AI in customer service: Hero or hollow?

Happy New Year! As 2024 begins, AI is in full swing. Check out this month’s issue to learn about concerns for its use in contact centers, and see it on display at this year’s National Retail Federation show in New York City. Enjoy!

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AI in customer service: Hero or hollow?

By Denise Power, Senior Writer

“You dial the number, navigate the recorded instructions. And if you’re lucky, there’s a person — a real person — at the end of the line.”

That’s how “CBS News Sunday Morning” host Jane Pauley opened a Jan. 7 segment on artificial intelligence (AI) and customer service. A video montage of angry consumers griped about wait times, getting transferred, and the dreaded: “Call back another time.”

Contact center associates featured on the show were empathetic. They said they know how to resolve customer issues but they don’t think AI has a role here.

Ouch. Skepticism about AI just got stoked for the show’s 5.2 million viewers.

AI the augmenter

How unfortunate. In reality, AI deployed with understanding of customer intents and the entire journey helps to enhance the experience.

“We’re going to see AI augmenting capabilities, skills, improve productivity, and reduce effort in the customer journey,” said James Bednar, vice president, head of product innovation, TTEC, during a LinkedIn webinar, “AI Mythbusters for CX.

AI bots:

  • Are always available
  • Reliably handle verification
  • Complete simple tasks
  • Free up associates to take complex calls

AI can be “a bit of a blast shield,” Anthony Scodary, co-founder of AI voice bot company Gridspace, told CBS News. When AI bots hand off to live associates, they make humans the heroes.

Not the time to wait

Bednar said the pace at which AI is moving obliges companies to begin assessing their AI readiness and identifying use cases.

Knowledge-assist is a top use case because AI consumes the total universe of information and makes it easy for associates to use that resource. “That’s the holy grail of knowledge empowerment,” he said.

Analytics is another compelling use case because it’s more mature, low risk, and reveals new ways to improve the experience.

“It all starts with data,” Bednar said. Companies need to ensure their knowledgebase is as easily consumable by AI as it is by human beings. Many will discover there’s work to do on foundational data to get it ready.

Uh oh. Please call back

Ironically, one participant of the CBS broadcast posted a website apology for long hold times, suggesting it could benefit from a little AI itself.

Watch the full episode on CBS Sunday morning:

Jane Pauley on CBS Sunday Morning

Robots on display at the NRF Big Show in New York City

Holograms from Hypervsn can be connected to AI for an immersive, futuristic experience for customer support, product advertising, and more.

Editor Liz Glagowski with her new BFF, Marty the robot

Marty the robot from Badger Technologies helps grocery stores keep aisles clean and shelves stocked with his iconic googly eyes. Here he is with editor Liz Glagowski.

Apptronik showed off its Apollo Humanoid Robot, a 5’8″ robot that can lift and move items on and off store and stockroom shelves. Its makers tout it as a way brands can offset labor shortages, increase efficiencies, and reduce work-related injuries.

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