conversational AI can understand and answer questions, resolve simple customer issues, and qualify leads 24/7, accurately understanding requests and using natural language to generate human-like responses.
Intelligent call routing
Of course, there are times when a human touch is required, and in those instances, AI-powered call routing can make sure that the customer reaches the right contact center agent for the job.
One of the most impactful applications of AI occurs with interactive voice response (IVR) call routing.
Advanced IVR call routing analyzes the customer’s intent and integrated data sources and directs the customer to the agent whose skills best match their needs.
AI’s analytical abilities don’t end there, as AI tools can also analyze customer sentiment in real time.
Sentiment analysis works by either identifying phrases that indicate mood (such as “This is frustrating” or “You’ve been a great help”) or listening to the customer’s tone, depending on the tools. It uses those cues to understand how the customer is feeling and provide tailored responses.
Sometimes, customers want assistance but don’t need to speak to a live agent. This is where self-service portals come into play, as they can provide customers with access to account information, online forms, and knowledge bases so that they can resolve issues on their own.
Conversational AI can make self-service portals far more informative and intuitive, enabling customers to find information and carry out tasks as efficiently as a live agent.
Agent-facing AI features
Once a customer reaches a human agent, contact center AI solutions can continue to assist throughout the call.
Even when the call is over, AI-powered platforms reveal helpful insights and metric tracking to help agents improve their performance.
Agent-facing AI features include:
Real-time agent assist
An important feature is real-time agent assist, which listens to calls for keywords and questions so it can provide information to the agent during the call. This includes instant suggestions from the system’s knowledge base, recommendations for the best actions to take, and even step-by-step guidance during customer interactions.
For instance, if a customer asks an agent to explain a certain feature or troubleshoot a problem, the agent assist tool can understand the question and instantly show the agent how to help the customer quickly and efficiently.
Automated call transcription and summary
It’s important that agents have detailed notes for each of their calls, especially if they need to keep track of information such as model numbers, previous steps customers have taken, or other important details. However, writing everything down during a call can be time-consuming and distracting. That’s where automatic call transcription comes in, as it takes real-time notes and records everything that was said.
Several contact center tools include automatic call summaries to accompany the transcriptions, highlighting action items and creating helpful notes from each conversation.
With these transcripts and summaries, agents can easily find important information from each call. Automatically taking notes and summarizing calls is a huge time saver, freeing up agents to focus on other customers.
One major strength of AI is the ability to analyze large quantities of data and identify patterns. AI-based solutions can analyze customer data to predict their needs and create customized interactions, thus providing a better experience.
Call coaching and quality monitoring
Many contact center solutions keep working even after the call. Examples of this include call coaching and quality monitoring can analyze calls, customer satisfaction, and agent performance to identify areas for improvement and provide personalized coaching tools, ensuring that each call is also a learning opportunity.
Contact center managers and supervisors also need to understand how their teams are performing, and the analytics capabilities AI unlocks can help make that even easier.
AI-powered performance dashboards can monitor agent performance metrics , such as average handle time, first call resolution, and customer satisfaction, allowing supervisors to monitor their agents in real time from a single dashboard.
Workforce management tools
Lastly, contact center platforms often include workforce management (WFM) tools to make staffing and managing workloads easier. AI-powered tools can forecast call volume, help managers optimize their staffing schedules, and manage agent workloads to ensure no one is overwhelmed and contact centers are always properly staffed.
WFM helps ensure agents aren’t overworked while also making sure enough agents are available to help customers quickly.
Contact center data and analytics
Contact centers are a veritable gold mine of information, but there’s so much data to sort through that analyzing it all is a herculean task for any human being. However, one of AI’s greatest strengths is making data analytics actionable for agents and company leaders alike.
AI-based analytics provide detailed rich reporting functionality, including:
- Speech analytics: Enrich call recordings with natural language processing to gain new insights and information, such as trends, potential issues, and customer sentiment.
- Omnichannel analytics: Analyze written conversations, including chat transcripts, emails, and social media interactions in an omnichannel environment.
- AI-powered insights: With a large enough dataset, surface actionable insights to make informed customer recommendations and improve decision-making.
- Reports and dashboards: User-friendly dashboards and reports that visualize contact center stats, allowing teams and supervisors to see how well they’re reaching their goals at a glance.
- CRM integrations: Many contact centers integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) solutions and other business applications. Such CCaaS integrations provide a holistic, unified view of customer interactions and assist with logging calls in the CRM.
3 Signs Call Center AI Is Right for You
Now that you have a firm idea of what AI in the contact center means, it’s natural to want to add AI to your call center. However, its practicality varies among your business needs, so you should weigh the benefits and see if it’s right for you.
So, here are some signs that your contact center can benefit from AI functionality:
1. You’re experiencing high contact volume
If your contact center handles a large number of calls, emails, chats, or any other form of customer communication, it can be easy for your team to get overwhelmed. AI can help automate routine tasks, handle inquiries faster, and enable better self-service to free up agents and help customers more quickly.
AI-powered tools with agent assist can provide fast and efficient responses, even when callers have questions about technical or complex issues. Real-time assistance and knowledge base suggestions can help agents and customers in an instant.
2. You want to improve customer satisfaction
If your customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores are low, AI can help. AI-assisted support tools improve the customer experience by providing personalized interactions and helping resolve issues quickly and effectively.
Long wait times can also lead to lower satisfaction. AI functionality in the call center can reduce handle times and improve service levels with more intelligent chatbots, self-service options, and intelligent routing.
3. You need greater operational efficiency
Contact centers have one of the highest turnover rates of any business. AI can help with that, too. If you have a high rate of agent turnover, AI-powered tools can help improve agent productivity, minimize churn, optimize scheduling, and reduce training costs.
Contact center AI improves agent efficiency and eliminates monotonous, time-consuming tasks, such as entering data, logging calls, and taking notes. This allows agents to focus on the work that matters and save time each day.
Situations When AI in the Contact Center May Not Be for You
AI is not an instant solution for all contact center needs. As helpful as the technology is, it’s designed to solve specific problems, so contact centers not facing those issues may not see the same benefits.
For instance, if you already have a well-established knowledge base that can answer most questions and your agents are already skilled at handling complex inquiries and providing a great customer experience, then AI may not be as helpful to them.
AI-powered technology can also be a hefty investment, so budgetary concerns need to be considered.
Signs your contact center might not benefit from AI:
1. You have low contact volume
Artificial intelligence is great for handling large volumes of calls and sorting through vast quantities of data. But if you don’t have either, it won’t be able to offer intelligible recommendations.
If your contact center only handles relatively few customer interactions, implementing CCAI may not be worth the cost and complexity.
2. Your agents handle advanced customer requests
Contact center AI can deflect some contacts with self-service to handle basic questions and carry out simple tasks. But if your agents provide high-touch customer service, then AI may not provide enough value to justify the investment.
3. You have high customer satisfaction ratings
While AI tools can help improve the customer experience, sometimes contact centers don’t have much more room to improve. If your customer satisfaction scores are already high, then AI may not be necessary for improving CX — it can potentially increase the customer effort required to get help.
4. You experience workforce resistance
AI in the contact center is still an emerging technology, and many will be hesitant to use it. If your agents oppose or don’t see any benefits to using it, getting them to adopt the new technology may be an uphill battle best saved for another time.
In some cases, the technology distracts from the fundamentals: providing personable customer care. Nail that and then explore an AI platform.
You’ve Got Options for AI Contact Center Software
If you’ve decided that an AI-powered solution is right for your contact center, it’s time to look at the options available. When you want an affordable platform that won’t bog you down with unnecessary bells and whistles, you can’t go wrong with Nextiva’s cloud contact center.
Nextiva’s contact center solution has a robust suite of features, including intelligent virtual agents, interactive voice response, call recording and quality monitoring, call analytics, and integrations with top CRM systems.
But if AI doesn’t seem like a great fit, a hosted call center could be a worthwhile option to consider.
A cloud call center scales and adapts to your business’s changing needs. For instance, you might have a sales team focused on outbound calls and your customer support team handling inbound calls . Either way, it’s especially affordable, even for budget-conscious businesses.
Can contact center AI help your business?
Talk with one of our experts to learn how to achieve your customer and sales goals with a contact center platform made better with AI.