Author: Jim Machi – General Manager CCD, Sangoma
Chances are you have talked to a chatbot and didn’t even know it. Like most contact center innovations, chatbots have been driven by the paradoxical need to both reduce costs and provide better service. As computing power has improved and come down in cost, speech recognition and text to speech programs have followed. This resulted in the introduction of computer driven speech into the contact center. In fact, right now, both Google’s and Microsoft’s speech recognition claim to be 95% accurate, which happens to be as accurate as a human brain.
Over time, the simple ‘talk to me’ instead of hitting buttons to drive through an IVR menu gave way to more and more computer driven tasks. And it was OK because you as the IVR caller were getting through the menu and you didn’t have to wait. But you always knew it was a computer because it sounded that way (probably on purpose). However, these more simplistic chats have evolved greatly and today, it’s very possible you are having a conversation with a computer and you don’t even know it. And you’re probably happier talking to this computer, because it might sound like a native language speaker and because the “agent” isn’t making any mistakes. Right now, you likely get handed off to a real person when more complex decisions need to be made.
As artificial intelligence enters the contact center, the computer can start making decisions based on context, past similar decision history, etc. and so the role of the computer will become greater. The chatbot will engage you more, and take you further down the discussion.
I am a high end frequent flier and when I call my airline on the day of a flight, the chatbot welcomes me by name and asks if I’m calling about that flight that day. I usually say “yes” and then it hands me off to an agent, who has the info about what I’m calling about. But the airline certainly has the data that tells them if I call within 3 hours of a flight, I’m usually calling to see if I can take an earlier flight. So, what if the AI engine knows this info, and instead of handing me off to an agent to finish that task, the chatbot takes me through the various rebooking options and rebooks me? Certainly possible, and most likely probable, within a few years.
When will this scenario happen? It’s hard to say. Certainly, the technology is capable today. But like I said when I started this blog out, it’s all about that paradoxical need. So, when the AI engines to drive this become economical compared to the alternative, that’s when we’ll see this implemented to real life.