Guest Blog by Piergiorgio Vittori, Spitch
More often than not, we call someone, as opposed to emailing or chatting to a bot, when we have a serious and urgent matter to resolve. Consequently, most of us have experienced the maddening frustration of phoning a call centre. The sense of desperation arising, as you’re forced to wait for up to 40 minutes for someone to answer. While you are thinking to yourself: does this organisation take me seriously? Is the line busy as too many people are calling to complain? Or, do they just want me to give up on my claim?
This, coupled with the arduous quest to navigate an endless array of options, painstaking music, hard-to-understand pronunciation and the feeling of being abandoned and disrespected all mean that customer experience – and brand perceptions – suffer as a result. It’s also where Artificial Intelligence (AI) and natural language Machine Learning (ML) come to the rescue. Both are on the verge of transforming the fabric of voice-driven customer experience thought pioneering speech recognition technology.
According to Gartner, AI is almost the definition of hype. Speech recognition, nevertheless, is in the plateau of productivity and Natural Language Processing (NLP) / Natural Language Understanding [NLU)-powered solutions are already moving from hype to the must-have status globally. The speech and voice recognition market was valued at $5.15bn in 2016 and is expected to reach $18.30bn by 2023, at a CAGR of 19.80%, based on some predictions. By 2020, 50% of analytic queries will be generated using searches based on natural-language processing, according to Gartner, and 20-25% of searches made with the Google Android App in the US are already voice searches, according to Google.
Voice-driven customer service is not the preserve of human beings any more. AI is here to complement people and improve customer satisfaction. What is even more impressive, the cutting-edge technology is now able to identify the caller’s sentiment and intent, perform intelligent voice biometrics, transcribe calls and flag issues in real time. AI is also there to ensure the caller doesn’t lose focus and that they remain interested in what is being communicated to them via Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology.
Such voice-driven technology could be deployed in a myriad of ways, helping to improve not just customer service, but human lives overall. Imagine AI-based technologies tasked with sifting through online content, weeding out non-compliant or even disturbing sounding video and audio content. In doing so, the tech would enable organisations to address potential non-compliance issues quickly or potentially remove disturbing content instantaneously, while helping to improve mental health of human readers who would have to review fewer pieces of distressing content. Imagine calls being prioritised and put through to human operators much faster for genuinely urgent inquiries after a short initial assessment by AI-based technology. What if we could attain a future, where prank calls to emergency services could be identified almost immediately, based on forensics of sentiment, tone and intent? Not just genuine callers and their respective call centre counterparts would benefit, but society as a whole.
Even today, the benefits of AI in call centre environments are significant and refreshing. In many ways, AI is starting to understand customers better than agents. AI NLP voice technology in particular also has phonological awareness. It is already able to access the caller’s sentiment and intent. It understands speaking habits, conversational linguistics, dialects, idiosyncrasies, slang, foreign nationals’ accents, intonation, emphasis, intention and anunciation. It is smart and fast. It can mitigate simple requests and help alleviate customer frustration. It can determine whether someone is happy with the service or a specific offer.
Yet, this technology is not here to replace humans. The premise behind the latest advances in AI is designed to fix simpler problems, alleviating capacity strains, while leaving more complicated queries to be resolved by agents. Human beings remain the experts for that personal touch when conversations go off script. And now they can get to those complex and urgent customer cases much faster. A dextrous workforce can be a reality where people and robots coexist, and human agents hold higher value.
What’s even better from a customer experience, and also corporate compliance perspective, AI can already follow customer-agent calls in real time and escalate problems during a phone call so that problems can be resolved by call centre managers and IT teams there and then, thereby proactively preserving trust in the brand and organically improving customer satisfaction.
If deployed in the right way, AI and ML offer better-quality brand experience by acquiring new abilities and learning how to interact with the physical world – like people do – to solve customer queries in a natural way. The time for collaboration and co-operation between agents and AI has come. The future of first-rate customer experience is AI-driven.
Guest Blog by Piergiorgio Vittori Spitch
As Global Development Director & Country Manager for Italy, UK and Ireland at Spitch I am responsible for supporting different teams in a variety of areas including business development, marketing and commercial activities, customer engagement, product evolution and solution customisation. I am passionate about the power of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven interactive voice response technology to improve call centre customer experience and engagement, reduce costs and elevate brand reputations. In today’s world, customers demand increasingly high levels of customer service, with AI technology that understands reginal language variations, intent and even sentiment, customers are quickly directed to the correct departments and calls can be escalated and resolved in real time. I believe that the future of first-rate customer experience is AI-driven.