Cloud, Collaboration, Unified Comms

Artificial Intelligence Gets Real

29 March 2018

Tim North
Tim North
Consultant, Contact Centre Practice, G3 Comms

Response from Call & Contact Centre Expo signals a new approach to AI deployment

Attending the Call and Contact Centre Expo last week was valuable, but not for the reasons we were expecting.

For example, where were the big vendor innovations? Some were making a lot of noise but, scratch the surface, and there weren’t the ground-breaking developments and proven case studies we were hoping to see. Others, like Cisco, were conspicuous by their absence.

For me, the show was dominated by the proliferation of smaller and mid-sized brands offering cloud-based, rich functionality. In the contact centre mid-market, the vibe is all about simple plug-and-play, covering a complete feature set. The mid-market is where it is at with a replacement program in full swing. We are glad we invested in our skills in these suites in the last few years as they are proving increasingly attractive to our clients.

Also, where was the buzz around the biggest revolution destined to impact customer experience in the future – artificial intelligence. The adjacent sales and marketing shows had pockets of AI activity and were flooded with visitors. One mid-market entrant was bold enough to demonstrate AI on your web site in a live arena – just an example application, but it worked.

Why the lack of AI noise from the big players? Because technology developers like to create products – technology or applications – and AI isn’t a product. AI needs to be treated as a process not a product, a solution that transforms business operations by making them faster, predictive and, ultimately, a better customer experience.

That’s why bringing AI to your contact centre is a consultative task that has to take a holistic approach to the contact centre and the business operations it touches. With the help of my colleague David Naylor, Head of Humanotics, this was the message we delivered at the Expo – and it resonated. In particular, it was rewarding to hear contact centre managers acknowledge the merits of an ‘Opti-channel’ strategy, whereby machine learning and Robotics Process Automation combine to orchestrate the best customer journey for both the customer and the agent.

If events like the Call and Contact Centre Expo are meant to serve as a barometer of market activity, then we’re heading for interesting times. Clearly the vast market for legacy system replacement appears to be well-served with enterprise grade technology now within reach of SME budgets. Equally, the hype curve for AI is flattening and early adopters are tackling the real task of planning an AI strategy across the business-contact centre interface.

Either way, the quality of customer experience is set to soar in the coming years and businesses that don’t see this coming will be left behind.

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